Snap up ginger This herb is often recommended as a general aid for digestion and a remedy for diarrhea and an upset stomach. Take a daily dose of 2 to 4 grams of the fresh root, 1⁄4 to 1 gram of the powdered root or 1 1⁄2 to 3 milliliters of tincture. We like New Chapter Organics Digestion Ginger Honey Tonic ($15; newchapter.com), a liquid supplement you can mix with sparkling water to make ginger ale or with hot water to make tea.
Think mint Peppermint oil capsules reduce gas and abdominal pain and distension, according to a study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology. Drew Francis, O.M.D., L.Ac., an integrative doctor and founder of the Golden Cabinet Integrative Medical Center in Los Angeles, suggests taking two 200- milligram capsules three times a day before meals. Look for enteric-coated capsules, such as Nature’s Way Pepogest Softgels ($13; naturesway.com).
Try Chinese herbs In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers gave IBS patients five capsules of a Chinese herbal formula containing licorice, ginger and 18 other ingredients three times a day; a similar mix tailored to specific symptoms; or a placebo. Seventy-six percent of those taking the standard blend and 64 percent of those on the tailored blends said their symptoms improved after four months of use, compared with 33 percent of the placebo group. The formula used in the study, called IBS-F, is from BrionHerbs (brionherbs.com) and available only through health care professionals. To find a Chinese medicine practitioner in your area, go to aaom.org.
Take a stab at needles Undergoing acupuncture for IBS has shown conflicting results. In one small study published in Hepatogastroenterology, participants reported significant improvement in well-being and reduction of bloating symptoms, yet a study published in Digestion found no improvement.
Learn stress-reduction techniques Locke recommends that IBS patients enroll in the stress management classes offered at local hospitals. Effective techniques include meditation, visualization, yoga and biofeedback.
Try hypnosis This might be the most effective tool for relaxation and soothing symptoms, says Olafur Palsson, Psy.D., an associate professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Citing several published studies, Palsson says the response rate to hypnosis is 80 percent or higher. He offers a list of practitioners at ibshypnosis.com.
Get into therapy Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) trains people to identify and change inaccurate perceptions they may have of themselves and the world. In one study, IBS patients underwent up to 10 group or individual CBT sessions that covered information on IBS, muscle relaxation training, developing problem-solving skills related to IBS and ways to curb worries about the illness. Sixty-four percent of the group patients and 55 percent of individual patients enjoyed an at least 50 percent reduction in their IBS symptoms.