A systematic review of alternative therapies in the irritable bowel syndrome

Arch Intern Med. 2003 Feb 10;163(3):265-74. doi: 10.1001/archinte.163.3.265.


The irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder associated with a significant burden of illness, poor quality of life, high rates of absenteeism, and high health care utilization. Management can be difficult and treatment unrewarding; these facts have led physicians and patients toward alternative therapies. We explored a variety of treatments that exist beyond the scope of commonly used therapies for irritable bowel syndrome. Guarded optimism exists for traditional Chinese medicine and psychological therapies, but further well-designed trials are needed. Oral cromolyn sodium may be useful in chronic unexplained diarrhea and appears as effective as and safer than elimination diets. The roles of lactose and fructose intolerance remain poorly understood. Alterations of enteric flora may play a role in irritable bowel syndrome, but supporting evidence for bacterial overgrowth or probiotic therapy is lacking.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / diet therapy
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / etiology*
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / microbiology
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / psychology
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Cromolyn Sodium / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diet therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use
  • Psychotherapy


  • Plant Preparations
  • Cromolyn Sodium