Management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in adults: conventional and complementary/alternative approaches

Altern Med Rev. 2011 Jun;16(2):134-51.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder with a range of symptoms that significantly affect quality of life for patients. The difficulty of differential diagnosis and its treatment may significantly delay initiation of optimal therapy. Hence, persons with IBS often self-treat symptoms with non-prescribed pharmacological regimens and/or complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) and by modifying diet and daily activities. In addition, most common pharmacological approaches target IBS symptom management rather than treatment, and prescribed medications often result in significant side effects. The purposes of this review article are to: (1) address current issues related to IBS, including symptom presentation, diagnosis, and current treatment options; (2) summarize benefits and side effects of currently available pharmacological regimens and other symptom management strategies, with an emphasis on commonly used CAM therapies and diet modification; and (3) outline recommendations and future directions of IBS management based on systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and research findings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Plant Oils / therapeutic use
  • Prebiotics
  • Quality of Life
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Plant Oils
  • Prebiotics