Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome in China: a review

World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Feb 28;21(8):2315-22. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i8.2315.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic, functional gastrointestinal disorder with a high incidence rate in the general population, and it is common among the Chinese population. The pathophysiology, etiology and pathogenesis of IBS are poorly understood, with no evidence of inflammatory, anatomic, metabolic, or neoplastic factors to explain the symptoms. Treatment approaches are mainly focused on symptom management to maintain everyday functioning and to improve quality of life for patients with IBS. However, prescribed medications often result in significant side effects, and many IBS sufferers (particularly Chinese) do not improve. Instead of taking a variety of conventional medications, many have turned to taking traditional Chinese medicine or integrated Chinese and Western medicine for remedy. A number of clinical trials have shown that Chinese herbal, acupuncture or integrative therapies presented improved treatment outcomes and reduced side effects in IBS patients. The purpose of this review article is to examine the treatment approaches of IBS that have been published in recent years, especially in China, to assess the possible differences in treating IBS between China and other countries. This would provide some useful information of unique treatment approach in clinical practice for physicians in the management of IBS in China, thus offering more treatment options for IBS patients with potentially better treatment outcomes while reducing the medical cost burden.

Keywords: China; Integrated treatment; Irritable bowel syndrome; Traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / adverse effects
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Life Style
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Gastrointestinal Agents