The guts of it

December 2009

FocusThe guts of it

Irritable bowel syndrome

The role of complementary medicines in treatment

Volume 38, No.12, December 2009 Pages 966-968

Marie Pirotta

Background

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gut problem that interferes with many people’s enjoyment of life.

Objective/s

This article discusses the use of complementary medicines in the treatment of IBS.

Discussion

The underlying pathophysiology of IBS is not yet fully understood. People’s experience of IBS can fluctuate over time and various bowel symptoms may predominate. Many complementary medicines are used to treat IBS symptoms. Currently there is good evidence to recommend the use of probiotics, peppermint oil capsules and psyllium. Other therapies such as Chinese and Ayuvedic herbs and psychological techniques look promising, but further high quality trials are required before these approaches can be recommended.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gut problem that interferes with many people’s enjoyment of life. It is a chronic fluctuating condition with features that include recurrent abdominal pain with altered bowel habit and no detectable structural abnormality. Conditions such as coeliac disease and frustose intolerance, for example, must be excluded. There is marked variation in how people experience what is termed ‘IBS’: IBS with constipation dominating is known as ‘IBS-C’; if diarrhoea is most prominent it is termed ‘IBS-D’; and alternating bowel habit is known as ‘IBS-A’.1

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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