Soyona Rafatjah MD’s Favorite Natural Remedies for IBS

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder that affects the digestive system. Signs and symptoms of IBS include cramping, abdominal pain, stool irregularities, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea or constipation.

Living with IBS can be frustrating, and the side effects on your everyday life are significant. I work with patients every day who struggle to feel like they, and not their digestive system, are in control of day-to-day life.

While every person’s body and circumstances are different, you can treat IBS if you identify the root causes of your symptoms. A targeted, individualized approach can produce dramatic results and improve your quality of life. Many of my patients report that they have reversed IBS symptoms completely over the long term!

Let’s review the 15 best natural remedies for IBS, including the best IBS diets, backed by scientific research.

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1. Follow a Low-FODMAP Diet

A low-FODMAP diet is considered the best natural remedy for IBS and gastrointestinal issues. One study found that the diet had positive effects on symptoms of all subtypes of IBS (IBS-C, IBS-D, and IBS-M), but is particularly beneficial for those with IBS-D.

The first step is avoiding certain foods that trigger your IBS. On this diet, that includes foods high in FODMAPs like:

  • Artichokes
  • Cauliflower
  • Fermented cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Kidney beans
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Scallions
  • Soybeans
  • Cherries
  • Feijoa
  • Cranberries
  • Blackcurrant
  • Figs
  • Guava
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon
  • Mango
  • Honey
  • Malt syrup
  • Saccharin

Instead, fill your diet with low-FODMAP foods that are less likely to trigger IBS. Common low-FODMAP foods include:

  • Bean sprouts
  • Chives
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Unripe bananas
  • Fennel
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Turnip
  • Spring onions
  • Dragon fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Mandarin
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Feta cheese
  • Dark chocolate

It’s important to keep in mind that quantity matters. You can make a lower-FODMAP food trigger your symptoms if you eat too much of it.

2. Uncover Your Food Triggers

A low-FODMAP diet isn’t the only specialized diet out there among IBS natural treatments. 

It’s just as important to avoid foods that trigger your IBS symptoms as it is to eat foods that offer a therapeutic effect on your gut health. That can include cutting back on alcohol and excess caffeine, too.

The right IBS diet can substantially alleviate your IBS symptoms and improve your health. In addition to the low-FODMAP diet, IBS diets can include the following:

  • Gluten-free diet
  • Lactose-free diet
  • High fiber diet
  • Low fiber diet
  • Elemental diet
  • Elimination diet

If you’d like to try an elimination diet, it’s important to note that even foods typically described as healthy options may be the source of your problems. Start with foods linked to common food sensitivities, like soy, nightshade vegetables, dairy, wheat, gluten, and eggs.

Note any improvements in your symptoms as you remove and then reintroduce different foods or food groups. Pay attention to any new symptoms, like heartburn. Be diligent about reading labels.

IBS is complicated. Your genetics, chronic stress, antibiotics, and conditions like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can all contribute to IBS symptoms on top of your diet. It may take some time to get a complete picture after an IBS diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms.

3. Take Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms, or bacteria, that are beneficial to your digestive system and a healthy gut microbiome. Strains like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus show the most promise as supplemental therapies for IBS.

A healthy balance of gut bacteria is associated with several health benefits that include:

  • Improved digestion
  • Boosted immune function
  • Reduced traveler’s diarrhea
  • Alleviation of postmenopausal symptoms
  • Prevention of bowel diseases

Probiotics may also help with anxiety, depression, blood cholesterol, and skin health.

You can increase the number of good microbes in your body through fermented foods like yogurt and buttermilk, fermented drinks like kombucha and kefir, and probiotic supplements. 

Sourdough is the best option to improve your digestive system if you’re not ready to give up bread. The fermentation process minimizes the gluten content and increases the bioavailability of nutrients in the flour.

4. Increase Your Intake of Prebiotics & Fiber

Prebiotics are the dietary fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. This allows your gut bacteria to produce nutrients for your colon cells, contributing to a better digestive system. 

You can find prebiotics in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as:

  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Onions
  • Cocoa
  • Flaxseed
  • Chicory root
  • Soybeans
  • Apples
  • Konjac root

Different fiber types, including fiber supplements with psyllium powder, may positively impact your gut health, too. 

When treating IBS constipation at home, I recommend that people with IBS start by increasing their dietary fiber intake to 20-35 grams daily. This may help address stool irregularities and lessen abdominal pain associated with constipation. 

These foods are rich in soluble fiber:

  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Plums
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Celery root
  • Potatoes
  • Oatmeal

5. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a dietary pattern based on timed fasting periods. It involves caloric restriction for up to several days a week (or every day), typically for 14-20 hours at a time. 

Caloric restriction may lead to improved blood pressure and insulin sensitivity and relieve IBS symptoms. One clinical study found that fasting individuals had significant improvements in a majority of their IBS symptoms.

The efficiency of intermittent fasting will depend on the type and cause of IBS. Talk to your healthcare provider about which fasting method is right for you.

6. Get Plenty of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for digestive health. It’s also one of the most common vitamin deficiencies among Americans. One study found that over 50% of pediatric patients with IBS have vitamin D deficiency.

The recommended daily amount of supplemental vitamin D3 is:

  • 400 international units (IU) for children up to 12 months
  • 600 IU for people ages 1-70
  • 800 IU for people over 70

We usually find that the above recommendations are not enough for most adolescents and adults to reach optimal vitamin D 25-OH levels of between 50-70 ng/mL. Most teens and adults must take closer to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily in order to reach those levels. 

However, because vitamin D overdose can cause unpleasant symptoms, this dose should be followed only under the strict guidance of a healthcare provider.

To consume more vitamin D, spend 15-30 minutes in the sun each day and eat vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish, shiitake mushrooms, and egg yolks. 

You may also consider vitamin D3 supplements, especially if you live in an area that is frequently overcast.

It’s important to have your vitamin D 25-OH levels checked via a blood test by your healthcare provider, so you can learn exactly how much vitamin D you require to stay in that optimal range. 

Be aware of these known interactions with vitamin D that may impact digestive disorders:

  • Taking stimulant laxatives for the long-term may impair vitamin D absorption.
  • Use vitamin D cautiously if you are taking drugs processed by Cytochrome P-450 3A4 (CYP3A4) enzyme.
  • Taking magnesium-containing antacids with vitamin D may increase the risk of high blood magnesium level.

7. Exercise

Regular physical activity may help reduce the severity and duration of IBS symptoms by positively impacting your gut microbiome, promoting regular bowel movements, and improving blood flow. Exercise also reduces stress and anxiety, two potential triggers for IBS.

The type and intensity of exercise should be individualized to your needs. Some people with IBS may find that high-intensity workouts exacerbate their symptoms. Low-impact activities like walking, yoga, and swimming are generally well-tolerated.

8. Find Strategies for Stress Reduction

Managing stress and anxiety is essential to managing your IBS symptoms. Chronic stress increases the hormone cortisol and can impact your digestive system by causing colon spasms, cramps, and IBS-triggering discomfort. 

There are numerous ways to reduce IBS-related stress. Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and relaxation techniques may all improve your gastrointestinal symptoms. Try to lead as low-stress a lifestyle as possible if you have IBS to improve your overall quality of life.

9. Try Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy and complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) for IBS. It involves retraining the body to control specific responses associated with early signs of IBS symptoms. 

During biofeedback, individuals are connected to sensors that help monitor physiological processes like:

  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Skin sensations
  • Muscle contractions
  • Temperature

Early symptom detection through biofeedback allows people with IBS to intervene before their nervous system has a chance to adversely affect their GI function. 

Long-term studies suggest that 55%-82% of patients who undergo biofeedback therapy maintain symptom improvement, including more regular bowel movements.

10. Get Acupuncture

Studies show acupuncture may alleviate IBS symptoms by targeting specific points on the body connected to abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel movement irregularities. Acupuncture may also support relaxation, a key component to reducing IBS symptoms long-term.

The treatment involves swiftly inserting hair-thin needles through a person’s skin at strategic nerve-rich areas on the body. This stimulates your nervous system and triggers natural chemicals that may result in some symptom relief. 

11. Explore Hypnotherapy

Gut-directed hypnotherapy, an alternative to cognitive behavioral therapy, may relieve IBS symptoms by targeting signals involved in the gut-brain connection. 

Hypnotherapy involves progressive relaxation to influence how your brain processes gut sensations responsible for symptoms like cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating. 

A trained hypnotherapist moves you through scripts and visualizations focused on achieving a calmer state in targeted areas of the body. In the case of IBS, the focus is your digestive tract. Hypnotherapy may also relieve stress and anxiety most sufferers feel when dealing with IBS.

12. Follow an Ayruveda Protocol

An Ayurveda protocol is a combination of dietary adjustments, herbal remedies, lifestyle changes, and stress management to boost overall wellness. Studies show results comparable to that of conventional nutritional therapies in IBS patients.

The goals of ancient Indian Ayurvedic principles are to reestablish balance in the body and address the root causes of things like chronic pain. 

With IBS, the focus may be on Pitta dosha, the element associated with digestion and metabolism. Any remedies as part of that protocol would aim to reduce intestinal inflammation, regulate bowel habits, and alleviate digestive distress.

13. Participate in an Online IBS Program

Online IBS programs that provide access to educational resources, dietary guidance, and stress management techniques can be a powerful tool in your IBS treatment plan. Learning about your personal triggers and self-monitoring changes in diet and your symptoms can feel empowering.

Programs that include a peer support element may also relieve the stress, anxiety, and embarassment of dealing with chronic IBS. This level of sharing, even if anonymous, can encourage lifestyle modifications and a more holistic approach to your IBS.

14. Try CBD 

Ingesting cannabis-derived products may help relieve digestive symptoms thanks to the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD is a compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant that interacts with the endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for regulating body processes that include pain feedback. In IBS patients, this may mean reduced stomach contractions and intestinal inflammation.

When searching for a quality CBD product as part of your treatment options, always check for a detailed certificate of analysis (COA) from a reputable third-party lab. Pay attention to the potency, which varies quite a bit and can impact the benefits you can expect. 

15. Manage Symptoms With Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Supplements and herbs for IBS can be an accessible way to start improving your overall gut health today. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so you should always talk with your primary care doctor about what makes sense for your individual IBS triggers.

It makes sense to consider your symptoms, too. Different home remedies for IBS attacks and IBS medication alternatives target different aspects of the condition. 

Here are some ideas for the most common IBS symptoms:

Visit the PrimeHealth store for medical grade, third-party tested, evidence-based supplements to support optimal digestive health.


Are colon cleanses good for IBS?

Colon cleanses are not good for IBS. In fact, they may actually be damaging to your colon and worsen IBS symptoms. Colon cleanses are also not recommended for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

What is the fastest way to get rid of IBS?

There is no single fast way to get rid of IBS, as treatment plans can vary from person to person. Managing your stress, adopting an IBS eating plan like the low FODMAP diet, and avoiding trigger foods may support long-term IBS relief.

Are there any proven homeopathic treatments for IBS?

There are several alternative methods of treating IBS that may help, but there’s no single treatment you can do at home to reverse the condition. That’s why I and my fellow providers help each patient discover the root cause of their problems and develop a comprehensive plan to help address it.

Studies show remedies like nux vomica and asafoetida show some promise, but more research is needed to determine whether a placebo effect is at play.

How can I calm my IBS down naturally?

You can calm your IBS down naturally by adopting stress reduction techniques, paying attention to dietary triggers for your symptoms, and trying herbal remedies. That said, what works for one person may not work for another.

IBS Isn’t a Life Sentence.

IBS is a chronic condition for many, but by identifying the root causes of your symptoms, you can permanently cure IBS

If you’re in Colorado, schedule a free consultation with PrimeHealth. You can take control of your IBS and digestive health.


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