Alternative Supplements for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The Mayo Clinic considers irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) a disorder that affects the large intestine and can cause cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas and constipation. IBS has unknown causes, but certain things like diet, stress and hormones are known to exacerbate symptoms. Treatment includes medications, dietary changes and counseling to prevent and ease symptoms. In some instances, individuals have found that alternative supplements help relieve IBS.


Peppermint naturally relaxes smooth muscles like the intestines, and may provide short term relief from IBS. It can be taken in liquid or capsule form, but the Mayo Clinic recommends taking a coated capsule because straight oil can cause heartburn, which may worsen symptoms of IBS. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM ) also says taking peppermint capsules with antacids can cause the capsule’s coating to breakdown faster and lead to heartburn and nausea.

Chinese Herbs

In a study published in 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers concluded that Chinese herbs appeared to help patients with IBS, but additional research is needed to investigate its effectiveness. Consult a trustworthy practitioner before using Chinese herbs to treat IBS.


Probiotics are living bacteria that naturally occur in the intestines and have been used to treat various conditions and benefit general health. According to an article in 2009 in the “Journal of Digestive Diseases,” probiotics show promise as an effective therapy for IBS. The Mayo Clinic states that some individuals have found relief from pain and bloating associated with IBS by regularly including probiotics in their diet. Probiotics are present in foods like yogurt, miso, tempeh and some juice and soy beverages.


Chamomile can be consumed as a tea, extract, capsule or tablet. The NCCAM says chamomile has been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders like upset stomach, gas and diarrhea, but states that there is not enough research to support its effectiveness as a treatment for any condition.


In a study published in 2007 in the “Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology,” 18 individuals with IBS were either given a melatonin supplement or a placebo. Researchers concluded that the hormone melatonin is involved with regulating gut motility and has a beneficial role in IBS, but further research needs to be done with a larger group of patients.

About this Author

Bethany Fong is a registered dietitian and chef from Honolulu, Hawaii. She has produced a variety of health education materials on multiple topics relating to wellness, and worked in many industries, including clinical dietetics, food service management and public health.