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For IBS sufferers the question remains ‘can IBS be cured?’ as symptoms can be debilitating and disrupt daily life for many people.
In certain cases, symptoms can be so severe that some people report they would risk death for a chance of a cure (1).
Whether your IBS is marked by frequent bouts of diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating or a combination of all, you might be willing to try anything to relieve symptoms.
In this article, we will discuss if there is a cure for IBS and methods that can help alleviate the symptoms.
Can IBS be cured?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS.
Instead, treatments for IBS are aimed at relieving symptoms and improving your quality of life.
Why can IBS not be cured?
We are uncertain why IBS cannot be cured at present. It is is most likely due to how many factors are involved such as age, gender, family history, stress, infections and food intolerances (Experts are trying to nail down what exactly causes IBS!).
You can read more about the symptoms and cause of IBS here.
Treating IBS can be challenging and requires a multifactorial approach. As there is no single treatment that works for everyone with IBS, let’s explore the different approaches that can help you!
Can IBS be cured by yoga?
Yoga itself cannot cure IBS but doing yoga twice a week for 12 weeks can be as effective as following the low-FODMAP diet in reducing gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety, depression (2).
Reduction in gut symptoms and anxiety levels have also been demonstrated in adolescents with IBS after just 4 weeks of a daily hourly yoga session (3).
We now understand that communication occurs between the brain and gut termed as the gut-brain axis (4). Have you ever experienced butterflies in your stomach before a big presentation?
IBS is often worsened during long-term or acute stress and the easiest way to reduce symptoms is by relaxing your body (5).
Yoga may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it can be a cost-effective alternative therapy for managing IBS symptoms (6).
Yoga has been shown to improve the following (7);
- IBS symptoms
- physical health
- quality of life
How yoga helps improve IBS symptoms is currently unknown (like a lot of elements of IBS!). BUT deep breathing and mindfulness are key features that may be the link.
Research has shown that 70% of people improve IBS symptoms after 8 weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction practice (8).
You may be wondering if there are specific types of yoga or poses you should be doing. Sadly, there is no scientific data on the effectiveness of this
Can IBS be cured without medication?
Although you may be wondering if IBS can be cured by medications, it can not be cured. Medications are just another treatment option which helps to manage IBS symptoms.
Medications are typically not the first line of treatment for IBS. However, your physician may recommend medications if your symptoms are moderate or severe (9).
This could include:
- IBS specific drugs
- Laxatives and fibre supplements for constipation
- Antispasmodics such as Buscopan to help with abdominal pain and cramps
- Antidiarrheal drugs to help with diarrhoea
Keep in mind that you should always talk to your doctor before taking any medications to ensure it is safe for you.
No pill will make all your IBS symptoms completely go away. If you decide medications are the correct path for you please also consider dietary and lifestyle factors.
Can the low-FODMAP diet cure IBS?
The low FODMAP diet is diet which is low in fermentable carbohydrates. Up to 86% of people with IBS found an overall improvement in overall GI symptoms after adopting the diet (10).
Despite an improvement in IBS symptoms, the low FODMAP diet will not cure IBS.
Please read our low-FODMAP diet blog post for a more detailed guide!
Can IBS be cured by probiotics?
Probiotics cannot cure IBS but increasing evidence shows that It can improve overall IBS symptoms and quality of life (11, 13).
Taking probiotics may restore the composition of your gut microbiome and improve IBS symptoms in certain ways by (14, 15):
We have written a whole blog post on probiotic use for IBS here.
There is no perfect cure for IBS, and it will take time and patience to figure out what will help you feel best.
Fortunately, conventional methods such as dietary and lifestyle changes used in conjunction with alternative therapies can be effective in relieving IBS symptoms.
Written by Nutrition student Leeona Lam and reviewed by Consultant Dietitian Kirsten Jackson
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.
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