IBS Supplements for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Supplements for the dietary management of IBS can be unbelievably helpful for stabilizing digestion, especially when used with the Eating for IBS diet.

IBS supplements are one of the five key strategies for controlling Irritable Bowel Syndrome (proper IBS diet, stress management, alternative therapies, and IBS prescription medications are the other four).

(Go straight to a printable IBS diet cheat sheet for managing symptoms. Or, take immediate control of your IBS symptoms with the IBS Diet Kit.)

Soluble fiber supplements, particularly prebiotic soluble fibers that ferment slowly (not rapidly!) such as acacia senegal, are likely the most effective at addressing global IBS symptoms.

Herbs that have medicinal effects on the gastrointestinal tract, heat therapy to the lower abdomen, probiotics (particularly when used with slowly fermenting prebiotics), the minerals calcium and/or magnesium, and digestive enzymes are also of proven benefit. Best of all, results for IBS are usually felt very quickly - sometimes even immediately.

You can usually mix and match various supplements according to the IBS symptoms you're trying to address. Most reputable Irritable Bowel Syndrome supplements are very safe and healthy overall (and they're usually inexpensive as well), so you definitely don't have much to lose by trying them.

Calcium and Magnesium play critical and antagonistic roles in regulating muscle function. Together they provide the mechanism for muscle contraction and relaxation.

In terms of GI tract function, calcium has a constipating effect, whereas magnesium acts as a laxative. As a result, calcium supplements can be truly beneficial for people with diarrhea from IBS, and magnesium supplements can work wonders for IBS constipation. Remember that calcium can block iron absorption in the body and contribute to anemia, so women who take calcium supplements may want to take an iron supplement at a different time of day. Calcium and magnesium should both be taken with food.

To take a calcium/magnesium supplement that will keep your bowel function in balance, it's typically recommended to use a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, as many people absorb magnesium more easily than calcium. I wouldn't exceed the USRDA for calcium or magnesium, taken either singly or together, without an explicit recommendation from your physician.

Digestive Enzymes can be helpful when taken right before a meal, especially if there is more fat in that meal than is safe for IBS. Enzymes are available at all health food stores and may be of more benefit to older people, as natural digestive enzyme production declines with age.

For gassy foods such as beans, lentils, and many vegetables, there is Beano, a brand-name digestive enzyme. Beano contains the sugar-digesting enzyme that the body needs (and which some people lack) to digest the complex sugar raffinose. If you have trouble digesting raffinose the sugar will ferment in your colon, producing gas and intestinal distress. Beano breaks down raffinose into simple sugars that cause no GI discomfort.

Beano is available at health food stores in either tablets or drops, and is simply taken at the beginning of a meal. There are no side effects unless you have a rare sensitivity or allergy, and the product can be used every day. Beano does contain small amounts of mannitol, a sugar alcohol some people can be very sensitive to, so be aware of that. Beano also contains gluten, so if you are gluten intolerant the brand Bean Zyme is a gluten free alternative.

Learn about soluble fiber supplements for IBS.

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