Most people don’t follow a healthy diet. Fast foods, sugary treats, and fatty cuisines are constantly distracting us from eating better. That’s one reason supplements exist. Dietary supplements are meant to be a bridge to nutrition, adding nutrients that may be missing in one’s diet to help reduce the risk of developing health problems.
Several studies have pointed out that people with IBS may lack certain nutrients. For example, scientists from the University of Sheffield's Department of Oncology and Metabolism in the UK discovered that vitamin D deficiency is common among IBS sufferers. Dr. Bernard Corfe, the lead scientist in the study said that adding vitamin D to the diet may help to ease symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
In another study done at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, researchers reported that those diagnosed with IBS-D are more likely to be deficient in iron and vitamin B12. One reason for this is when foods move through the GI track too quickly (because of diarrhea), the body is not able to absorb the needed nutrients. Adding iron and Vitamin B12 may help improve fatigue and weakness, two common complaints.
One of the hardest parts about having IBS is that there isn’t one supplement that can improve all the troublesome symptoms. Before reaching for multiple products, it’s best to sit down with a dietitian/nutritionist and discuss what nutrients your body may be missing. Here are other common IBS supplements that you should know about:
This is a type of fiber that comes from Plantago ovata seeds. It also goes by the name of ispaghula. According to a study published in the Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics journal, supplements containing psyllium or psyllium husks capsules, are beneficial for improving both constipation and diarrhea. It’s also one of the main ingredients in Metamucil. However, if a person with IBS decides to use Metamucil as their way of taking psyllium, they should be aware that it is high in sugar.
The salivary glands and cells in the lining of the stomach and small intestines secrete these enzymes to aid in food digestion. Because they help break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, some believe that taking these as supplements may also reduce bloating, gas, and constipation. Some digestive enzyme supplements combine other products such as probiotics or pancrelipase (PEZ), which may help improve diarrhea. But it should be emphasized that not enough studies have been done to fully recommend including these to the diet, so it’s best to work with a dietitian/nutritionist before buying bottles of these products.
This herb has been used for thousands of years to relieve bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. According to a review of 12 randomized studies with 835 IBS patients, peppermint oil is a safe and effective use for the relief of abdominal pain and other symptoms. The review was published in the BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies Journal. The reason why peppermint oil is thought to be good for the gut is because it contains menthol which can dull the pain receptors in the colon. It also is an antispasmodic that can relax the digestive tract muscles in order to help relieve constipation. If choosing peppermint oil as a supplement, researchers suggested selecting enteric-coated products. In the study, three were needed to prevent general IBS symptoms and four for abdominal pain.
This common supplement is thought to help the body with many different issues. It is also a main ingredient in Milk of Magnesia, an over-the-counter medication for constipation. Magnesium benefits the gut in two different ways: it can relax muscles and work as a stool softener. When the GI muscles are relaxed, stool can easily move through the intestines. The softened stool allows for it to pass through comfortably. There are two different types of magnesium supplements available for helping with constipation: magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate. Most pharmacists recommend using magnesium oxide since it is easily absorbed and is more of a gentle laxative on the body.
For thousands of years, ginger has been used to help the digestive system. It is known to reduce cramping and prevent bloating and flatulence. A study published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine Journal tested the effectiveness of ginger on relieving IBS symptoms. While ginger did not perform better than the placebo, it did still help 46.7% of responders. More studies are needed to determine if ginger supplements are actually effective for those with IBS.