Naturopathic Approaches to IBS Treatment& Herbal Remedies

Naturopathic Approaches to IBS Treatment: Herbal Remedies, and More

The Tummy Clinic | June 20th, 2023

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms can be challenging to live with. The good news is that there are some potentials over the counter remedies and natural ways to treat symptoms of IBS. Read on for IBS natural treatment options…

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder with symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhoea or constipation or both, irregular bowel movements, and so on. These tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months at a time. IBS is a chronic condition that needs to be managed long-term. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. More severe symptoms can be treated with medication and counselling.

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The exact cause of IBS is unknown and doctors aren’t sure why IBS occurs. Different factors may cause IBS in different people. Experts believe that IBS is a problem with brain-gut-microbiome interaction, namely how our brain and gut and the microbiome that lives within the gastrointestinal tract work together. These problems may affect how our body works and lead to IBS symptoms. For example, in some people with IBS, food may move too slowly or too quickly through the digestive tract, causing changes in bowel movements. Some people with IBS may feel pain when there is a normal amount of gas or stool in the gut.

That said, there are certain problems that are more commonly seen in people with IBS. These problems, which might play a role in causing or worsening IBS symptoms, are:

  • Stressful or difficult early life events – These environmental factors include physical or sexual abuse.
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Post Infections of your digestive tract.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
  • An increase or decrease in the number or a change in the type of bacteria in the intestine.
  • Food intolerances or sensitivities – Certain foods like chocolate, alcohol, milk, caffeine, high FODMAP’s etc. can worsen symptoms in some individuals.
  • Genetic history – Research suggests that IBS runs in families.

Natural Remedies to Treat IBS Symptoms

IBS can be very frustrating to live with and can have a considerable impact on one’s everyday life and daily functioning. While there is no cure, diet changes and medicines can greatly help control the symptoms.

There are some potential natural ways to treat IBS. It is always best to consult a licensed naturopathic doctor and choose over the counter and herbal remedies for IBS that best suit your body. Here are some popular natural remedies for IBS symptoms…

1. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is one of the most researched and popular herbs for IBS treatment. It has been shown to improve global symptoms of IBS and abdominal pain. However, those with gastroesophageal reflux disease should avoid taking peppermint oil capsules since it is known to relax the lower esophageal sphincter and worsen GERD. Peppermint tea does not have the same robust evidence as peppermint oil does so it’s important to be guided by your Naturopathic Doctor.

2. Ginger

Ginger has been used for centuries to treat digestive problems. It contains several bioactive compounds that are believed to have anti-nausuea, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. These properties may help to reduce inflammation in the gut and relax the intestinal muscles, potentially providing relief. The research in this area Is limited and more high-quality studies are needed however, it is worth discussing a trial with your Naturopathic Doctor.

3. Probiotics

Probiotics by definition are live bacteria that when taken confer a health benefit. They are not herbal remedies but are among the natural ways to treat IBS. Studies suggest that probiotics have a beneficial effect on IBS symptoms and can be used to alleviate them. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or kefir can be consumed. Your Naturopathic Doctor can advise you on whether a trial of probiotic supplements is right for you.

4. Artichoke Leaf Extract

The leaf, stem and root of artichoke are used to make extracts, which are used in this traditional medicine. It is known for its cholesterol and blood glucose reducing capacity. As a potential herb for IBS, artichoke leaf extract may work by increasing bile production and improving the digestion of fats. Research results however have not been favourable in IBS. However, some IBS patients are greatly affected by high fatty foods and a trial of artichoke leaf extract may help. Your Naturopathic Doctor can guide you regarding dosage of artichoke leaf extract supplements and whether they are worth considering for your IBS.

5. Acupuncture

This 2000 year old therapy uses one or multiple needles on specific acupuncture points all over the body to provide relief from disease symptoms. It is considered one of the natural ways to treat IBS although the scientific evidence is limited and mixed. The mechanism of action is not fully understood, but it is believed that acupuncture may regulate the nervous system, reduce inflammation and improve gastrointestinal motility. It is important to undergo acupuncture treatment only by a trained professional. Number of treatments may vary, but acute conditions could take up to 12 sessions of treatment.

6. Slippery Elm

Slippery elm is an herbal remedy that has been used for centuries to soothe various digestive issues. The inner bark of the slippery elm tree contains mucilage that can help coat and protect the lining of the digestive tract, potentially reducing irritation and inflammation. There is limited scientific research focused on slippery elm for IBS but it has traditionally been seen to reduce symptoms such as pain and diarrhea. Do consult your Naturopathic Doctor for details.

7. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a popular herbal remedy marketed for IBS, the research in this area however is limited and mixed. Aloe is known for its soothing effects on both the skin and in the GI tract and it is also a well-known laxative. It is typically consumed as a juice or gel. It is also available in capsule and powder form. Your naturopathic doctor will guide you regarding dosage and frequency, and also make sure it doesn’t’t interfere with other medications that you may be on. Aloe vera is to be used only for short-term treatment.

8. Triphala

Triphala is an ancient Ayurvedic herbal treatment for IBS. It is made of three therapeutic plants native to India – amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki. Triphala has anti-inflammatory and polyphenol properties for the gut micrbiome. Haritaki is considered a mild laxative and can help promote regularity. Talk to your naturopathic doctor to see if a trial of Triphala is right for you.


Herbal treatments for IBS is growing in popularity. However, it is important to discuss with a knowledgeable naturopathic doctor who in addition to their training in herbal medicine additionally has a great understanding of IBS and can determine if any of the above are worth considering in your treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. The cause is not well understood.

There is no definitive test to diagnose IBS. IBS is diagnosed after your doctor has reviewed your symptoms and occasionally ordered tests to rule out other conditions.

Visits at the Tummy Clinic are not covered by OHIP or your provincial health care system, however, most extended healthcare plans cover many aspects of the care you will receive here, such as visits to Naturopathic Doctors, Dietitians, Social Workers or Psychotherapists. Check your benefits package or contact your insurance company for more information.