Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Am Fam Physician. 2012 Sep 1;86(5):online.

  See related article on irritable bowel syndrome.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is stomach discomfort or pain that happens with constipation, diarrhea, or both.

How is it treated?

IBS can't be cured, but symptoms can be treated. There are many types of treatments, and your doctor can help you decide what is best for you. These treatments include:

Exercise: Three to five times per week.

Laxatives: Over-the-counter laxatives, such as polyethylene glycol (one brand: Miralax). This may help with constipation, but probably not with stomach pain.

Antidiarrheal medicines: Over-the-counter loperamide (one brand: Imodium). This may help with diarrhea, but probably not with stomach pain.

Probiotics: Probiotics are found in some over-the-counter supplements and yogurts. Common probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus.

Prescription medicines: Your doctor also may prescribe a medicine to help with more severe symptoms. But, these medicines could cause side effects.

Other treatments: Relaxation, hypnosis, acupuncture, herbal medicines, and peppermint oil.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physician's Patient Education Resource

Web site:

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

Web site:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Self Help and Support Group

Web site:

Medline Plus

Web site:

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2012 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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