Initial Posting: 4/5/2016    Last Update: 9/21/2019
Question: Do any supplements help for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Answer: Several different types of probiotics have been found to reduce symptoms of IBS, but the appropriate probiotic may depend on whether the IBS is causing predominantly diarrhea or constipation. (See the "What It Does" section of the Probiotic Supplements Review for details.)
Prebiotics have also been promoted for IBS, although the evidence is mixed.
Supplementation with the amino acid glutamine has been shown to reduce symptoms such as pain and bowel frequency in people with diarrhea-predominant IBS.
Interestingly, several small studies suggest melatonin may improve symptoms of IBS, possibly by affecting the nervous system in the digestive track. (See the "What It Does" section of the Melatonin Review for details).
Preliminary evidence suggests psyllium, a type of fiber, may be helpful for people with IBS with constipation.
There is mixed evidence as to whether peppermint oil can reduce symptoms of IBS.
See the Encyclopedia article about IBS for information about other potentially helpful supplements.
Be aware that a number of supplements, including fish oil, magnesium, high doses of vitamin C, berberine and turmeric/curcumin can cause diarrhea, so you may want to avoid these or reduce your dosage if you find they are exacerbating IBS symptoms. See the "Concerns and Cautions" section in each review for details.
Learn more about supplements for digestive health: