Alternative Treatments for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that affects people of all ages. It’s characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of both.

If you suffer from IBS, you probably already know that there is no cure for the condition. However, there are IBS alternative treatments that can help relieve the symptoms.

There are several alternative treatments for IBS that focus on treating the cause of the problem instead of just managing its symptoms.

These include acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, and others. Some alternative therapies are used as complementary or supportive care, while others may be used alone. 

Alternative Therapy Options

Alternative therapies are sometimes considered when traditional medical care isn’t working or for people with conditions that don’t respond well to pharmaceutical drugs or in people who are concerned about taking medications and would rather a non-pharmacologic approach to treatment.


Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into specific points along energy pathways called meridians. It’s believed this stimulates nerve endings and improves circulation.

Acupuncture has been shown to reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients and improve sleep quality in those who have insomnia. Acupuncture also appears effective at reducing some types of chronic pain, including gastrointestinal pain associated with IBS.

There have been studies that looked at whether acupuncture could relieve IBS symptoms in adults. The results were mixed and didn’t show significant evidence, but some participants say it helped reduce pain and improve quality of life.


Acupressure uses pressure applied to certain areas of the body to stimulate nerves and release endorphins. This therapy works like acupuncture without using needles.

Massage on pressure points can relax muscles and ease tension. Massages can provide relief from stress-related stomach problems such as constipation, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers. They’re often recommended after surgery because they promote healing and relaxation.

Stress Management Options

Stress is a natural part of life. It’s what we all experience when we’re faced with new challenges, deadlines, bad news, or unexpected events.

We all need to take breaks from our day-to-day activities to recharge. When we don’t, stress builds up over time and can cause a myriad of problems, like gut health problems, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 

Stress management activities and therapies can help relieve IBS symptoms. There are various activities that can help manage stress and anxiety.


Meditation has many benefits, but one benefit includes helping you relax your mind and body. It can help reduce your stress and anxiety, as well as blood pressure. By reducing stress and anxiety, IBS symptoms may improve.


Yoga combines physical movement with breathing exercises designed to improve flexibility, strength, balance, concentration, and overall well-being.  Appropriate breathing techniques and core strengthening can help reduce bloating and gas.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a Chinese martial arts form that incorporates slow movements, deep abdominal breathing, and gentle stretching. Studies have shown it may reduce stress levels and increase muscle tone.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy helps ease tension in muscles and joints, which reduces stiffness and soreness. Massages also promote relaxation and healing. They’re often recommended where patients feel built-up tension and tightness throughout their bodies.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Practicing deep breathing exercises regularly can help calm your nervous system and lower your heart rate. Deep breathing slows down your respiratory rate and expands your lungs to their maximum capacity, so you get more oxygen than usual. You’ll notice an immediate calming effect.


Aromatherapy focuses on essential oils extracted from plants. The oil is massaged onto different parts of the body such as feet, hands, head, neck, back, abdomen, legs, and arms, depending upon which area needs more attention. Aromatherapists use these oils in order to promote relaxation, calmness, and healing.

Music Therapy

Music is another way to achieve relaxation. Music therapists play music to enhance mood, focus, and memory. Some studies show listening to relaxing music while taking a bath can be helpful for relieving stress and improving sleep quality. 

Art Therapy

Art therapy encourages people to express themselves through art. Art therapy allows individuals to explore feelings they might not normally share. It provides them with opportunities to work out issues related to emotions, memories, relationships, family dynamics, self-image, and other concerns.

Pet Therapy

Animal companionship can provide comfort and support during stressful times. Petting animals like dogs, cats, and even birds, fish, reptiles, and insects (really?!) can offer emotional support. Pets can make us happy by providing unconditional love and affection.

Other IBS Treatment Options

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Kelly Chow

    Kelly first experienced IBS symptoms at the age of 24 with major-to-severe symptoms. She underwent all types of tests and experimented with many treatments before finally finding ways to manage her symptoms. Kelly has written and shared ebooks and Gluten-Free diet plans that she has used to live life like she did before IBS.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.