Treatments that are likely to work:

Anti-spasmodic drugs: These drugs relax the muscles in the wall of your bowels to stop painful spasms. They include (with their brand names) mebeverine (Colofac IBS), alverine (Spasmonal), hyoscine (Buscopan), and dicycloverine (Merbentyl).

Antidepressants: Drugs used to treat depression also seem to have benefits for people with IBS. Doctors often prescribe a type of drug called a tricyclic antidepressant. Examples (with brand names) are amitriptyline, clomipramine (Anafranil), doxepin (Sinequan), and trimipramine (Surmontil).

Fibre supplements: These supplements can be used to treat constipation and possibly some of the other symptoms of IBS. Examples of fibre supplements (with brand names) include ispaghula (Fybogel, Isogel), methylcellulose (Celevac), and sterculia (Normacol).


Treatments that work, but whose harms may outweigh benefits:

Alosetron: This drug is used to treat women with diarrhoea and pain caused by severe IBS. The brand name in the US is Lotronex. There’s a risk of serious side effects.

Treatments that need further study:

Loperamide (Imodium): This drug is sometimes used to treat diarrhoea in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Cognitive behaviour therapy: This is a talking treatment. It teaches you how to deal with stressful thoughts and feelings. The idea is that this will help you control your symptoms of IBS.

Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy helps you relax and focus on your symptoms. Some types of hypnotherapy use tapes or CDs so you can continue treatment at home.

Acupuncture: If you have this treatment, a trained acupuncturist puts thin needles into your skin.