Irritable bowel syndrome

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a set of symptoms including stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and other abnormalities of bowel habit. It is a functional or symptomatic disorder: though it may have an underlying organic cause such as celiac disease, it generally does not.[1]

As a diffuse, distressing, cyclic disorder with no single cause it is, needless to say, ripe for exploitation by quacks, woo-mongers and other frauds. A search for "natural remedies for irritable bowel" turns up over a million hits, with Joseph Mercola at the head of the list. 'Nuff said.

Medical treatment for symptomatic relief includes butylscopolamine (trade name Buscopan) for bloating and cramps and loperamide for diarrhea. Dietary modification may reduce the severity and frequency of attacks, as can lifestyle changes (reducing stress, for example).[2]

Quack treatments are legion. Some quacks claim to "cure" it (despite the lack of any known distinct cause), others claim to improve or manage it. Some of the treatments offered are plausible… but plenty of others flip off the diving board backwards into a pool of steaming horse-shit.[3] You can always tell if a purported cure for IBS is quackery: it purports to be a cure for IBS.[4]

The two chief dangers of quack cures for IBS are: becoming convinced of the virtue of quackery; and delaying medical diagnosis, if there is an underlying organic cause such as cancer or celiac disease.

See also[edit]


  1. IBS, Quackwatch.
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome at NHS Choices.
  3. Watch out for IBS quacks, Barbara Bolen.
  4. What is IBS?, IBS network.