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Irritable bowel syndrome

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a set of symptoms including stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and other abnormalities of bowel habit. It is a functional or symptomatic disorder: though it may have an underlying organic cause such as coeliac 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 diarrhoea. 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 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]

Alternative therapies, though they lack scientific bases, have found supporters amongst some IBS patients and their doctors as well. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are worth trying, as long as patients consult with their physicians before trying any of these approaches to relieve IBS symptoms. It is important to rely on expert practitioners and reliable sources of supply, as the field is so full of quacks and products with harmful ingredients. —Generally sound advice from ibstreatments.com — despite the unpromising name and random gratuitous pictures of hotties, this site is mainly written by an actual doctor and sums things up quite accurately

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 coeliac 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.