These three new approaches promise relief for the 35 million Americans who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS):
Try an antibiotic.
A two-week course of the common antibiotic rifaximin shut down symptoms — diarrhea, bloating, and stomach pain — for 40 percent of participants in a recent study, and relief lasted more than two months. For some sufferers, the benefits may persist far longer, says Mark Pimentel, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who conducted the research. “It’s the most comprehensive treatment we’ve seen in drug trials.”
Check for other explanations.
Nearly two thirds of people diagnosed with IBS instead had gallbladder-related problems, Saad F. Habba, MD, a gastroenterologist in Summit, New Jersey, discovered last year; others had lactose intolerance or colon inflammation. All three conditions, whose symptoms mimic those of IBS, can be treated. “If your doctor says you have IBS,” advises Dr. Habba, “push him to investigate further.”
Use your brain.
Simple strategies like muscle relaxation and controlling excessive worry significantly improved symptoms in 80 percent of patients in a trial conducted by Jeffrey M. Lackner, at the University at Buffalo-SUNY. “By changing how we respond to stress,” says Lackner, “we can affect IBS symptoms.”