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Irritable Bowel Syndrome: New Data on Treatments That Work

For the live-updated, interactive version of this infographic, click here.

If you’re like 15% of the population, you may be living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, whether you know its name or not. And if you do have this chronic bloating, uncomfortable bowel pain, you may be wondering what to do about it.

Hundreds of people in the same boat have some ideas for you.

At CureTogether, 2,341 people have reported having IBS, and 358 of them have contributed 2,936 data points on their ratings of 49 treatment ideas.

So what works best for patients with IBS? Avoiding foods that cause flare-ups and reducing stress take top spots in patient reports.

To navigate the graph above:

The top right quadrant shows the most popular and effective treatments, and the top left quadrant shows treatments that not many people have tried but that have above-average effectiveness, so they may be options to think about (e.g. Physical therapy, yoga).

Treatments in the lower right quadrant are ones that lots of people have tried but that have below-average effectiveness (e.g. fiber supplements, fish oil), and treatments in the lower left quadrant are reported as neither popular nor effective, so you may want to consider this when choosing a treatment (e.g. Evening primrose oil, Peppermint oil).

Where did this data come from? CureTogether members have been anonymously sharing symptoms and treatments for almost 3 years now. We analyzed and visualized the data into infographic form to make it more accessible. To thank everyone for their contributions, we’re releasing this result back to the community for free.

This is part of a series of research findings we’ve been publishing over the past few months. Of course, with each of these findings, there is a potential bias in patient self-selection and recall. Every research study has some bias, so we present these findings as just what they are – patient-reported data – to stimulate discussion and generate new insights for further research. Stay tuned for more and please let us know in the comments below if this was helpful or interesting for you.

Please tweet, blog, or pass this along to anyone who can benefit or is interested in IBS. Thank you!


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8 Responses to “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: New Data on Treatments That Work”

  1. Patricia Kollings Says:

    Generally, this graphic describes quite accurately my own experience with each of the named factors that I have tried. I would pass on this added suggestion: For some IBS sufferers, the cause may be an imbalance of flora vs. fauna in the gut–bacteria vs. yeast. I have found that an anti-yeast diet has been essential for me: no sugars; only whole grains; no potatoes, rice, or other refined or easily digested carbohydrates; no vegetables with high sugar content (e.g. yams); no dried fruit (e.g. raisins); no fermented food or drinks. This diet has not totally eliminated IBS for me, but without it I’d be in much more distress. Yes, it is possible to enjoy one’s meals without any of these things!

  2. The infographic also fairly accurately reflects my experience. I have been balancing IBS since my early twenties… 25 years now!
    The nature of IBS seems to differ among its subjects… so while the previous comment to this article generally coincides with my experience, I should add that I can not do without potatoes locally grown and fresh plus the many gluten free products available today to assist in stabilizing my digestion and providing a buffer for other foods. I cannot eat raw greens under any circumstances sadly; and like the previous commentator, fruit is out of the question. Any food high in sugar sets me off. Water is about it for liquids.

  3. Helen Hands Says:

    infograph sums me up too! Gluten free low glycemic index diet manages my IBS like it never existed!
    IBS is a symptom of an intolerable lifestyle it is not a diagnosis that can be treated with a pill from a Doctor. Not effectively. It is also a warning to us to get our act together or our health will suffer!

  4. Says:

    Inphographic over IBS is extremely clear. In general terms I agree with de localizations of the proposed treatments. As I have 40 years experiencing this syndrome I am dependent on represssors of the peristaltism intestinal. For instance, phospate of codeine is very effective, but probably generates dependence.

    I sincerely and extremely thank your work.

    Yours faithfully.

  5. I have had IBS for over 40 years. It was not until I had 15 years of not relief that my husband and I keyed in on the foods that trigger the flare-ups. To date I have completely eliminated garlic, round onions, mustard, dried fruits, iceberg lettuce, fried foods. I can have green onions, romaine lettuce and canned fruits. An apple a day helps tremendouly. I know I should give up caffeine especially very cold drinks but am weaning myself off very slowly. I livemost days without discomfort as long as I’m not stupid. HOpe this helps someone that is suffering.

  6. Tim Freeman Says:

    You should be aware that I misread your chart at first. At first I interpreted the label “Surprisingly Effective” to mean “More effective than the other alternatives”, not “Effective but unpopular”. At first I didn’t correctly see the boundaries of the “Surprisingly Effective” box either, I thought it went all the way to the bottom.

    It would have helped to instead simply label the axes to make clear that an effectiveness of 0.9 was highly effective, and also have labels less effective, highly popular, and unpopular in the obvious places.

    Maybe I have unique cognitive glitches. Better check with other people before considering redrawing the chart.

  7. Katie Reily Says:

    Thanks for this chart. Definitely managing foods that cause flare-ups like sugar and gluten help a lot. Daily bowel movements make the pain less at night so I can sleep better which keeps the stress down. Chewing flax seeds and taking magnesium citrate is helpful for that. I drink lots of water during the day. I drink at least one tall glass with milk thistle in it to help my liver keep up with toxic build-up from whatever it is that is causing the bloating and pain.

  8. Carolyn Schiffer Says:

    Like, Katie, definitely managing foods with sugar and gluten help. However, I have found a probiotic that also helps. No other probiotic I have found has been effective. The one that seems to be is “florastor”. It isn’t found everywhere but most pharmacies will order it for you. Costco also carries it…cost is $31.85 there for 50 caps. It says to take 2 daily but I actually get by with 1.

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