Pharmacologic and complementary and alternative medicine therapies for irritable bowel syndrome

William D Chey, Monthira Maneerattaporn, Richard Saad
Gut and Liver 2011, 5 (3): 253-66
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by episodic abdominal pain or discomfort in association with altered bowel habits (diarrhea and/or constipation). Other gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating and flatulence, are also common. A variety of factors are believed to play a role in the development of IBS symptoms, including altered bowel motility, visceral hypersensitivity, psychosocial stressors, altered brain-gut interactions, immune activation/low grade inflammation, alterations in the gut microbiome, and genetic factors. In the absence of biomarkers that can distinguish between IBS subgroups on the basis of pathophysiology, treatment of this condition is predicated upon a patient's most bothersome symptoms. In clinical trials, effective therapies have only offered a therapeutic gain over placebos of 7-15%. Evidence based therapies for the global symptoms of constipation predominant IBS (IBS-C) include lubiprostone and tegaserod; evidence based therapies for the global symptoms of diarrhea predominant IBS (IBS-D) include the probiotic Bifidobacter infantis, the nonabsorbable antibiotic rifaximin, and alosetron. Additionally, there is persuasive evidence to suggest that selected antispasmodics and antidepressants are of benefit for the treatment of abdominal pain in IBS patients. Finally, several emerging therapies with novel mechanisms of action are in development. Complementary and alternative medicine therapies including probiotics, herbal therapies and acupuncture are gaining popularity among IBS sufferers, although concerns regarding manufacturing standards and the paucity of high quality efficacy and safety data remain.

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