For patients struggling with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastrointestinal distress can become a way of life. When conventional treatments fail to provide relief, many people find themselves becoming accustomed to arranging their schedules around their symptoms and living in a state of persistent discomfort. Often, these symptoms not only take a heavy physical toll, but also affect emotional well-being and body image. As such, the damage of IBS can be far-reaching and complex, significantly diminishing quality of life. But it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to a number of innovative nutritional supplements.
Probiotics are often the first thing to come mind when considering supplements for IBS and, indeed, many people do turn to probiotics in their search for relief from IBS symptoms. However, despite decades of research, there is no consensus within the scientific community about whether or not probiotics can treat IBS. As such, researchers have increasingly begun to turn their attention toward more innovative therapeutic ingredients as they seek to discover the best supplements for IBS. Of the ingredients currently under investigation, curcumin and berberine stand out for their potential to address a range of IBS symptoms safely and naturally.
The Multidimensional Benefits of Curcumin for IBScontrol gastrointestinal inflammation and support the gut microbiome.
In a preliminary clinical trial published in 2016, researchers found that curcumin supplementation may help reduce gastrointestinal distress and diminish the negative impact of IBS on patients’ quality of life.1 After taking a curcumin supplement every day for a month, patients with IBS reported a 68% reduction in their daily experience of abdominal pain. In contrast, patients who took a placebo reported only a 27.1% decrease in daily abdominal pain. Additionally, 25.9% of patients treated with curcumin reported having at least one symptom-free day each week at the end of the trial—a massive improvement in comparison to the 6.8% of the patients taking a placebo who reported the same.
Curcumin also helped improve body image, a critically important yet typically under-addressed aspect of IBS. This may have been driven in part by curcumin’s effect on bloating; over the course of the study, the patients taking a curcumin supplement experienced progressively fewer incidences of abdominal bloating, eventually reporting bloating 50% less frequently than before they started the supplement. The patients taking curcumin also had less discomfort while defecating. On a 100-point IBS symptom severity scale, patients taking curcumin exhibited an average of 13.6 points lower than patients taking a placebo, indicating a significant improvement. These clinical results are encouraging, particularly as they suggest multidimensional physical and psychological benefits that may enhance overall wellness.
However, curcumin is but one of several similar compounds that vary in terms of their therapeutic efficacy, and patients may find that they experience better results with tetrahydrocurcumin supplement owing to its superior chemical properties. When the liver processes a curcumin supplement, it converts the curcumin into tetrahydrocurcumin, which can then deliver therapeutic benefits throughout the body. But the liver is slow to process curcumin. As a result, there is often not enough tetrahydrocurcumin circulating in the bloodstream to produce significant benefits when taking most standard curcumin supplements. Tetrahydrocurcumin, on the other hand, is processed quickly by the liver. This means that tetrahydrocurcumin is likely to be more effective for IBS because it is more bioavailable and can reach a higher concentration in the body in a shorter amount of time, increasing the possibility of meaningful therapeutic results. As such, patients who are interested in exploring the possibilities of curcumin for IBS may wish to seek out supplements containing tetrahydrocurcumin.
Berberine Enhances Quality Of Life for Patients with IBS
While the potential of using curcumin in the treatment of IBS is compelling, berberine may also offer patients a new path toward symptom relief. Berberine is a plant-derived dye with a number of medicinal properties; historically, it has been used as an antibiotic in traditional Chinese medicine, but modern medical science indicates that its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects are more relevant for patients. By controlling inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, berberine could have a beneficial effect on bacterial populations in the microbiome and help patients to control pain. While questions remain about how exactly berberine exerts these effects, research in model animals suggests that berberine is a powerful therapeutic in the making.
Importantly, berberine has been proven to be helpful for IBS in preliminary clinical trials. In a 2015 clinical trial, patients who took berberine every day for 8 weeks experienced 64.6% less abdominal pain than patients who took a placebo.2 Furthermore, patients who were treated with berberine reported that they felt the need to urgently defecate less than half as frequently as patients in the placebo group. However, the benefits were not confined solely to specific symptoms; patients who took berberine reported an 18.2% increase in quality of life. In other words, alleviating IBS symptoms led patients to experience a greater sense of wellness both physically and emotionally, going beyond any individual physical phenomenon to have a more holistic healing effect.
Based on these promising results, more clinical trials investigating the potential benefits of berberine are likely on the horizon. If subsequent research can confirm therapeutic efficacy and clarify optimal dosing, we may see berberine play an increasingly significant role in IBS treatment in the future. However, high-quality berberine supplements are already available, and patients may find that using the study’s protocol of 400mg once per day gives them the support they need to achieve relief.
Choosing the Best Supplements for IBS Todaysafe, natural supplements backed by empirical evidence and produced by a trusted manufacturer, patients can confidently take the next steps on the journey toward wellness.
- Portincasa P, Bonfrate L, Scribano ML, Kohn A, Caporaso N, et al. 2016. Curcumin and fennel essential oil improve symptoms and quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Disorders. 25(2):151-157. http://www.jgld.ro/wp/y2016/n2/a6.pdf
- Chen C, Tao C, Liu Z, Lu M, Pan Q, et al. 2015. A randomized clinical trial of berberine hydrochloride in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Phytotherapy Research. 29(11):1822-1827. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.5475