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Supplement May Help Improve Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Supplements and Irritable bowel syndrome

Lifestyle and diet changes may be very helpful to those who suffer from IBS, including (potentially) the addition of a supplement called Berberine.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects about 10-15% of the population. It is a chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain/discomfort and disordered bowel movements but in the absence of any identifiable structural abnormality.

IBS affects about twice as many women as men, and it most often occurs in those younger than age 45.

There are four types of IBS – classified based on your usual stool consistency – and each type has a different treatment plan that is most likely to improve symptoms. The two major types are IBS-C where constipation is predominant and IBS-D where diarrhea is present most of the time. Some patients do present with a mixed IBS, where they fluctuate between the two extremes frequently.

If you are one with IBS-D, you may want to ask your doctor to consider adding Berberine supplements to your treatment plan.

In a 14-week, single center, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 132 patients who had a confirmed diagnosis of IBS-D were placed in two groups. One group received 200 mg berberine hydrochloride twice a day. The placebo group received 200 mg Vitamin C twice per day.

Berberine – which in this study was isolated from Chinese goldthread rhizome (Coptis chinensis) - significantly decreased overall IBS symptom score, anxiety score, and depression score. Berberine treatment was also associated with increased Quality of Life (QOL) score.

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Berberine is known to have antimicrobial action, so this may be in part the reason for the patients’ relief. It is also known to reduce inflammation.

Before starting any supplements, however, please discuss thoroughly with your doctor. For example, if your GI distress is due to another condition besides IBS, you need to know how to proceed with treatment. Also, keep in mind that the supplement used in this study was different than one that is typically marketed by US supplement companies, so the effect and risk profile may be different as well.

In addition, berberine has been found to interact with several medications, including those that treat diabetes.

And as always, be sure to buy any supplement you take from a reputable distributor so you know exactly what you are putting into your body.

Journal Resources:
Natural Medicine Journal: “Berberine Improves Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome” by Jacob Schor ND FABNO published August 2016
Natural Medicine Journal: “Clinical Applications for Berberine” by Jacob Schor ND FABNO published December 2012

Additional Resources: National Institutes of Health, “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”

Photo credit: By Mike from Vancouver, Canada - healing herbs, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia commons