Comparative Study of Dietary and Pharmacological Interventions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Dietary and Pharmacological Approaches for Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) consists of medication therapy and dietary recommendations. Medications include symptomatic relief, such as relieving spasms and pain, correcting stool disturbances, and antidepressants. Dietary therapy involves frequent and fractionated meals, avoiding excessive consumption of food triggers such as coffee, alcohol, and carbonated beverages.

In a study published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, three treatment methods were compared: two dietary approaches and pharmacotherapy. The participants were adult patients with severe or moderate IBS symptoms.

  • The first group received traditional dietary recommendations focused on dietary behavior combined with low consumption of fermentable carbohydrates known as FODMAPs. These include products containing lactose, legumes, onions, and grains that ferment in the colon and can cause pain in IBS.
  • The second group received a low-carbohydrate dietary treatment with proportionally high protein and fat content.
  • The third group was prescribed the most appropriate symptomatic treatment.

Each group consisted of about 100 participants, and the treatment period lasted four weeks.

After 3 months, among those who adhered to traditional dietary recommendations with low FODMAP content, 76% experienced a significant reduction in symptoms. In the low-carbohydrate and high-protein/fat diet group, this proportion was 71%, while in the medication group, it was only 58%. All groups reported significantly better quality of life and fewer physical and mental symptoms.

After 6 months of observation, when participants in the dietary groups partially returned to their previous eating habits, a significant portion still experienced clinically significant symptom relief; 68% in the low FODMAP diet group and 60% in the low-carbohydrate diet group.

This study emphasizes the role of dietary correction in IBS. However, further research is needed to provide personalized recommendations for patients.