January 26, 2020

The Top 3 Myths About Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Debunked

Tens of thousands of Australians are diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) each year. John Hoey notes that IBS ‘is found in 10 – 20 percent of people with the use of standard diagnostic tools such as the Rome II criteria’. If you suffer from IBS, you may have heard certain myths about the condition. Here are the top three myths that you may have heard of, debunked. How many have you heard?

Myth #1: IBS Can Be Life-Threatening

The Grain Of Truth: People with IBS have indeed been affected by potentially life-threatening conditions. According to research published by the U.S. National Institute Of Health, one type of medicine called tegaserod (Zelnorm) can cause ‘very serious diarrhea complicated by hypovolemia, hypotension and syncope that sometimes necessitates admission to hospital and intravenous therapy’.

Reality: According to Eric Wooltorton, an Editorial Fellow for the Canadian Medical Association Journal ‘irritable bowel syndrome is a common, chronic, painful and frustrating condition for many patients but is itself not life-threatening’. In fact, many IBS symptoms can be treated without the use of medication at all. Wooltoron reassures suffers that ‘most patients do not require drug treatment’.

Myth #2: Medication Can Cure IBS

The Grain Of Truth: Double-blind, peer-reviewed clinic trials have shown certain medication to alleviate the symptoms experienced by IBS suffers.

Reality: It surprises many people to discover that according to the U.S. National Institute of Health, there is ‘no reliable medical treatment’ for IBS in general. However, certain medications can treat certain symptoms for most people. Interestingly, research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) shows that even ‘Chinese herbal formulations appear to offer improvement in symptoms for some patients with IBS’.

Myth #3: IBS Treatments Necessitates Medication

The Grain Of Truth: Each year, thousands of Australians use medication to combat their IBS symptoms. Most doctors will prescribe medicine to IBS sufferers.

Reality: Surprisingly, researchby Paterson WGet al published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that most IBS patients benefit from ‘listening, validating, educating, and identifying and reinforcing coping strategies in a long-term therapeutic alliance’.

This explains why some non-medicinal approaches, such as Chinese herbal formulations for example, can be effective in treating IBS.


We hope that by debunking these three common myths, more IBS suffers will reconsider the quality of the IBS treatment that they are receiving. The evidence in these articles clearly shows that IBS is a common yet frequently misunderstood disorder with a myriad of treatment options available. There is clearly no single ‘magic-bullet’ solution that will help all sufferers all of the time. The research mentioned in this article shows that multiple solutions have been proven to be effective in certain situations. As none of the information in this article is medical advice, it is essential to consult your family doctor to discuss any issues you may have regarding your IBS.