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Live Right, Live Well

Alternative Treatments That Get Rid of Heartburn and IBS

Three new therapies that really work.

Heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome: According to the American Pharmaceutical Association, millions of U.S. adults report at least one episode of these conditions every month … and spend billions of dollars a year on drugs to treat them. Sometimes, however, people are spurred to try alternative medicine when symptoms occur. The trick to these treatment options is figuring out which ones really work. Here, three alternative treatments that have been proven to get rid of stomach ache.

Studies confirm that hypnotherapy can be useful in treating both heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Heartburn: In one study, British researchers gathered 126 people with heartburn, acid indigestion or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and offered them one of three treatments: standard medical care, a placebo or hypnotherapy. The result: Hypnotherapy worked best, relieving symptoms in 59 percent of those who tried it.

IBS: Several recent studies show that hypnotherapy helps treat the abdominal cramping, pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation usually associated with the condition. In one British study, 71 percent of IBS sufferers who were enrolled in a hypnotherapy program reported significant relief. In many cases, the benefit lasted for five years. In a study conducted in Saudi Arabia, IBS sufferers undergoing weekly sessions of hypnotherapy experienced significantly enhanced quality of life after 12 weeks.

Finding a hypnotherapist: Hypnotherapists are usually doctors, nurses, chiropractors or mental-health professionals who have received training in the field of hypnotherapy. For a national directory, visit the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

You might also want to consider self-hypnosis (the do-it-yourself form of hypnotherapy) or related relaxation techniques, like meditation or guided imagery. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, all of those can be helpful for chronic heartburn, indigestion, GERD and IBS.

If heartburn medication helps your symptoms but doesn't provide complete relief, acupuncture might be just what you need. University of Arizona researchers assigned 30 men in this situation to one of two groups: One that took a double dose of prescribed medication, or another that received two sessions of acupuncture a week in addition to a single dose of medication. After four weeks, those treated with acupuncture reported significantly greater relief than those who took a double dose of medicine with no acupuncture.

Finding an acupuncturist: First, ask your doctor for a referral. Friends may be able to recommend an acupuncturist they like as well. If not, contact the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.

Studies show that probiotics can help relieve IBS. Probiotics are bacteria that naturally live in the healthy small intestine, just as other bacteria naturally live on healthy skin. Probiotics aid digestion, but sometimes -- because of illness or antibiotics -- the amount of probiotic bacteria in your intestine drops. This may aggravate IBS. Experts say that replenishing probiotic bacteria can restore normal digestive function and minimize IBS.

Taking probiotics: Probiotic bacteria can be found in live-culture yogurt or in supplement form. Look for capsules or tablets that contain combinations of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus. In studies, daily doses of at least 100 million cells were found to be helpful.



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