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Blueberries Treat Widespread IBS Safely Where Drugs Fail

For the over 5% of adults suffering from uncomfortable IBS, could a sweet solution for persistent digestive distress come not from the pharmacy, but the produce aisle? This landmark study suggests it can for those failed by conventional treatments.

Imposing misery for over 40 million Americans, IBS ranks globally as the costliest gastrointestinal disorder with few satisfactory therapies despite extensive drug trials [1,2]. Expensive medications like rifaximin or alosetron provide limited and often transient symptom relief riddled with burdensome side effects before frequently relapsing [3–5]. Alarmingly, over 70% of IBS patients report inadequate control of their illness [6]. 


Against this backdrop, a recent randomized trial discovered 6 weeks of freeze-dried blueberry powder significantly increased self-reported abdominal symptom relief by 23% over placebo in patients with longstanding IBS or dyspepsia [7]. Unlike isolated components that narrowly target single mechanisms, the full matrix of beneficial phytochemicals and metabolites in whole blueberries appears to interact synergistically against underlying intestinal dysfunction. Beyond improving bowel disorders, regular blueberry intake lowers inflammation, diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk – all prevalent in IBS [8–11]. And unlike bitter pills, the sweet taste and accessibility of fresh berries favors compliance. 


This pioneering trial cracks open the door for lifestyle and nutrition succeeding where medicines fail countless IBS sufferers. Certainly more rigorous research should investigate optimal dosing and head-to-head comparisons against leading drugs. Nonetheless, for those struggling to manage IBS, blueberries present a safe, affordable and appealing therapeutic laced with collateral health benefits. All with less side effects than sugar pills.


For more information on the health benefits of blueberries, visit our database on the subject here



For more natural approaches to IBS treatment, consult our database on the subject here.




1. Lovell RM, Ford AC. Global prevalence of and risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012;10(7):712-721.e4.   

2. AG A Global Perspective on Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Consensus Statement of the World Gastroenterology Organisation Summit Task Force on Irritable Bowel Syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012;46(5):356-366.   

3. Bavishi C, Dupont HL. Systematic review: the use of rifaximin in inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;34(8):844-852.  

4. Chang FY, Lu CL. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome using complementary and alternative medicine. J Chin Med Assoc. 2009;72(6):294-300. 

5. Garsed K, Chernova J, Hastings M, et al. A randomised trial of ondansetron for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. Gut. 2014;63(10):1617-1625. 

6. Hulisz D. The burden of illness of irritable bowel syndrome: current challenges and hope for the future. J Manag Care Pharm. 2004;10(4):299-309.

8. Johnson SA, Figueroa A, Navaei N, et al.Daily Blueberry Consumption Improves Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness in Postmenopausal Women with Pre- and Stage 1-Hypertension: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(3):369-377.  

9. Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT. Bioactives in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women. J Nutr. 2010;140(10):1764-1768. 

10. Riso P, Klimis-Zacas D, Del Bo' C, et al. Effect of a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) drink intervention on markers of oxidative stress, inflammation and endothelial function in humans with cardiovascular risk factors. Eur J Nutr. 2013;52(3):949-961.

11. Louis XL, Thandapilly SJ, Kalt W, et al. Blueberry polyphenols prevent cardiomyocyte death by preventing calpain activation and oxidative stress. Food Funct. 2014;5(8):1785-1794.


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