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Reversing IBS with nutritional therapy





by Dr. Rodger Murphree


I find that IBS usually disappears rather quickly once my patient’s correct their poor eating habits (increase fiber, reduce simple sugars, caffeine and junk foods), uncover any hidden allergies when present, including gluten intolerance (Celiac disease), boost optimal stress coping chemicals (serotonin, magnesium, B-vitamins, etc.), restore bowel ecology (probiotics), and take digestive enzymes with their meals.

To boost serotonin levels I recommend patients take, the amino acid responsible for making serotonin, known as 5-hydroxytryptophan (5HTP).
Patients should take 300-400mg a day with food.

Digestive enzymes
Most digestion and absorption takes place in the small intestine and is regulated by pancreatic enzymes (digestive) and bile. The pancreas aids in digestion by releasing proteolytic enzymes, which help break down proteins into amino acids. Natural digestive enzymes are found in raw fruits and vegetables. Processed foods are usually devoid of digestive enzymes. Over consumption of these processed foods can lead to digestive enzyme deficiencies. This may then lead to malabsorption and or intestinal permeability syndrome (bloating, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, and intestinal inflammation). To ensure proper digestion and absorption, I recommend taking pancreatic enzymes with each meal.

I always recommend people take a good optimal daily allowance multivitamin/mineral formula. Patients with IBS have depleted their stress coping chemicals and this not only leads to IBS but also prevents them from beating IBS. It is a vicious cycle that can only be broken by taking adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. The mineral magnesium, which is involved in over 300 bodily processes, is particularly important for reversing the symptoms of IBS-c. Magnesium helps relax the smooth muscle of the colon (natural laxative) allowing normal bowel movements. While a diet high in nutritious fiber is important, magnesium is even more important. A magnesium deficiency not only causes constipation but can also lead to heart disease, mitral valve prolapse (MVP), depression, anxiety, chronic muscle pain, headaches, migraines, fatigue, and many other unwanted health conditions. Those with IBS-c may need up to 1,000mg of magnesium each day. While those with IBS-d, may need less than 500mg. I recommend patients begin with 500mg of magnesium a day.

The human intestines are inhabited by billions of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria, which are mostly located in the colon, aid in digestion by fermenting substances that were not digested in the small intestine and by breaking down any remaining nutrients. A healthy intestinal tract contains some 2-3 lb. of bacteria and other microorganisms, such as yeast, that normally don’t cause ay health problems. However, when the intestinal tract is repetitively exposed to toxic substances (antibiotics, steroids, NSAIDs, etc.), these microorganisms begin to proliferate and create an imbalance in the bowel flora. Harmful organisms like yeast and some normally dormant bacteria, begin to overtake the good bacteria. This is known as intestinal dysbiosis.
IBS and small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth may share similar symptoms. One study showed that 78% IBS participants had small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth. To aid in digestion and prevent intestinal dysbiosis, patients with IBS should take probiotics (Lactobacillus and Biidobacterium) on a daily basis.

This approach isn’t guaranteed to solve every case of IBS. However, in the majority of my patients, symptoms improve to such point that within a few weeks we can focus on more important topics, like “who is going to win American Idol?”

IBS Protocol
I’ve found that IBS symptoms usually disappear within two weeks of taking 300–400 mg. of 5HTP. I also urge you to take a digestive enzyme with each meal, and a good optimal daily allowance multivitamin/mineral formula with at least 500mg of magnesium. Once a person gets their serotonin levels up, IBS often goes away, never to return. This can be life-changing for many of my patients.





What if I’m taking 300mg of 5HTP, digestive enzymes, a good multivitamin and still have constipation?

Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant (relaxes the colon), so too much will cause loose bowel movements. My multivitamin/mineral formulas contain a minimum 500mg of magnesium chelate. This is usually enough to promote normal daily bowel movements. However, some individuals will need to increase their dose of magnesium in order to overcome problems with constipation. If you continue to have constipation, increase magnesium (use magnesium citrate or chelate) by 140–150 mg. daily (at dinner) until you begin to have normal daily bowel movements. Then stay on this extra magnesium. You find that after a few months of taking the supplements I recommend for FMS and CFS, you’ll be able to discontinue the extra magnesium.

What if I continue to have loose bowel movements?

Low serotonin will cause loose bowel movements. Make sure you’re taking 300mg a day of 5HTP either at bedtime or with food I don’t reduce magnesium until the patient has been on 300 mg. of 5HTP for at least two weeks. If after two weeks of taking 300mg of 5HTP you continue to have daily loose bowel movements, then its time to explore the possibility that your taking to much magnesium. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. It helps the bowels move, but if too much is taken, loose stools become a problem.

If you’re taking 300mg of 5HTP, digestive enzymes, and one of the multivitamin/mineral formulas and continue (or start) to have loose bowel movements then decrease the amount of magnesium you’re taking. To do this, simply cut your daily dose in half. If you’re taking one of the multivitamin formula packs, take one instead of two. If you’re taking 6 of the Basic Multivitamin/Mineral tablets a day reduce to 3 a day.

If the problem persists then start taking 3 probiotics a day on an empty stomach for 2-3 months. Please read more about probiotics below. I recommend you stay on one pack of CFS/Fibromyalgia Formula or an optimal daily dose multivitamin. The amino acids, vitamins, and especially the fish oil in the formula will help normalize your intestinal tract. Individuals with persistent IBS will need to treat their leaky gut. If you suspect you have a yeast overgrowth, you’ll need to treat this condition as well.

If you'd like to know more about our office or protocols please feel free to give us a call (M-F, 8-4 PM CST) Toll free 1-888-884-9577. Please visit our site For more information about Dr. Murphree please click here

Healthy Bowel Support

Research shows that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, spastic colon,or nervous stomach have a deficiency in essential nutrients needed to regulate normal bowel movements. Healthy Bowel Formula contains 150mg per packet of 5HTP (5-hydroxytrytophan) an amino acid responsible for manufacturing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin controls how fast or slow food move through the GI tract. Those with IBS have been shown to be low in serotonin. Magnesium is a natural muscle (colon) relaxant. Those who sufer with constipation and or IBS-A will usually find that by adding the right amount of magnesium, their symptoms greatly improve. The high dose digestive enzyme ensures that food stuff is properly broken down and absorbed. Digestive enzymes helps facilitate proper digestion and elimination.

There are 60 packets in each cannister. Each packet contains 5 capsules and one tablet

3 (50mg) 5HTP capsules for total of 150mg

1 coated high potency digestive enzyme tablet- Pancreatin 8X equivalent to 2400mg of pancreatin USP Lipase - 12,000 USP units Protease - 60,000 USP units Amylase - 60,000 USP units

2 magesium citrate capsules (150mg per capsule) providing total of 300mg of magnesium citrate

Cellulose, gelatin (capsule) and vegeatble stearate. Contains no yeast, sugar, gluten, wheat, soy, or artificial ingredients.

Dose is 1-2 packets a day with food

Healthy Bowel Formula has helped hundreds of my patients eliminate their IBS, usually within a few days. I urge you to check out my new Healthy Bowel Formula.



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People in this conversation

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  • Guest - Mary

    Matt, I have read that for persons with SIBO, lactobacillus may exacerbate the problem. Are you aware of this as a possibility?

  • England, UK

    Hi Denise. If you read the 'Questions' section of this article Dr. Murphree answers your question re: correct form of supplemental magnesium in the first paragraph. He recommends citrate or chelate. I have a degree in nutritional medicine myself (and IBS!) and believe magnesium chelate to be the most readily absorbed magnesium supplement. An entirely different approach would be to take magnesium sulfate (epsom salt) baths - magnesium is readily absorbed through the skin. Obviously monitoring specific dosages as Dr. Murphree discusses is much more difficult this way but it's something to consider; I find it by far the most effective (and cheapest) way of getting extra magnesium into the body - particularly when the gut is not functioning optimally with potential absorption issues, as with IBS. However, I did not author this article so you may wish to visit Dr. Murphree's own website at and asking for his current recommendations on IBS and magnesium. Best of health, Maff

    Comment last edited on about 6 years ago by Maff
  • Guest - Denise

    You don't specify what type of magnesium to take. There are so many different types (citrate, oxide, malate) it is overwhelming. Which type of magnesium is recommended?

  • Hi Natasha,

    Are you seeing a doctor, naturopath or nutritionist about your IBS? I recommend you do so and have them check for factors such as small intestineal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and food sensitivities/intolerances which have been shown in a number of studies to contribute to IBS.

  • Hi Natasha,

    Sorry to hear magnesium didn't work for you. IBS is a complex illness however and there is no magic bullet. Have you tried the other nutritional recommendations? Stress has a major impact on gut function as well so it is important to reduce the amount of stress in your life and use techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, and anything else that relaxes you. We have to treat our IBS from all angles to get the best results. Good luck!

  • Hi Anna,

    While 1000mg of magnesium per day is certainly a high dose it is unlikely to be unsafe for most people unless they suffer from kidney disease.

    The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine in the US set the safe upper limit for magnesium supplementation at 350mg/day while the UK Department of Health suggests 400mg/day.

    It should be kept in mind that these limits are set to avoid ANY adverse reaction to magnesium in the majority of people. However, the first side-effect of magnesium that appears is loosening of the bowels and laxative effects....which is exactly what you want if you are constipated as in IBS-C!

    If you are concerned you should discuss this further with a qualified nutrition professional.

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