Placebo IBS pills work even if the patient knows they are fake.

Researchers put together a study to see if fake pills could have a real effect for people with IBS. And the pills worked!

Picture of the word Placebo coming from a medicine bottle.

Your brain can help your bowels taking pills. Pills your brain KNOWS are fake!!!
© Can Stock Photo

Unlike most placebo tests, the researchers told the people in the study that the pills were placebos, but amazingly the pills still helped. Basically the doctors said, “Here is a fake pill for your IBS symptoms.” And many people in the study got relief from IBS. This is great example of using the mind body connection to heal IBS symtoms.

What are placebos?

A placebo (plah-SEE-bow) is basically a fake treatment. Researchers use it as a way to gauge whether a real treatment is working. They compare the real treatment to the placebo treatment. If people have a stronger response with the “real” treatment, then the real treatment is considered effective. How effective depends on how much better the response is vs.the placebo.

What happened in the study, and why it matters:

80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were divided into two groups. One group received no treatment at all. The other group received a bottle of placebos — The people receiving the placebos were told they were “like sugar pills”. The placebo group was told to take the sugar pills twice a day.

What happened?

59 percent of the people taking the placebo IBS pills had “adequate symptom relief”. In fact, some of the people taking the fake pills got better at the same rate as if they were taking the most powerful IBS medications!

Why is this amazing?

Because it shows how effective the mind is, at controlling IBS symptoms. This must be why treatements like hypnosis are so effective at controlling, or even curing IBS. If a person can take a pill that has nothing in it, and reduce their IBS symptoms, then the mind is curing the body. The even more amazing part is that people knew it was a fake pill and still got better.

What did the Placebo IBS pills do?

This is my opinion here… I’ve read that the subconscious takes everything literally. It doesn’t care about whether the pill is going to help. It just thinks “Pills help, and I’m taking pills” . Somehow the placebo activates some part of the mind that heals the IBS symptoms!

Can an IBS Placebo help me?

Fake pills may work for you if you’ve done the following:

  • If you have talked to your doctor to rule out other problems, and have a diagnosis of IBS.
  • If you have used a food elimination diet to rule out a food cause.
  • If you have eliminated foods that you are sensitive to.

Well, then what do you have to lose. This study says there is a good chance placebo IBS pills will help you.

Besides, placebos don’t have side effects.

So how could you go wrong? If you’re interested in this, consider showing the study to your doctor. See if he or she will work with you. Having a doctor give you the pills, might help your mind convince itself to make you better! If you want more information about IBS and placebos: Science Daily has a good (if technical) write up on this. So does   If you decide to try this, please let the rest of us know what happens in the comments section! Find out more about the mind body connection. Find out more about finding an IBS doctor.


  1. Reply

    Thank you! I’ve got a lot of housekeeping I want to do on my blog, and I have a new post I’m working on now, about Fructose Malabsorption. I hope to publish it in the next day or two. It’s been a long journey!

    It should just ask for an email address to leave a comment . . . I hope there isn’t something wrong at wordpress that is not allowing comments.

  2. Reply

    I wonder if the pills were glucose. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about fructose malabsorption (that’s how I found your blog, in fact), and I’ve read that glucose helps in fructose absorption. That may relieve symptoms for some IBS sufferers, I would think, especially if they happen to take the pills with fructose or fructan-containing meals. I still have a lot of learning to to about FM, and I understand that taking glucose tablets isn’t the “fix”, but it could explain why so many participants experienced relief.

    • Reply

      That’s an interesting theory. I hope some other folks will chime in with their experiences! Thanks for taking the time to let me know your thoughts.

    • Reply

      I love your blog by the way. I tried to leave a comment, but it asked me for credentials I don’t remember. Still Great stuff!

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