Older "overlooked" treatments for irritable bowel syndrome may end up being the best option for patients, research suggests.
Fibre, anti-spasmodic drugs and peppermint oil were all found to be effective in a review of the evidence. Guidelines on IBS should be updated in light of the findings, the researchers say in the British Medical Journal.
A UK expert said there had been a general feeling among doctors that the therapies "didn't work".
Between 5% and 20% of the population is estimated to suffer from IBS which is characterised by abdominal pain and an irregular bowel habit. The exact cause of the condition is unknown and recommendations for treatment include dietary advice, antidepressants and alternative therapies. Fibre, antispasmodics and peppermint oil are used to treat IBS, but evidence of their effectiveness is unclear because of conflicting results from studies, the researchers said.
They have also been overlooked because of the focus on newer more expensive drugs which ended up being withdrawn due to lack of efficacy and safety concerns, they added.