There are medications that can be prescribed to help relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. However, it may not be possible to eliminate your symptoms entirely. A doctor can prescribe these medications to help moderate constipation, diarrhea, and severe pain that hasn’t responded to anything else.
Most of the time, the medication you are prescribed will be determined by your most troublesome symptom.
Most medications, however, will not be consistently helpful, and all medications will have side effects. Therefore, medications should only be prescribed for specific symptoms that disrupt your normal daily activities.
If you have another illness (such as depression) that triggers the symptoms of IBS, you may also need to be prescribed medication for that illness.
Diarrhea medications include:
- Bile acid binding agents
- Rifaximin (Xifaxan)*
- Alosetron (Lotronex)**
*Rifaximin can be taken for 14 days at a time. If symptoms return after stopping Rifaximin, Rifaximin can be taken again for another 14 days.
**Alosetron may be linked to ischemic bowel disease.
Many constipation medications are available without a prescription and can be taken once in a while. Check with a doctor before using any constipation medication every day.
Constipation medications include:
- Osmotic laxatives
- Polyethylene glycol
- Stimulant laxatives
Pain and Cramping Medications
There are also medications to help with pain and cramping. These include:
- Anticholinergics (antispasmodics)
*In low doses, antidepressants can help manage the pain felt in the gut due to irritable bowel syndrome.
If IBS causes you to have either anxiety or depression, there are medications you can take. These medications include:
- Antidepressants, which can be especially beneficial if you also have depression in addition to irritable bowel syndrome
- Antianxiety agents*
*If anxiety makes your IBS symptoms worse, then antianxiety agents can be used in the short-term to help with anxiety.
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