Help for IBS: Medications, Diet, and More
Until recently, there were no medications that treated IBS specifically. Instead, doctors prescribed drugs to ease the symptoms like pain, depression, and general stomach issues. But that’s changing as new IBS-specific drugs have hit the market, says Sidney Cohen, MD, co-director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. "We're finally able to treat the condition and not just the symptoms," he says.
This gives people more options, but it can still take a lot of trial and error to find the best treatment for you.
IBS-specific drugs: These prescription medicines treat either IBS-D or IBS-C. Studies have shown that they work pretty well: Most did about 20% better than a placebo drug, Kuo says.
"That's still great, and they will certainly help a lot of people, but it's not like any one of these drugs is curing IBS," he says.
Drugs approved to treat IBS-D include:
Drugs approved to treat IBS-C include:
Drugs for muscle spasms may relieve stomach pain by calming your colon. But they don't treat other IBS symptoms. Examples include cimetropium, hyoscine, and pinaverium. Cohen says doctors don’t prescribe these as often as in the past.
Antidiarrhea drugs can help people with IBS-D by making waste more solid. But they don't help with pain or bloating, and they can cause constipation. Examples include diphenoxylate (Lomotil, Lonox) and loperamide (Imodium, Maalox Anti-Diarrheal, Pepto Diarrhea Control).
Laxatives: People with IBS-C may get some relief from these over-the-counter medicines that make bowel movements easier. You can take them as pills or as tablets that go in your bottom, called suppositories.
Laxatives can help if you use them once in a while, but if people take them too long, they can get used to them and end up needing them every day, Cohen says. "Many times if you take them off the laxatives and just give them a fiber product, they actually do better."
Antidepressants: Even though symptoms happen in the digestive tract, pain signals that the brain sends also play a big role in IBS. That's one reason antidepressants can help.