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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Diarrhea

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IBS and Diet continued...

Ask your doctor to test you for lactose intolerance (the inability to properly digest milk products), or celiac sprue (a serious disease in which foods with gluten can damage the intestine). These digestive ailments can cause diarrhea, bloating, and cramping.

It might also help if you keep a record of the foods you eat, and their effect on you. Since different foods can impact people in different ways, keeping an IBS symptom journal can help you and your physician figure out what works for you.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines for IBS

Many sufferers and doctors turn to OTC antidiarrhea drugs such as Imodium, Maalox, and Kaopectate for relief of IBS with diarrhea.

In a 2002 comprehensive report by the American College of Gastroenterology, researchers found these drugs to be effective with slowing diarrhea. These drugs, however, did not help with other IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain or swelling.

Side effects of these treatments include abdominal cramping, discomfort and enlargement, along with dry mouth, dizziness, and constipation.

If you take an antidiarrheal drug, use the lowest dose possible, and don't take it for an extended period of time, advises the Mayo Clinic.

Other OTC products such as Pepto-Bismol, antacids, and medicines for gas relief are generally safe. Some antacids, particularly those containing magnesium, can cause diarrhea, however.

Never take any over-the-counter medicine long term without consulting with your doctor, and return to your doctor for follow-up care, says J. Patrick Waring, MD, a gastroenterologist at Digestive Health Care of Georgia. He notes that IBS symptoms can be caused by other more serious problems. Make sure your symptoms are not caused by another illness.

Prescription Drugs for IBS

Doctors may prescribe antidepressants for the abdominal pain associated with IBS. This does not necessarily mean that you are depressed. Low doses of antidepressants are known to block signals of pain to the brain.

For people with IBS diarrhea, doctors will likely recommend a low dose of a type of antidepressant called tricyclic antidepressants such as Pamelor, Elavil, and Tofranil. These drugs don't cause diarrhea like some of the newer antidepressants, such as Celexa, Paxil, and Prozac.

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