A doctor may recommend that a person takes over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This can include laxatives, antidiarrheals, antibiotics, and more.

IBS is a condition that affects a person’s large intestine, also known as the colon. Some people with IBS have mild symptoms that they can manage with dietary changes and OTC medication. Other people with more severe IBS may need prescription medication to help manage their symptoms.

Many medications have side effects, limitations, and warnings. Before taking any medication, people should seek professional medical advice.

This article outlines which OTC and prescription medications people can take to help with their IBS. It also discusses if diet can help relieve IBS symptoms and answers some frequently asked questions.

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Various OTC or nonprescription medications may help to alleviate symptoms of IBS with constipation (IBS-C) and IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D).


Loperamide (Imodium) is an antidiarrheal medication for diarrhea that a person takes orally. It works by slowing down movements and reducing fluid flow in a person’s bowel.

Bismuth subsalicylate

Bismuth subsalicylate is also an antidiarrheal that reduces how often and how severely a person has diarrhea.

Pepto-Bismol is a common brand name for medication containing bismuth subsalicylate.


Simethicone is a silicone-based antiflatulent medication that helps to manage a person’s bloating and flatulence.

It works by making gas bubbles pass more easily through a person’s digestive system. It can help to alleviate discomfort from excess gas.


Laxatives help people with IBS empty their bowels if they have constipation. Stimulant laxatives such as bisacodyl and senna help a person’s bowel move and also soften their stools.

Other nonprescription laxatives for IBS include osmotic laxatives and stool softeners.

Osmotic laxatives work by retaining water in a person’s stool so they are easier to pass. Stool softeners allow more water into a person’s stool.

Learn more about laxatives for constipation.

A doctor may recommend prescription medications to help a person manage IBS symptoms


Linaclotide (Linzess) is a peptide medication that helps reduce constipation by increasing a person’s levels of intestinal fluids. This helps a person’s stools move more easily.


Lubiprostone (Amitiza) is a laxative medication that doctors use to treat constipation in people assigned female at birth who have IBS-C.

The medication works by increasing the amount of fluid that flows into a person’s bowel. This allows their stools to pass more easily.


Plecanatide (Trulance) is a guanylate cyclase-C agonist constipation medication. It increases the movement of food through a person’s stomach and intestines to reduce their constipation symptoms.


Alosetron slows the movement of stool through a person’s intestines.

Doctors typically only prescribe alosetron to females with severe IBS-D. The medication comes with specific warnings and precautions, so it is important for a person to discuss the risks of alosetron before they start taking the medication.


Rifaximin (Xifaxan) is an antibiotic that treats a person’s IBS diarrhea symptoms. It works by stopping the bacteria that causes diarrhea growing in a person’s intestines.


Eluxadoline is a mu-opioid receptor agonist medication. It decreases a person’s bowel activity, which can treat their IBS diarrhea symptoms.

Some dietary changes may help relieve symptoms of IBS. Doctors may recommend:

  • consuming foods high in fiber, such as:
    • whole grains
    • fruits
    • vegetables
  • avoiding larger meals, instead eating 4–5 smaller meals per day
  • keeping a food diary to identify any trigger foods, and avoiding those foods
  • following a low FODMAP diet, which is a diet low in certain kinds of hard-to-digest carbohydrates

Learn more about the low FODMAP diet.

People can also help IBS symptoms by avoiding or limiting their intake of foods such as:

  • milk
  • milk products, such as cheese or ice cream
  • coffee and other caffeinated beverages
  • carbonated drinks
  • alcohol
  • drinks that contain artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup
  • some fruits and vegetables

A doctor may refer a person to a dietitian to help them create a suitable eating plan and ensure that they get enough essential nutrients.

Learn more about foods to avoid with IBS.

Here are some frequently asked questions about IBS.

What helps IBS symptoms fast?

Medications may help relieve some different IBS symptoms fast. For diarrhea, medication such as loperamide may provide people with immediate short-term relief

Stimulant laxatives for constipation, such as bisacodyl, can take 6–12 hours to work after a person takes them orally, or within 15–60 minutes if they take them as a suppository.

How can I cure my IBS naturally?

There is no cure for IBS, but people may be able to improve or reduce their symptoms. Natural treatments and home remedies that can help reduce a person’s IBS symptoms include:

  • getting enough physical activity or exercise
  • reducing stress
  • getting enough quality sleep

What pain relief can you take for IBS?

Pain relief medication that may help a person’s IBS cramps or abdominal pain include:

  • dicyclomine
  • pinaverium
  • hyoscyamine

Some antidepressants may also relieve a person’s IBS pain. A doctor can advise on which OTC or prescription medications they recommend for relief from IBS pain.

Various OTC and prescription medications may help a person to manage the symptoms of IBS. These include antidiarrheal medications for diarrhea in people with IBS-D and laxatives for constipation in people with IBS-C.

Other methods to improve IBS symptoms include dietary changes, stress reduction methods, and getting enough physical activity.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor or pharmacist before beginning any new medication treatment. They can advise on suitable treatment options and what taking the OTC or prescription medication involves.