People with IBS can use over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help manage symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. A doctor may recommend OTC laxatives or antidiarrheal agents alongside home remedies.
A person may require prescription medication for IBS. It is best to contact a doctor for advice before taking OTC medications for IBS, particularly as they may interact with other medications a person is currently taking. The doctor can advise on ways to help manage symptoms and create a suitable treatment plan.
Read on to find out more about OTC medications for IBS. This article also looks at other treatments and ways of managing symptoms.
Antidiarrheal agents can help treat diarrhea as a result of IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D).
Loperamide is the most common medication for diarrhea. This medication works by slowing the movement of fluid through the intestines. This may help thicken loose bowel movements.
There have been few studies done on its effects on IBS. There were only two small trials over a period of 30 years on the effects of loperamide in people with IBS. According to those studies, loperamide did not dramatically improve IBS symptoms and people may experience different results.
Stool softeners and other laxatives help stimulate bowel movements for relief from constipation. A pharmacist can advise on the OTC laxatives and stool softeners available and how often a person should take them.
However, as certain fibers can worsen symptoms by causing gas and bloating, a person may find that supplements containing more complex, longer-chain fibers are better at alleviating symptoms of constipation with IBS.
A doctor may also recommend getting enough dietary fiber. They can recommend how much fiber a person should aim for and whether they advise supplementing dietary fiber with OTC fiber supplements.
According to recent research, peppermint oil, an antispasmodic, may be effective at managing abdominal pain. The effectiveness of the peppermint oil may depend on the preparation.
Peppermint oil may relax muscles in the intestines. This can help alleviate that cramping feeling that people with IBS experience. Peppermint can be an effective remedy to add to a comprehensive treatment plan.
People with IBS may have changes in their gut microbiome. These changes may make them prone to stomach symptoms. Probiotics contain helpful bacteria that may be able to help balance a person’s gut.
An analysis of previous research suggests that probiotics may help with stomach pain. No single probiotic strain is most effective. Rather, a combination of strains was the most useful in managing symptoms.
There needs to be more research on what strains are best to include in IBS supplements.
Some people can manage their IBS with home treatments and over-the-counter medications. However, if a person has severe symptoms that affect their quality of life, they may need prescription medications for their IBS.
Some common prescription medications for IBS include:
- tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as citalopram
- nonabsorbable antibiotics such as rifaximin
- serotonin agonists such as tegaserod, which can help increase movement in the gut
A healthcare team will check a person’s condition to assess whether prescription medication is their best treatment option.
There are home remedies that can help manage mild symptoms of IBS.
Making dietary changes may help provide some relief. This can include:
- limiting caffeine intake
- cooking with fresh ingredients
- avoiding fatty, spicy, or processed foods
- following a low FODMAP diet
Some research suggests that exercise may help reduce bloating and constipation. It could also balance the gut microbiome.
Relaxation techniques may help a person manage IBS. This is because stress may increase IBS symptoms.
A person may consider contacting a doctor for advice on home remedies for IBS. The doctor may refer them to a dietitian for support with dietary changes. A therapist can help a person find ways to relax, and they may offer therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to assist with this.
Here are some frequently asked questions about IBS treatments.
What is the most effective IBS medication?
The most effective medication for IBS can depend on the individual’s symptoms. Laxatives may help a person with IBS-C, while treatments for IBS-D can include antidiarrheals.
Some people may find relief with OTC medications. However, a person may wish to contact a doctor to discuss prescription medications and other therapies if they are not able to manage symptoms with OTC treatments alone.
What over-the-counter medication is best for IBS?
There are various OTC treatments for IBS. Which is best may depend on both the symptoms and the individual. Laxatives containing polyethylene glycol may be most effective for treating constipation, while people with IBS-D commonly take the antidiarrheal medication loperamide. Peppermint oil may help with managing abdominal pain.
Can IBS be treated with just over-the-counter medication?
In some cases, a person may be able to manage symptoms of IBS with OTC medication. Doctors may also recommend dietary changes, which can include avoiding foods that trigger or worsen symptoms. In severe cases, a person may require prescription medication.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic health condition that causes abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements. Some people have diarrhea or constipation, while others have both.
A person may be able to manage symptoms with over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives and antidiarrheals. OTC peppermint oil, fiber supplements, and probiotics may also help treat symptoms. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend prescription medication.
Home treatments for IBS include avoiding certain foods, getting enough regular physical activity, and reducing stress.