IBS Medication (Over-the-Counter) Guide

Medically Reviewed by: Nicole Anne Vergara, RD

It can be frustrating to deal with different symptoms due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It can affect daily life, but there are also a lot of ways to manage the symptoms. Lifestyle changes and medications are the best ways in treating IBS symptoms.

Learning about the different IBS medications can be quite overwhelming, and we have created an easy guide of medications IBS patients can take safely. Other symptom management techniques are also included in this article.

 ibs medication over the counter

FDA-Approved Over-the-Counter IBS Medication

Before taking medication to relieve your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms, it is important to consider FDA-approved medications, especially if you are going to take them without a prescription.

Below is a list of over-the-counter medications to relieve your current symptoms:

1. Laxatives

Laxatives are a type of medication that is used to treat constipation. They work by softening the stool and increasing the amount of water in the intestine, which helps to make bowel movements easier.

By increasing the amount of water, laxatives help add fluid to the stool to lubricate the intestines. Thus, it can help ease bowel motions.

IBS-related constipation can be temporarily treated with over-the-counter laxatives, which should be taken in low doses and after consulting a physician or pharmacist.

There are various over-the-counter laxatives for IBS that you can take:

Oral osmotics

miralax laxative

These laxatives work by drawing water into your colon. This mechanism allows an easier passage of stool in the intestines.

Brands:
  • Phillips' Milk of Magnesia

  • MiraLAX

Side Effects:
  • Cramping

  • Bloating

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Increased thirst

  • Gas

Oral Bulk Formers

Oral bulk formers are another type of laxative and their mechanism of action is to absorb water in order to form a soft and bulky stool.

In this way, the digestive tract will be prompted to have a normal contraction of the intestinal muscles.

Brands:

  • Benefiber

  • Citrucel

  • FiberCon

  • Metamucil

Side Effects:
  • Gas

  • Bloating

  • Cramping

  • Increased constipation when taken without enough water

Oral Stool Softeners

Oral stool softeners can help add moisture to the stool for easier passing of the stool.

Brands:

  • Colace

  • Surfak

Side Effects:
  • Can lead to electrolyte imbalance if usage is prolonged

    Oral stimulants

    This type of laxative helps trigger the rhythmic contractions of the intestinal muscles to eliminate stool more easily.

    Brands:

    • Dulcolax

    • Senokot

    Side Effects:
    • Cramping

    • Diarrhea symptoms

    • Belching

    • Discoloration of urine

    • Nausea

      Rectal Suppositories

      Rectal Suppositories also help in triggering the rhythmic contractions inside the intestines. It can also help soften the stool.

      Brands:

      • Dulcolax

      • Pedia-lax

      Side Effects:

      • Rectal irritation

      • Diarrhea

      • Cramping

       

        2. Anti-diarrheal Medications

        Over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drugs may be useful in treating the symptoms of IBS-D.

        They may, however, have detrimental side effects. Only follow your healthcare provider's instructions when using these options:

        Imodium (Loperamide)

         imodium Anti-diarrheal Medication

        Imodium is an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug that is administered orally. As long as it is taken according to the prescribed dosage, it is known to provide instant relief from chronic diarrhea symptoms.

        This drug is known to reduce the rate of intestinal contractions and belly pain, and helps remove the excess fluid in the large intestines that causes diarrhea.

        Additionally, taking Imodium can decrease the urge to defecate and form firmer stools.

        Side Effects:
        • Constipation

        • Overuse can lead to severe widening of the colon

        Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate (Bismuth Subsalicylate)

        Medicines containing bismuth subsalicylate can treat indigestion, diarrhea, and stomach distress.

        By lowering the quantity of fluid and inflammation in the intestines, this medicine stops diarrhea.

        However, It is advised that you take it for up to two consecutive days.

        It might not be feasible if you experience frequent episodes of diarrhea as a result of your IBS-D.

        Side Effects:

        • Abdominal pain

        • Anal discomfort

        • Anxiety

        • Black or 'hairy' tongue

        • Clay-colored or gray-black stools


          3. Antispasmodics 

          Antispasmodic medications are used to alleviate symptoms including cramps and stomach pain (spasms). Most IBS patients treat their symptoms with these medications. The possible side effects are often mild, as long as you follow the correct dosage.

          Anticholinergic medications

          Anticholinergic drugs are a type of antispasmodic that lessens intestinal contractions or spasms. This offers the chance to lessen discomfort and agony in the abdomen.

          Anticholinergics lower mucus formation, slow down digestion, and lessen the severity of muscular spasms by inhibiting acetylcholine receptors in the digestive tract.

          There are two popular anticholinergics and they include Hyoscyamine and Dicyclomine. You can take them every day or as needed and they are taken orally. Each dose needs to be taken between 30 and 60 minutes before a meal.

          However, there aren't many studies to prove that anticholinergics medications can help decrease overall IBS symptoms, so they are not usually taken by IBS patients.

          There are minimal side effects caused by these two types of medications, so they are generally safe to take as long as proper dosage is followed.

          Brands:

          • Levsin® (hyoscyamine)

          • NuLev® (hyoscyamine)

          • Levbid® (hyoscyamine)

          • Bentyl® (dicyclomine)

          Side Effects:
          • Headaches

          • Dry eyes and mouth

          • Blurred vision

          • Rash

          • Mild sedation or drowsiness

           

          4. Gas Relief Medications

          Over-the-counter gas relievers function by slowing down the digestion process, giving your body more time to absorb liquids and completely produce stools.

          Additionally, they may help to lessen diarrhea and manage bloating or gas-related pain.

          Simethicone, alpha-galactosidase, and charcoal are components of some gas relief medications that you can buy at the pharmacy.

          These might be helpful in easing minor gastric attacks. Gas relief medications are reasonably priced and have few adverse effects.

          Brands:

          • Beano

          • BeanAssist

          • Lactaid

          • Digest Dairy Plus

          • Gas-X

          • Mylanta Gas Minis

          • Actidose-aqua

          • CharcoCaps

          Side Effects:
          • Nausea

          • Vertigo

          • Constipation

           

            Natural Remedies for IBS

            Aside from over-the-counter medications, there are also natural remedies and alternative therapies that are safe to try at home. You can try these home remedies and food items to consume:

            Ginger Root

            ginger root

            Ginger root is a very popular food item in relieving IBS symptoms. A research was conducted to test the efficacy of ginger root in reducing the severity of abdominal pain in IBS patients. Additionally, ginger root can also help treat other symptoms like:

            • Abdominal pain

            • Bloating

            • Excessive gas

            • Nausea

            • Intestinal cramping

            Ginger root contains digestive enzymes and mild anti-inflammatory properties, which are proven to be very effective in relieving nausea, intestinal cramps, and symptoms that are associated with diarrhea.

            How to incorporate ginger into your diet:

            • Add ginger root to meals. It's easy to add ginger root to your favorite savory meals. It can also add extra flavors to your Low FODMAP meals.

            • Crystallized ginger. Crystallized ginger is often used as a topping for savory rice dishes. It can also be added to desserts or consumed as a snack.

            • Ginger tea. Pre-packed ginger teas are great for people who need fast-acting relief for IBS symptoms. Using fresh ginger root can also be done at home. Grate the root directly into your cup with hot water then strain it. Try adding some honey for some sweetness.

            • Ginger supplements. Individuals with IBS can also try taking ginger supplements along with their Low FODMAP diet for maintained relief.

            [Related: Best Low Fodmap Seasonings & Condiments]

              Calcium

              Cheese, milk, and dairy products are usually correlated when the term "calcium" is indicated. However, we know that the food products mentioned earlier are technically not allowed for an IBS-restricted diet.

              Calcium would provide great benefit to people living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome especially those who have diarrhea as their predominant symptom.

              tofu

              There are other food items that contain high amounts of calcium without worrying about high FODMAPs. These food items include the following:

              • White beans

              • Soy

              • Tofu

              • Kale

              • Nuts

              • Seeds

              • Sardines

              • Salmon

              Consuming calcium can help regulate intestinal muscle contractions, reduce bloating, and excessive gas.

              How to incorporate calcium into your diet:

              • Consumption of food items high in calcium. Try to incorporate the above-mentioned food items into your daily meals to help relieve IBS symptoms.

              • Taking calcium supplements. Supplemental calcium is known to encourage the contraction of gut muscles. Additionally, it can aid in producing better-formed stool by reducing water in the intestines. Patients with IBS-D may take 500 mg three times each day. If your healthcare practitioner can make any additional dosage recommendations, you can follow their recommendation.

              Note: It is not advised for patients who are constipated to take calcium supplements to ease their symptoms. Constipation symptoms may worsen as a result of taking these substances. Magnesium supplements are an option for patients with IBS-C.

              Peppermint

              peppermint

              One of the simplest methods to treat IBS symptoms is peppermint. You can consume peppermint in the form of oil, capsules, or tea.

              According to a study that examined the effectiveness and safety of peppermint oil for persons with IBS, it greatly lessened the occurrence and severity of the following symptoms:

              • Belly pain

              • Abdominal discomfort

              • Excessive gas

              How to incorporate peppermint into your diet:

              • Peppermint tea. Having a cup of peppermint tea can provide instant relief for people dealing with abdominal pain. Adding some lemon to your tea is also great for extra cleansing.

              • Fresh peppermint tea. You can get a mint plant to ensure that you always have fresh leaves available for boiling at any time of the day if you want a fresher beverage.

              Note: It is preferable to order peppermint tea rather than coffee as your final beverage when dining out with IBS.
               

              Fennel

              fennel tea

              Fennel can help to lessen the symptoms of IBS since it has a relaxing impact on the digestive tract. It also contains a lot of fiber, which can aid in regulating bowel movements.

              Fennel is a powerful treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) due to its antispasmodic and gas-relieving qualities.

              During a 30-day trial, fennel and curcumin in one study significantly decreased patients' symptoms and general quality of life.

              How to incorporate fennel into your diet

              • Cooking. The edible parts of the fennel plant, such as the bulb, stem, and feathery fronds, give exquisite texture and flavor to dishes. You can use fennel for salads, slaws, pasta, and more.

              • Fennel Tea. Candied fennel is occasionally used as a digestif in Indian eateries to soothe overstuffed tummies after meals. You can purchase fennel seeds in bulk and prepare fennel tea at home or fennel tea bags.

              [Try this: Low FODMAP Fennel and Root Vegetable Soup Recipe]

              Low FODMAP Diet

              low fodmap

              Although making significant dietary changes might be difficult, doctors frequently advise it as the first line of defense. Your doctor could advise you to adopt a low-FODMAP diet in order to achieve this. Low-Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols are referred to as low-FODMAP. Belly pain and bloating may be brought on by these sugar alcohols and short-chain carbohydrates, which are challenging for your GI tract to digest and absorb.

              If you have IBS, you need to be cautious about several different dietary triggers. Constipation, bowel urgency, bloating, and stomach pain have all decreased as a result of following the Low FODMAP diet.

              The Low FODMAP diet, according to 75% of IBS sufferers, helped improve their overall health.

              To follow the Low FODMAP diet, you must be familiar with specific types of FODMAP-rich or generally difficult-to-digest carbohydrates.

              Your digestive health can be greatly improved by eating protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

               

              Stress Management

              Stress has been known to aggravate IBS symptoms. Therefore it's critical to identify what stresses you out so you can deal with those situations effectively.

              Exercise, breathing exercises, meditation, visualization exercises, relaxation techniques, and picking up a new interest can all help you to de-stress.

              exercise

              Acupuncture

              IBS-related digestive symptoms may be reduced with acupuncture, a medical procedure that involves inserting needles into certain anatomical sites on the body.

              This ancient Chinese medical procedure is typically used to cure pain, lessen tension, and enhance a person's general well-being.

              By triggering the nervous system, acupuncture can treat functional gastrointestinal diseases like IBS. Chemicals and hormones that control stress, pain, and other IBS symptoms are released into the body when the nervous system is stimulated.

               

              Managing Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Professional Help

              healthy woman

              Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is best managed with professionals that would help you find the best option to treat your IBS.

              An overall lifestyle change, proper medication prescription, and dietary support are available on our integrated nutrition care plan.

              Get a free discovery call here.

               

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