Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and recurrent episodes of constipation and diarrhea. Several medications are used for treating or managing the symptoms of this condition, which are discussed in this article.
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain and discomfort, cramping, bloating, as well as constipation and diarrhea. These are the typical symptoms of this condition, which usually subside with a bowel movement.
In some individuals, constipation is predominant, while in others, diarrhea is the common gastrointestinal problem. Many people also suffer from alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation. Sometimes, the symptoms of IBS can subside for a while, and then reappear.
Causes of IBS
What causes IBS is not known, but one supposition is that the sensitivity of the colon or large intestine to certain specific foods and stress can be responsible for causing this condition. It can also be caused by an immune reaction as revealed by some studies. Many people believe that an active but undetected infection can stimulate an IBS attack.
It is a well-known fact that we feel a cramping sensation in the stomach when we are nervous or stressed. This points to the fact that our large intestine has nerves that are connected to the brain, and they respond to stress and anxiety. In healthy individuals, this response is restricted to a slight abdominal cramping that lasts for a few minutes, but people with IBS can experience abdominal pain, along with severe cramping and constipation or diarrhea. This may be due to the fact that their colon is oversensitive to even mild stress and anxiety.
Treatment of IBS
The treatment options available for this condition basically aim at relieving the symptoms. Along with medications, dietary changes and stress management techniques have shown efficacy in controlling the symptoms of this condition. Medications are generally prescribed to relieve symptoms like severe pain, constipation, and diarrhea, if the condition does not respond to dietary changes and other natural treatments.
Medications for Constipation: If constipation is the predominant symptom of IBS, then soluble fiber supplements can be recommended by physicians. Along with taking fiber supplements, it is equally important to drink plenty of water and exercise regularly to prevent constipation.
If these measures fail to ensure regular bowel movements, then medications like laxatives can be used. The commonly used laxatives for this purpose are, lubiprostone (amitiza), and polyethylene glycol. Lubiprostone increases the amount of fluid in the intestine for facilitating the passage of stool. Laxatives like milk of magnesia can also provide relief by retaining more fluid in the intestine. It can also draw fluid from other areas of the body to the intestine.
Correctol, dulcolax, and senokot are a group of stimulant laxatives that are used for constipation. They irritate the lining of the intestine for accelerating the movement of stool through it. But laxatives should be taken only under the supervision of a physician. Moreover, their daily use is not recommended, as one can become dependent on these medications.
Medications for Diarrhea: Loperamide is an over-the-counter medication that provides considerable relief in diarrhea. Another anti-diarrheal medication is diphenoxylate, which is quite effective in reducing the frequency of bowel movements. Bile acid binding agents can also be prescribed for this condition, as they prevent the bile acids from stimulating the large intestine.
Medications for Relieving Pain: Anticholinergic agents, dicyclomine, and antidepressants are some common medications used for the treatment of IBS. They can relieve abdominal pain and cramping. Anticholinergic agents are anti-spasmodic drugs that can the large intestine’s response to both stress and certain foods.
Other commonly used anti-spasmodics for this condition are, donnatal, levsin, levbid, propantheline, and bentyl. Antidepressants on the other hand, increase pain tolerance in severe abdominal cramping. Many people with IBS experience anxiety and depression, along with physical discomforts, and antidepressants can help relieve these symptoms. Narcotic analgesics can also be used for relieving pain and inducing drowsiness in the patients of IBS. But constipation is a common side effect of these medications.
So, medications can relieve the symptoms of IBS, but many of them can cause some side effects. Therefore, one should be careful while taking medications, especially the over-the-counter medications. It is always safe to take medications only under the guidance of an experienced physician. Moreover, lifestyle modifications, a proper irritable bowel syndrome diet that includes more fiber-rice foods, and stress management techniques can help reduce the frequency and severity of IBS attacks.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.