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What is the Best Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment?

If you suffer from GI tract symptoms, you may suspect that it is being caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS symptoms can leave you feeling frustrated and uncomfortable. However, understanding the best ways to treat and manage IBS symptoms can help you feel more in control of your situation and feel better. Let’s take a closer look at the various irritable bowel syndrome treatment options that are available. 

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder affecting the large intestine. IBS symptoms can include cramping, abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or a combination of many of these symptoms. The cause of IBS is not clearly known, but some factors that appear to play a role include:

  • Changes in gut microbes (bacteria, fungi, and viruses).
  • Early life stress as a child or the presence of frequent stress currently.
  • Severe infections like gastroenteritis or bacterial overgrowth.
  • Abnormalities in the nerves of the digestive system. 
  • Muscle contractions in the intestine that are either too strong or too weak.
  • Certain foods may trigger worsening symptoms such as wheat, beans, dairy/milk, cabbage, and carbonated drinks. 

How is IBS Diagnosed?

While there aren’t any tests that can definitively diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, your doctor can perform a variety of tests, exams, and get a complete medical history to rule out other possible conditions such a celiac disease. Your doctor is likely to assess the type of abdominal pain you experience, how long the discomfort lasts, and whether the pain is related to defecation and stool consistency. Your doctor may also perform a colonoscopy, CT scan, X-rays, upper endoscopy, lactose intolerance tests, or a stool test to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment Options

Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome can be accomplished by addressing symptoms during flare-ups through prescription medicines, over-the-counter medications, lifestyle changes, and changes to your diet. IBS medications fall into two classifications: over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription.

Over-the-Counter IBS Medications

There are a variety of OTC medications that can be used as irritable bowel syndrome treatment options to address many of the common IBS symptoms. 

  • Fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, can help control constipation.
  • Gas relief medications such as Gas-X. (simethicone) icon, and Imodium Multi-Symptom can help control the pain from bloating and gas. 
  • Antidiarrheals like Imodium A-D (loperamide) can help slow down the digestive process and balance the way your intestines move fluids.
  • Laxatives such as Miralax or Dulcolax work as a short-term solution for IBS constipation.
  • Other non-prescription options for irritable bowel syndrome treatment might include changes to your diet and lifestyle, such as avoiding foods that trigger symptoms, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating high-fiber foods. 

Prescription IBS Medications

Some cases of IBS may not respond well to over-the-counter medications. If this is the case, your medical provider or gastroenterologist can prescribe medication to help better address your symptoms.

  • Prescription bile acid binders can be used to treat diarrhea. Examples include Prevalite (cholestyramine), Colestid (colestipol) or Welchol (colesevelam).
  • Prescription antidiarrheals can help reduce muscle contractions and fluid secretions. Medications approved specifically for IBS related diarrhea include Viberzi (eluxadoline) and Lotronex (alosetron), but are not usually the first-choice medication, and are used in severe cases that are not controlled on other medications.
  • Prescription laxatives such as Amitiza (lubiprostone) and Linzess (linaclotide) can help stimulate bowel movements and are approved specifically for IBS related constipation.
  • Prescription anticholinergic medications such as Bentyl (dicyclomine) can help reduce overactive bowel spasms. 
  • Prescription antibiotics may be prescribed if the IBS could be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut. Xifaxan (rifaximin) is an antibiotic which can be prescribed for IBS patients. 
  • Prescription antidepressants may also be prescribed to address the underlying stress or depression that could be contributing to IBS symptoms. They may also help control the pain associated with IBS. Antidepressants used for IBS include SSRIs like Prozac (fluoxetine) or Paxil (paroxetine) and/or tricyclic antidepressants like Pamelor (nortriptyline) or Norpramin (desipramine). 
  • Prescription pain medications are prescribed on occasion if the pain from bloating is severe. These include medications like Neurontin (gabapentin) or Lyrica (pregabalin). 

To determine the best irritable bowel syndrome treatment for you, it is essential to consult your doctor or pharmacist. Your medical history, type of IBS, the severity of your case, and interactions with other prescription medications will play a role in what treatment is best. 

Get Discounts on IBS Medications

If you have been diagnosed with IBS and are ready to pick up your IBS prescriptions, don’t forget to download your discount drug card from Easy Drug Card before you go! Easy Drug Card can help you save up to 80% on prescriptions and is accepted at over 65,000 pharmacies nationwide. Simply download the card right to your smartphone or print one off at home! 


“Irritable Bowel Syndrome” Mayo Clinic, 23 June 2021,  

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Dr. Andrea M. Jones

Dr. Andrea M. Jones is a clinical pharmacist specializing in transitions of care to facilitate a smooth transition for patients between the hospital and outpatient settings. Dr. Jones graduated from the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and completed post-graduate year 1 residency at the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Jones also worked in retail/community pharmacies for over 5 years during undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky and pharmacy school at the University of Colorado.




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