There are a variety of different treatments available to help treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome. These include; antispasmodics, laxatives, anti-motility medicines and low-dose antidepressants.
Antispasmodics are medicines that work by relaxing the muscles in the digestive system. These medicines are the most commonly used IBS treatments and help to ease cramping and bloating. They are generally well tolerated with associated side-effects being quite rare. Examples of antispasmodics include; Mebeverine (Colofac), Alverine Citrate and therapeutic Peppermint Oil (Colpermin).
Bulk-forming laxatives are generally recommended for patients who experience IBS-related constipation. They work by softening stools, which makes them easier to pass. Whilst taking bulk-forming laxatives it is important to drink plenty of fluid this will stop the laxative from creating a blockage in the digestive system. Possible side-effects can include; bloating and flatulence. However, if taken appropriately these side-effects are minimised. An example of a bulk-forming laxative is; Ispaghula Husk (Fybogel).
Antimotility medicines work by reducing the contractions of the muscles in the bowel. This has the effect of slowing down the speed at which food passes through the digestive system. This process allows extra time for the passing stool to solidify. Associated side effects include stomach cramps, bloating, drowsiness, dizziness and rashes. An example of an antimotility medicine is; Loperamide (Imodium).
There are two types of antidepressants used to help treat IBS. The first being; Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) and the second; Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).
TCAs are generally recommended where antispasmodics have been found ineffective. TCAs work by interrupting the signals sent between the nerves and the digestive system. The body needs to first get used to TCAs before the effects are felt, which usually takes between 3-4 weeks. The most common side-effects associated with TCAs are; dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness and blurred vision. However, these side-effects usually improve after the first few days of starting treatment. An example of a TCA is amitriptyline.
Alternatively, SSRI can be used to help treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The most common side-effects include; dizziness, diarrhoea and blurred vision. Examples of SSRIs include; Citalopram, Fluoxetine and Paroxetine.