Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Medications & supplements for IBS

Your doctor may prescribe or recommend medicines or supplements to help treat your IBS symptoms.

Antispasmodics

These include medicines such as mebeverine, hyoscine butylbromide and peppermint oil capsules.

They help to relax the muscles in your digestive system, which can help to reduce stomach pain, cramps, bloating and wind. You can only get mebeverine on prescription from your doctor. You can get hyoscine butylbromide on prescription from your doctor or after consulting a pharmacist. You can buy peppermint oil capsules over the counter at your pharmacy and at some supermarkets. Do not take peppermint oil if you have heartburn, as it can make this worse.

Fibre supplements

These are also called bulking-forming laxatives or bulking agents and include Konsyl-D, Mucilax, Metamucil, IsoGel and Benefiber.

A fibre supplement can help if you do not get enough fibre in your diet and you're constipated. It will make your poo denser and softer, which makes it easier to pass. But fibre supplements can make bloating and wind worse for some people.

You can get fibre supplements on prescription or you can buy them over the counter at the pharmacy. You can also buy some fibre supplements at the supermarket.

Follow your doctor's, pharmacist's or dietitian's advice on how to take a fibre supplement, or follow the directions on the label. Make sure you drink at least eight cups of fluid a day. This helps to stop the fibre supplement causing a blockage in your bowels. It may take two to three days before the fibre supplement helps your bowels to move.

If the fibre supplement doesn't help your constipation, you may need a different type of laxative. Ask your doctor what is best for you.

Anti-diarrhoea medicine

Anti-diarrhoea medicine such as loperamide work by slowing down how quickly poo moves through your bowel. They can also make your poo less watery.

Low-dose antidepressants

Antidepressants were originally designed to treat depression. But at a lower dose than is used for depression, some antidepressants such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline can also help to reduce IBS symptoms. They aren't used if you have constipation as they can make this worse for some people.

Probiotics and other supplements

Probiotics are "good" bacteria that normally live in your bowels. They're also in fermented foods such as yoghurt and some dietary supplements. Some people find that taking probiotics regularly helps to ease their IBS symptoms. But we do not know exactly which types are most effective. Some probiotic supplements can also contain ingredients such as FODMAPs which may make your IBS worse.

If you want to try probiotics, you should take them for at least four weeks to see if you get better. You can buy probiotics at your pharmacy and at most supermarkets. Follow the directions on the label.

Iberogast is a herbal solution that helps ease IBS symptoms in some people. You can buy it at your pharmacy. Follow the directions on the label. You shouldn't take Iberogast if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or have liver disease.

Some people claim some other foods and supplements such as aloe vera juice and curcumin help with their IBS, but there is no evidence these treatments work.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

Sources

Page reference: 6019

Review key: HIIBS-27995