Abdominal pain and bloating are common symptoms of IBS and may occur along with diarrhea, constipation, or both. Some people find that abdominal pain—which may feel like a deep, aching pain similar to stomach cramps or a sharp, stabbing pain—is the most difficult symptom of IBS. Our physicians can recommend one or more medications to relieve the pain.
For abdominal pain associated with IBS, your physician may recommend a prescription antispasmodic medication to relax the gut muscles, easing pain and discomfort.
Some research suggests that peppermint oil—an extract available at health food stores—may act as a natural antispasmodic agent. Your doctor can determine whether peppermint oil is right for you.
Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain beneficial microorganisms already found in the gastrointestinal tract. If the body’s “good” bacteria become outnumbered by “bad” bacteria as a result of IBS, the digestive system’s microbacterial environment—or gut microbiome—becomes unbalanced. A bacterial imbalance can lead to gas, bloating, and irregular bowel movements.
For some people, probiotic supplements may help restore the right balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. The dosage varies depending on the type of supplement your physician recommends. Researchers at NYU Langone are leading the way in evaluating the role of the gut microbiome in preventing and treating digestive diseases.
Your doctor may recommend nonabsorbable antibiotics, such as rifaximin, if the results of a hydrogen breath test indicate that you have an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. This type of medication is prescribed to target bacteria that cause gas, bloating, and other IBS symptoms.
Unlike other antibiotics, nonabsorbable antibiotics are not absorbed into the bloodstream and body, allowing them to target intestinal bacteria.
Your physician may prescribe this medication, which is taken by mouth, for about 10 days.
When prescribed in low doses, some antidepressant medications may block pain signals that travel between the digestive system and the brain, alleviating abdominal pain. These include tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Even when taken in low doses, these medications may have side effects, including weight gain and mood swings. So it is important that you and your physician schedule regular follow-up appointments to determine the dosage of medication that relieves IBS symptoms without causing side effects.