Can Antidepressants Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Posted on: 17 November 2021


If changes to your diet and eating habits don't help bring your IBS under control, then your doctor might suggest trying different types of medication. For example, some IBS sufferers find that antidepressants help them manage this condition. How does this work?

Manage Pain Signals

Your IBS triggers pain signals in your system. When you have a flare-up, you feel pain and discomfort because what happens in your stomach and bowels sends a message to the pain receptors in your brain.

Antidepressants sometimes help you manage this system more effectively. For example, some of these medications block pain signals from reaching your brain. If you can cut off these signals, then an IBS flare-up will be less painful and uncomfortable for you. Your brain basically won't tell you that it hurts. Over time, it could even retrain itself to do this without the help of medications.

Manage Bowel Movements

Most IBS sufferers either have problems with diarrhoea or with constipation. If you can get your bowel movements under better control, then you'll feel more confident, comfortable and better able to cope with your IBS.

While antidepressants aren't there to treat bowel problems, some regulate movements as a side-effect. For example, some of these medications have a natural laxative effect. This could help you if your IBS tends to make you constipated. Other antidepressants tend to make you more constipated. They might help if you have regular bouts of diarrhoea or periodic loose and urgent bowel movements.

Manage the Psychological Effects of Chronic Pain

If you have to put up with long-term chronic pain, then your mental health could suffer. As well as feeling physically ill, you could also feel very low. You might start to feel anxious, depressed and worried if you can't bring your IBS under control.

These feelings spread into the rest of your life. You might stop enjoying life because you have to factor your IBS into everything you do.

Antidepressants help even out the negative psychological effects of IBS. You should feel less depressed and better able to cope. This boost, combined with the physical benefits of the medication, could make your condition much more manageable.

Antidepressants are just one medication that can help control IBS. If you are having significant problems right now, then contact your doctor or health care clinic. They can talk you through your options and help you find the best IBS treatment for your needs.