IBS Medication: What Works, What Doesn’t

ibs treatment

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If you’re here, then you probably already know what irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is. In fact, you’re probably dealing with it yourself. You may be one of those people that is always conscious of where all the bathrooms are in every restaurant because you never know when your sudden and chronic diarrhea will hit. Or maybe you get nervous about going to someone’s home or traveling for work because you could have a flare up that causes you to make an embarrassing sprint to the bathroom. Alternatively, maybe your brand of IBS might keep you cramping all the time due to constipation. You might even deal with that very perplexing version that alternates between diarrhea and constipation. Is there a good IBS medication?

In case you have never been diagnosed or are unsure of the symptoms, the Mayo Clinic explains that IBS is a chronic condition. Its “signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. Among the most common are:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • A bloated feeling
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Mucus in the stool

If you are experiencing additional symptoms, it is important to see your physician as a precaution. Because additional symptoms could be an indication of  a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. These include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night
  • Weight loss

There are several treatment options on the market, as well as self-care options such as diet changes. For now, however, let us examine two prescription medications to treat IBS symptoms.

IBS Medication


If diarrhea is your problem, Eluxadoline may be heflpful for you. It’s a relatively new IBS medication that works with the central nervous system to lessen bowel contractions. You see, with diarrhea, contents are pushed through the bowels so rapidly and violently that your intestines do not have time to absorb the water from them. Thus, lessening bowel contractions will help minimize the threat of a diarrhea attack. It also gives your body the time it needs to absorb water and nutrients your body is supposed to derive from food.

Approved by the FDA in 2015, Eluxadoline has been “shown to reduce abdominal pain and improve stool consistency.” The New England Journal of Medicine explains it another way: “…Eluxadoline reduces visceral hypersensitivity without completely disrupting intestinal motility.” What does that mean? In plain English, that means it works pretty well. It has been approved for both men and women, which is noteworthy because as you will see below, some IBS medications are exclusive to one gender. If asking your physician about Eluxadoline, you may reference brand names, including Viberzi and Allergan.


Also known by its brand name Lotronex, Alosetron is an IBS drug that has only been approved for women. And not just every woman, but a pretty exclusive list. Like many medications, Alosetron has been linked to some rare but serious side effects. So, it is actually only administered as a last resort for women with severe cases of “diarrhea-prominent IBS” who have not had success with other treatments. It has not yet been approved for use by men and was even taken off the market by the FDA for a while.

It works by relaxing the colon which facilitates the slow movement of waste through the lower intestines. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders explains in more detail: “Alosetron (Lotronex) blocks serotonin signals that transmit sensory information (painful and nonpainful) from the gut to the brain and helps to reduce diarrhea and abdominal pain…. It is prescribed under a Risk Management Program requiring careful monitoring and education due to rare but potentially serious side effects.” Learn more about the severe effects of Alosetron before talking with your doctor.

There are other prescription IBS medications such as Lubiprostone (Amitiza). Of course, there are plenty of over-the-counter options as well. For example, the treatment of diarrhea through Loperamide can be found under the brand names of Imodium, Fad, and Select. Other IBS symptoms can be treated with Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, and Soothe. Depending on your symptoms, you may want to ask our physician about gut antispasmodics, laxatives, nerve pain medications, dietary supplements like fiber, and certain kinds of therapies. The Mayo Clinic provides an extensive list of treatment options while addressing each of these listed above. Begin by seeking out your Primary Care Provider and know that you may get sent to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist. Have you found a particular medication, therapy, or treatment option that has been effective in treating your IBS symptoms? Please share it with us!