What Is The Best Over-the-Counter Medicine For IBS — Release Your Symptoms With These Research-Backed Medications

IBS, which stands for irritable bowel syndrome, is the most common worldwide gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. It affects as much as 10% to 15%¹ of the world’s population, and 25% of these cases are severe.

It's a truly life-altering condition for some people, with symptoms that can include:

  • Cramping

  • Bloating

  • Mucus in stool

  • Gas

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

These symptoms can be very uncomfortable, and since IBS is so unpredictable and affects everyone differently, it can be particularly challenging to treat.

Although there is no cure, some IBS symptoms can be relieved by taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications. We’ll be looking at the best options below.

Have you considered clinical trials for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What can you take for IBS over the counter to relieve diarrhea, bloat, and cramping?

No one medication can ease all IBS symptoms, which makes choosing the best OTC medication challenging. If you don’t take the right one for your IBS, you could experience lingering symptoms and discomfort.

To help you find the best medication for you, we have grouped research-backed over-the-counter medications by the symptoms you may be experiencing below.

1. Constipation

Constipation can lead to a lot of pain and discomfort, but for some people with IBS, OTC medications can clear symptoms very effectively.

Some over-the-counter options to consider are:

Laxatives

There are several types of laxatives available over the counter, and each works differently to relieve constipation. Misuse of laxatives can worsen symptoms, so it is important to discuss appropriate use with your pharmacist or doctor.

Flaxseed

Research shows that flaxseed is effective in relieving diarrhea and constipation² because of its anti-inflammatory properties and high fiber content.

Magnesium

This is a mineral that works like a natural laxative³. It can help to relax your intestinal muscles and relieve constipation. It also attracts water which helps to soften stool and make it easier to pass.

Triphala

This is an herbal remedy that may improve overall gut health while offering a laxative effect that could relieve constipation.

Stool softeners

Stool softeners cause fluid retention in your stool and help to prevent constipation.

2. Diarrhea

If you suffer from diarrhea, the following over-the-counter IBS products may help you:

Calcium

Calcium is mildly constipating⁴ and has been shown to be effective in IBS patients suffering from diarrhea. You can take calcium as a supplement, but it is possible to take too much, so be sure to follow dosage instructions carefully and consult with your doctor first.

Loperamide (Imodium)

This is an easy-to-tolerate over-the-counter drug that helps to relieve diarrhea⁵.

3. Digestive distress

Some more general over-the-counter products can help ease IBS symptoms, including constipation and diarrhea. They may also improve the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract and soothe inflamed or hypersensitive gut walls.

Some of these products include:

Digestive enzymes

Inositol and beta-glucan fiber supplements might significantly reduce flatulence, bloating, and abdominal pain⁶.

Probiotics

Probiotics are 'friendly bacteria' which can help to balance 'unfriendly' bacteria. They can also help to reduce the pain and severity of your IBS symptoms⁷.

Peppermint oil

This herbal remedy can help to relieve abdominal pain by calming the muscles in the digestive tract. Analysis⁸ shows that it can also tackle other symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

When to see a doctor

Gastrointestinal issues have many different causes that are rarely chronic or serious. If you experience mild bowel discomfort from time to time, you may not have IBS.

However, if you are experiencing changes to your bowel habits or abdominal pain at least once a week for at least three months, you may have IBS and should speak to your doctor.

Getting an IBS diagnosis will help you to move forward with a treatment plan and manage your symptoms. Seeing a doctor is especially important because other serious conditions can present in the same way as IBS, and they will need to be ruled out.

The lowdown

If you think you have IBS or have received a diagnosis, numerous over-the-counter medicines can help you. Remember, it's always best to speak with your doctor first before you try something new.

While over-the-counter IBS products may not be the miracle cure you're looking for, they can offer you relief by themselves or as part of your overall treatment plan.

Have you considered clinical trials for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

Have you considered clinical trials for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Do you want to know if there are any Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) clinical trials you might be eligible for?
Have you taken medication for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Have you been diagnosed with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

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