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How Effective Is Amitriptyline for IBS?

By S. Berger
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Amitriptyline is a medication in the group of chemicals known as tricyclic antidepressants. Its medical use extends beyond treating depression, and medical professionals will sometimes prescribe amitriptyline for IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. IBS can cause extreme pain in some individuals, and amitriptyline is able to dampen the pain signals sent from the gastrointestinal tract to the brain.

Several types of IBS exist, each of which have their own treatments, and are categorized based on the dominant symptom. Studies have shown that taking amitriptyline is the most effective when the condition is primarily diarrhea-oriented. A wide variety of physical symptoms seen in this form of IBS cane Additionally, this medication can be quite useful in treating the depression and anxiety that accompanies IBS in some individuals.

A study investigating the efficacy of using this antidepressant to treat diarrhea-predominant IBS found that approximately two-thirds of the individuals taking amitriptyline for IBS saw their symptoms fully disappear after two months of taking low doses. These individuals no longer had loose stools, or the feeling they had not completely voided their bowels after going to the bathroom.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the dosage of the amitriptyline for IBS may be increased over time. Dosages may go as high as 150 milligrams, although they usually begin at 10 mg. Studies that used initial high doses of 50 mg to 75 mg showed that these doses were not as effective as working up slowly from a lower dose.

Gradual increases in dosage are also more likely to minimize side effects that would be more apparent with large starting doses of this antidepressant. Some of the potential side effects of amitriptyline include effects that are similar to symptoms of IBS, such as constipation, upset stomach, and nausea. For this reason, it is often desirable to use medication doses that will lessen the chance of experiencing these side effects while still allowing patients to experience its beneficial properties.

Using amitriptyline for IBS is usually part of a larger treatment strategy that involves other therapeutic components. Doctors may recommend dietary changes, specific therapies, and the use of other medications such as loperamide to control diarrhea. Taken together with other medications, or as a sole treatment, this antidepressant has been proven to be a possible effective treatment for IBS, particularly when it presents as diarrhea-dominant. Patients with other dominant forms of IBS will also experience benefits from this antidepressant, although they may not have a complete relief of all symptoms.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1006581 — On Apr 07, 2022

Amytriptyline is poison! It causes so many people to have heart issues, causes awful side effects and is hell to get off of! The withdrawal is much worse than described in this article! It feels like I'm dying and I'm on week 8 of withdrawal. If you're considering this medication or are getting off, check out social media support groups for everything you need to know!

By serenesurface — On Jan 15, 2013

@turquoise-- What dose are you on?

Amitriptyline wasn't helping my IBS at lower doses either. But my doctor had me slowly increase my dose to 100mg and then I started seeing an improvement with IBS symptoms. It works, but you have to give it time and increase the dose until you see the affects.

But don't increase the dose suddenly or you will experience many side effects. In addition to less diarrhea and upset stomach, I'm also sleeping better and feeling better in general on this drug.

By turquoise — On Jan 14, 2013

@turkay1-- Amitriptyline hasn't worked for me at all. I've been on it for two months and there is no improvement whatsoever.

I'm going to ask my doctor to take me off at my next visit. It's also causing me to have diziness during the day.

By candyquilt — On Jan 14, 2013

I've been reading about IBS for years. I suffer from it and I have several people in my family who have it as well. I've read in various articles that there is a link between anxiety and IBS. Anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms. Doctors don't know how exactly these are related and affect one another but I think we will know more about this in the near future.

But since amitriptyline helps with anxiety, it indirectly helps with IBS too. I've been on this medication for several years. All of my IBS symptoms aren't gone, but there is a significant improvement. Overall, I'm impressed.

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