When it comes to using antidepressants, most people consider using them to fight… depression. Some may consider them useful for managing issues like anxiety or low motivation. However, researchers are beginning to recognize that there may be a reason to use antidepressants for IBS.
This might sound like a strange conclusion to draw. However, you might be interested to learn that common antidepressants target the GI tract. Because of this they can profoundly influence digestive disorders.
Understanding IBS and the Brain-Gut Link
Our GI tract contains a large number of nerves. These nerves send messages through the spine and into the brain. Our brain interprets these messages to inform us of the state of our gut.
People who are hypersensitive to these nerve transmissions may experience pain and discomfort. This is often the case in patients with IBS. People with IBS often experience visceral hypersensitivity. In this condition, people are extremely sensitive to nerve sensations.
So How Can You Use Antidepressants for IBS?
Most drugs have multiple functions. Antidepressants may be useful for fighting depression, but this is not their only use. Antidepressants can also mediate the action in our gut.
There are two main types of antidepressants that can improve IBS symptoms. These are tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs. Both of these drugs impact our digestion by affecting certain neurotransmitters.
Tricyclics and IBS
Tricyclic antidepressants are known to slow down gut motility. They do this by working on two chemicals known as serotonin and norepinephrine. Both of these chemicals influence digestion in a significant way.
Tricyclics, then, are better for managing IBS marked by diarrhea. By slowing gut motility they can prevent sudden bowel movements.
SSRIs and IBS
SSRIs work specifically on serotonin. Since they mostly affect just this one neurotransmitter, they often have fewer side effects than tricyclic antidepressants.
SSRIs are generally used to treat IBS marked by constipation. In fact, one of the common side effects that SSRIs may cause is diarrhea.
Should I Use Antidepressants for IBS?
If you have mild IBS then you most likely won’t need antidepressants. It’s easy enough to control mild IBS with other treatments.
However, people with moderate-to-severe IBS may want to consider using antidepressants. Doses given to patients with IBS are generally lower than doses given to people with depression.
If you do opt to use antidepressants for IBS, you can expect to see results within 4-6 weeks.
If you’re going to be using antidepressants for IBS you should be aware of potential side effects. Since you’ll likely be taking a lower dose, these side effects will likely be milder than they would if you were taking a dose for depression.
Side effects can include dizziness, headaches, confusion, insomnia, dry mouth, blurred vision, and changes in appetite.
Antidepressants are a useful treatment for moderate-to-severe IBS. These drugs target neurotransmitters which affect our digestion. By regulating these compounds they can help prevent symptoms of IBS.