Intestinal problems are of many types; one among them is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This ailment causes discomforts such as cramping of abdominal muscles, indigestion accompanied by vomiting, nausea and formation of gas. In some cases, difficulties to pass stools (constipation) have also been noticed. Studies indicate that an extra sensitive immune system and / or colon. However, the real causes of IBS remain largely unknown; more research is underway to establish the reasons underlying this syndrome. Can you use drugs such as nortriptyline for treating IBS? It is important to know more details about use of this drug prior to starting your treatment.

As per a recent clinical research, more than 10% of people in the US live with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Women as well as those of younger age are known to be more vulnerable. IBS is also called spastic colitis or irritable colon syndrome. Many people often get confused with inflammatory bowel disorders; but, IBS is different from other forms of bowel disorders. Above all, no two persons may have the same type of this syndrome; incidence and timespan of incidence vary from one individual to another.

IBS is diagnosed through the signs you encounter. One of the proven approaches to diagnose IBS is to watch out for its typical signs; these may last for 3 to 4 days each month over a period of 3 months. The common symptoms associated with IBS include watery stools, pain in abdominal region, cramped muscles and difficulties to pass stools as well as flatulence / gas formation. Your caregiving team may advise discontinuation of a few types of foods to know if you have any food-based allergic reactions. In some cases, samples of your stool or blood are investigated to understand the reasons. If none of these methods yield a proper diagnosis, you may be advised to opt for colonoscopy. The good news however is – IBS is not known to enhance the risk of gastric cancers or other autoimmune conditions. However, your quality of life is bound to suffer owing to this ailment.

There is no complete remedy for this condition. Drugs are available to manage the intensity of side effects and related symptoms. Apart from drugs, you may also be advised to stop taking drinks containing caffeine, pursue a well-regulated workout plan, opt for meals with portion control and stay away from spicy or deeply fried foods. It is a safe practice to take foods rich in probiotic bacteria; this practice helps restore proper digestion and also aids in the removal of gases in your gastric tract.

Nortriptyline for irritable bowel syndrome

It is important to know when to see your physician. You must consult with your doctor if you encounter one or more of the following symptoms: sudden / inexplicable loss of body weight, altered level of appetite, bleeding from your rectum, pain in the abdominal region (which may persist after release of gas), persistent abdominal disorders such as indigestion, vomiting or nausea.

At times, tricyclic antidepressants such as nortriptyline are administered for treating signs of IBS. It can be surprising to know the relationship between such antidepressants and their ability to treat gastric disorders. But, it is a common practice to use drugs such as nortriptyline to treat IBS. This is mainly because this drug is known to manage pains and anxieties; the key ingredients are also known to ease your digestive process. As the drug works on your central nervous system (CNS), the capabilities are known to exceed far beyond merely treating mental conditions.

Active ingredients of nortriptyline are known to influence GI-transit velocity as well as motility of your gut. The former determines the speed at which food travels through your alimentary system while the latter influences the extent muscles of your gastric tract expand as well as contract. These effects are attributed to unequivocal brain signals; mainly aided by transmitting substances such as norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine as well as acetylcholine. As nortriptyline can inhibit the reabsorption of many of these substances, you may soon witness relief from several abdominal discomforts.

Among the various types of antidepressants, those belonging to the tricyclic genre are widely prescribed. However, the practice of using other forms of drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibiting (SSRIs) meds as well as serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibiting (SNRIs) drugs are still in practice. Nortriptyline is one of the tricyclic antidepressants which can slow down motility of your gut as well as regulate transit velocity of food; these actions help manage the common signs of IBS in an effective manner.

Side effects of nortriptyline

This drug is likely to cause a few side effects. Common among such side effects are spells of dehydration (marked by dryness of mouth or skin, persistent episodes of thirstiness), blurring of eyesight, retention of urine, being in a confused state of mind, etc. Owing to such risks, dosage strength of this tricyclic antidepressant is moderated to a minimal level while being used for IBS. On the other hand, while being used for treating depressive spells, the dosage levels are enhanced to manage episodes of mood shifts, including depression.

Between nortriptyline and SSRIs, the latter rarely triggers constipation or difficulties to pass stools. Also, as SSRI drugs only focus on serotonin, the severity of its side effects are fairly limited. However, college of gastroenterology based in the US considers SSRI-based antidepressants as not as effective as their tricyclic counterparts.

Precautions needed prior to using tricyclic antidepressant nortriptyline for treating IBS


Nortriptyline is known to trigger allergic reactions among people living with known hypersensitivity of allergies to its active ingredients. It is hence important to tell your doctor of such conditions prior to commencing your medication plan. Upon witnessing allergic reactions such as fever (a high degree of body temperature), swelling of oral organs itchiness, rashes or hives, it becomes essential to inform your caregiving team of such adverse reactions. You may also turn sensitive to the sun’s rays all of a sudden. Your treating physician may recommend the use of a skin lotion; care to apply such a cream / lotion before stepping out of your home.

Research done on pregnant women does not rule out the likely damage this antidepressant may cause to your fetus. As results remain mostly uncertain, it is not clear if this med is safe to be administered onto pregnant women. Treating doctors seldom use this med during pregnancy; in some rare cases, this drug has been used, only if the benefits of this drug clearly outweigh the risks involved. If you are aiming to get pregnant, you are advised to use contraceptive measures – i.e., non-hormonal techniques such as skin patches or vaginal rings while using this med to treat signs of IBS. If you are breastfeeding a newly born infant, you need to stay aware of the risks of key chemicals entering into breastmilk. Nursing mothers who took this drug may witness their babies crying too very often or may notice babies having sleep-related disorders and feeding difficulties. It is hence a safe practice to check with your treating doctor prior if you are nursing a baby.

This drug is also likely cause an excessive presence of neuro transmitting substances such as serotonin and / or norepinephrine. Regular intake of this med can lead to a toxic presence of brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine or norepinephrine. So, if you observe symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, very aggressive behavior, epileptic fits, convulsions, muscular weakness or stiffening, etc., you are advised to talk to your doctor without delay. Elders are advised to exert added caution while using this drug; in elders, nortriptyline may trigger adverse reactions like dizziness and / or giddiness. Due to these risks, older patients are more likely to experience falls. Moreover, risks of dementia tend to get higher in elders. This is mainly because nortriptyline may work similar to anticholinergic genre of meds. So, if you witness symptoms like being confused, an altered blood pressure level and / or faster pulse rates, the caregiver needs to be informed of such signs as soon as possible.

Key ingredients of nortriptyline can trigger an increase in ocular pressure levels. As a result, people having eye conditions such as glaucoma may witness worsening of their ocular conditions. As a safety measure, tell your physician about eye problems, if any. Additionally, people living with suicidal thoughts must keep their caregiver informed of such mental problems. It is a good practice to have your doctor updated of mental conditions such as anxieties, nervousness, feeling depressed or living with phobias. Last but not least, key ingredients of nortriptyline may cause a few heart problems; if you had a recent cardiac arrest or failure, talk to your physician of such prior cardiac conditions.

In sum, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like nortriptyline are used for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome – IBS. Key chemicals of this drug can ease your digestive process and can slow down motility of gut. As an extended benefit, such antidepressant drugs can also slow down the transit of foods inside your gastric system. However, it is a safe practice to talk to your doctor prior to taking this tricyclic antidepressant to treat gastric health conditions such as IBS.

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