Think Twice Before Taking Ibuprofen If You Have This Medical Condition

When dealing with everyday aches or soreness, many of us run for over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relief medications like ibuprofen. The drug can be an effective means of managing fever, menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis, and relatively mild pain. However, ibuprofen may not be the best solution for aches and pains associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In fact, it may worsen the discomfort.

When we're stressed, eating greater amounts of fatty food, or have let exercise fall by the wayside, symptoms of cramping, gas, and bloating may set in for people diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, reports MedicineNet. But that's not the only symptom patients may be burdened with. According to 2017 research published in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, out of the roughly 10% to 20% of people worldwide who live with IBS, many experience what's known as visceral pain, or pain affecting the larger, soft organs of the body, including those within the digestive tract (via the National Cancer Institute).

NSAIDs have been known to exacerbate gastrointestinal symptoms

Although the cause of IBS is not well understood, it is characterized by spasming in the colon that takes place in response to everyday activities like eating, explain experts at Mount Sinai. As a result, people with IBS experience changes in their bowel movements that often present in the form of diarrhea or constipation. Although no relationship has been found between IBS and alternate inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), those with IBD — which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis — may also be susceptible to IBS.

Because non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen reduce pain and inflammation, they are thought to be helpful in relieving IBS symptoms. Yet researchers from the 2017 scientific review say the evidence to support this is lacking. Instead, using NSAIDs on an ongoing basis has been linked with chronic constipation, as well as weakened intestinal absorption in patients with IBS. Other gastrointestinal side effects associated with NSAID use include ulcers, narrowing of the intestines, rectal inflammation, and more.

Certain ingredients in ibuprofen products may worsen IBS symptoms

Some NSAIDs contain unexpected ingredients that can also aggravate IBS symptoms. For example, Advil gel capsules, which contain the active ingredient ibuprofen, are made with sorbitol (via MedicineNet). Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that can prompt IBS symptoms and is often labeled on the packaging as an inactive ingredient. Therefore, people with IBS will want to review drug labels carefully.

In addition to NSAIDs, the study team from the 2017 scientific review also found other OTC pain-relief medications, including aspirin and acetaminophen, to be ineffective in treating IBS pain. Rather, certain prescription drugs have produced the best symptom-relief results, depending on what type of IBS a patient has. This includes clonidine for patients with irritable bowel syndrome-diarrhea (IBS-D). The mu-opioid receptor agonist medication eluxadoline also appears to improve diarrhea symptoms, while linaclotide has been linked with improvements in irritable bowel syndrome-constipation (IBS-C). Because all of these drugs come with potential risks and side effects, talk to your doctor about safe IBS medication treatment options.