General Food

Taking Lexapro (or other Anti-Depressants) for IBS – My Experience

lexapro for ibs

It’s taken me a little while to decide If I wanted to actually sit down and write this post. Not because I’m ashamed, embarrassed, or really care, that anyone knows that I’ve been taking Lexapro, but because I wasn’t sure if enough time had gone by for me to make an honest assessment of how I’m doing on the drug. And honestly, I’m still not sure…

There is a huge stigma when it comes to mental health in this country (and the world), and a lot of people don’t like to admit, or talk about the fact, that they are taking these types of medications in order to help themselves.

I’m not really one of those people, clearly, since I’m putting this all out there now.

But I’m doing so in order to possibly help someone that may need it, or just track my progress as I continue to try to figure things out.

And while this post is most definitely NOT geared towards depression, not everyone knows that these types of medications can be used to help with IBS, or anxiety related IBS, and other digestive issues.

I certainly did not.

My History With Medicine

I don’t like taking medicine, plain and simple. Whether it’s a hardcore antibiotic or pain killer, or just a simple over-the-counter pain medication or cold reliever, I don’t like taking it. Now obviously if the situation still presents itself where it’s the only way I’m going to get relief, I will absolutely take it… or if it’s something prescribed by my doctor, I’ll see it through, but if I can avoid it I usually do.

And that’s not me saying that I’m anti-medicine or, even worse, anti-vaccination, or something crazy like that, it just means that in most cases (headaches, colds, etc.), I don’t find OTC medications to be as effective as they are made out to be, so I figure why bother.

I don’t really know where this mindset came from, but I think it stems from when I was teenager and was so pumped full of random antibiotics and medicines in order to help with my acne, that never seemed to help, that I started not trusting some of these drugs.

I also kind of believe that the fact that I was on those antibiotics for so long during that period, is part of the reason why I have the stomach issues I have now, later in life. Obviously I can’t prove that, and there is a history of digestive issues in my family, so it could also just be genetic, or allergies, or whatever, but those pills couldn’t have helped the situation.

And I know what you’re thinking, if I’m so anti-medicine, how did I possibly agree to take Lexapro for stomach issues when anti-depressants are pretty strong medicines. And you’re right, this is definitely out of the ordinary for me, and it did worry me a little bit.

Step 1: Low FODMAP Diet

So why did I decide that I was going to try an anti-depressant to help with digestive issues? Well, it wasn’t really my idea.

If you’ve followed this site at all in the past couple years, you know that IBS is something that I’ve been dealing with for almost as long as I can remember, but I never did anything about it. It wasn’t until I started missing planned events, and we were starting a family, did I finally decide that I had to do something to try and figure out what was going on.

The first step was to see an allergist and see if she could help me out in regards to food sensitivities. However, most of the tests that allergists can do, or that are medically accurate, are tests for irritations, skin allergies, and major reactions that can cause death in people, not necessarily food sensitivities. Although you can go online and buy food sensitivity tests, but I’m still pretty wary of them based on reviews and things, so I haven’t tried one yet… but I still might.

Either way though, she was helpful in that she recommended that I try something called the low FODMAP diet, which is basically just an elimination diet, but doesn’t require you to eat just chicken and rice before re-introducing things.

The basic idea is that you eat foods that are Low FODMAP, meaning they do not pull as much water into your intestines during digestion than High FODMAP foods. Once you do this for 6 weeks, you then reintroduce a high FODMAP item for a week or so, see if you have any reactions, and if not, then move on to the next food, and so forth.

It was an annoying process, but I made it through and I think we determined that raw tomatoes, onion and garlic were part of the issues. So I’ve cut those out as much as possible… although there’s no way on earth I can give up pizza or mozzarella sticks, and I’m pretty sure most marinara sauce has those ingredients… but oh well.

So that was that. I had gone through the process of eliminating all those high FODMAP foods from my diet and then slowly started adding them back in, taking note of how I felt during the process. Everything seemed to be ok for a while, until it wasn’t.

Step 2: Visbiome Probiotics

After a little while, I started to get super lax on sticking to the foods I knew were safe and started venturing out into an area that probably wasn’t good for me. I still tried to avoid raw tomatoes as much as possible, and actual onions and garlic when I could, but I wasn’t paying as close of attention as I was previously.

Now, I would say my IBS is far less severe than a lot of people out there. I’ve read comments and articles on the internet about people who can’t even leave their house for fear of having an episode while out… And while I do have that fear always in the back of my mind, it doesn’t always keep me in the house…. but I knew, with two kids, there was no way I could be there for them, and enjoy things they want to do, if I was confined to the house.

So it was back to trying to restrict my intake of problem foods and adding a probiotic to the mix.

I had been taking an Olly chewable probiotic for a while up until this point, but a friend of mine kept recommending that I try this fancy probiotic called VSL3, which he swore by. The only problem was, it’s expensive.

So after doing a little bit of research on the product, I decided I was going to give it a try, but that’s when I started noticing articles about a lawsuit regarding the pills. And I won’t get into it too much here, you can do a quick Google search and find out more, but essentially the guy that developed the original formula for VSL3 was no longer with the company that was producing those pills under that name, and he had moved on to a different company that was now selling that original formula under the Visbiome brand.

There’s obviously more to the lawsuit than that, but it’s boring and I don’t really think you care.

With that in mind though I ordered my first set of pills from Visbiome. 60 pills (30 days worth) for about $65! Like I said, this stuff is expensive.

I did decide though, that if these pills were supposedly that strong, I was only going to take 1 per day to see how it went, which meant I could stretch a month supply into 2 months.

Still a little expensive, but if it made the difference I could handle it.

A few days later these pills arrived sealed in a box with dry ice to keep them cool. I put them in the fridge ready to start the experiment the next day.

The next morning I popped open the pill bottle and was super surprised by the size of these things… If you are not good at swallowing pills, like me, be concerned. These things are like horse tranquilizers. I would gag almost every time that I tried to swallow one, but I made it through the 2 months. (they also sell powdered version if you can’t handle the pills)

At first I thought they were working wonders, until I started to have some issues again after a few weeks. The issues cropped up probably once a week from then on out and imodium became my friend again to help curb the issues.

I actually have not bought another bottle of the probiotics since I finished the first one and I haven’t really noticed a major downward fall since being on them, so I’m not sure they did anything for me. Although I do still occasionally pop an Olly chewable, since they are delicious and easy to take… so those could be helping.. who knows.

But, with a physical coming up with my physician, and not a whole lot of progress, I decided to talk to him a little more in-depth about the whole thing to see what he thought.

Step 3: Lexapro to Help With Anxiety Induced IBS

I had never really considered anxiety to be an issue that I had, let alone one that could be the trigger for these digestive issues. Sure, I get a bit nervous doing public speaking or if I had to give presentations for school or work, or that time I got called up to the freshman A Baseball team and couldn’t play because I got sick after eating lunch between double header games… but I just assumed that most people got nervous when doing those things and never really considered it to be anxiety driven.

However, the more I read about it and the more I talked to people about it, it started to seem more and more like it could be at least some of the cause of these digestive issues I was having.

So when I got to my doctor and we started talking, I was pretty surprised when he was the one that brought it up. We talked a bit more and he suggested maybe trying an anti-depressant to help relax me in regards to anxiety, which could also help the IBS issues.

Now, as you know from the beginning of this article, I don’t like medication, and the only thing I’d ever heard about these anti-depressants was that they make you feel foggy, or not like yourself, or “weird”, or just off… and that just didn’t sound like something I wanted.

I’m a control freak and I hate when I don’t feel like I’m in control of what I’m doing… it’s one of the reasons why I don’t like to get super drunk these days, or why I always want to be the one driving the car… or why I don’t really care for flying… I just don’t like that feeling of someone/something else being in control of my actions.

First the doc mentioned a new blood tests to test for celiac disease (gluten allergy), which I have been tested for before with a blood test and an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy, but just like those tests, this new blood test came back negative for that.  Then he started talking about Lexapro as a possible option, and I was definitely a bit skeptical and concerned, however, I have known some people in my life that have taken, or currently take, anti-depressants to help with stomach issues related to anxiety with great success… and after reading more about it, I felt like it was something I would be willing to at least try out and see if helped.

I was really willing to try anything at this point…

So, I went home, talked to my wife about it, talked to my parents about it, did a bit more reading, and then sent my doc a message saying let’s give it a try. He hooked me up with a 30 day prescription with a few refills so that we could see how it worked.

The next day I picked up the pills and a new journey began…

Lexapro for IBS – My Experience After 3 Months

As of writing this article it has been almost 3 months of taking 10mg a day of [generic] Lexapro and I’m honestly not sure if they are doing anything… whether that’s digestive, for anxiety or whatever else.

Like I said, I was not depressed when I started taking these, so depression was not the main goal here. I have always been a little short with people at times, “disgruntled” as my friends would say, and I can get angry easily, and I would say I have a slight bit of anxiety, but nothing life altering. But from the inside looking out, I can’t really tell if any of that has changed since taking the pills.

Maybe I’m a little more patient with things, maybe my mild-anxiety level is down a bit, maybe it’s helping with the stomach… I honestly can’t say for certain.

I have still had some issues in the past few months while being on the pills, but I feel like maybe not as many? Work has been pretty smooth lately (there were some rough patches late last year), and with the summer weather upon us, everyone is able to get outside and we’re able to do things, so all of that may be contributing to the feelings I have. But overall, I can’t say for certain that I feel any different on these pills than I did before.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t think they are doing anything, because if those side effects for the first couple weeks were any indication of anything, it’s that these pills definitely do something to your brain.

Lexapro Side Effects

As I do with any pills I have to take, I read a bunch of articles regarding side effects and warnings, and anything negative I could find about Lexapro before I started taking it. There was a point where I couldn’t reach my doctor so I texted a friend who’s a pharmacist to ask him if I was going to die from taking cough medicine (for a cold), while also taking the Lexapro… he assured me I’d be fine as long as I followed the dosage.

He’s the same friend that assured me that my Achilles tendon was not going to randomly snap after having to take cipro when I stepped on a rusty nail. I trust him.

That first week or so on Lexapro was just weird. The first day I took it I felt super nauseous all day. Nothing more than that, just felt like I was going to puke, but never did. I chalked it up to not taking the pill with food, even though the bottle says it doesn’t matter.

The second dose of the medication left me with a high that lasted the entire day. It was hard to focus on things, the computer screen would become blurry, I was getting antsy and jittery, it was just a weird feeling, and it almost turned me off to continuing. But everything I had read said that the first couple weeks would feel weird, but once your body started getting used to it, everything would even itself out.

And that is absolutely true.

After a couple days that “high” feeling wore off completely and the only side effects I seemed to have anymore was an occasional mild headache and a ton of yawning. I was literally yawning every 30 seconds. And every time I did, I would gag and feel like I was going to throw up…. it was super weird.  But, after about 2 weeks, all of those side effects went away and everything started to even out.

I never experienced any insomnia (I take the pills in the morning), or any of the other side effects that some people tend to have. It was just the high feeling, yawning, slight headache and nausea that first day.

Will I Continue Taking Lexapro?

When I had initially talked to my doctor I had mentioned that we could do a trial run for like 6 months to see how it went, and we’re about half way through that now and I’m still not sure if it’s helping or not.

What I can say though, is after the side effects wore off, I’m not having any negative issues related to the drug. My head isn’t foggy, I’m thinking clearly, I don’t feel that my personality has been affected, or anything negative that I can think of… As for the positives though, it’s hard for me to judge looking from the inside out. I feel like maybe I’m a bit more pleasant to be around these days, not as jumpy or excitable… more patient, but who knows, it could all just be in my head…

I see no reason to stop the pills at this point so I will continue through the 6 months that we set out on, but might extend it to a year, just to see what happens. I know that I can’t just stop taking these pills cold turkey, so that’s going to be interesting, but we’ll cross that road when it gets here.

As for my stomach, the jury is still out on whether or not the Lexapro is solely responsible for helping me feel a bit better of the last month or so. I’ve also come to the conclusion that dairy may possibly be an issue as well.

Dairy was one of the first items I reintroduced during the low FODMAP diet, but I’ve always been a little skeptical about it. When I was on that diet I switched over to almond milk, and have never switched back, but I do eat large bowls of ice cream almost every week and started to notice that sometimes I would get really bad gas after eating it. So after a little bit more reading, I decided that maybe I was a bit lactose intolerant, so Lactaid pills are now a part of my meal process as well, and so far so good.

I ate a huge bowl of ice cream the other night and didn’t have any gas at all, and things have been pretty smooth sailing as of recently (knock on wood).

So who knows… There’s definitely something going on, whether it’s related to my shitty diet, a food intolerance, anxiety, or something else… but I’m slowly starting to figure out things that work for me, and hopefully with some of these new ideas I’ll be able to start putting some weight on and keep it on…

And yes, being too skinny is just as annoying as being a bit overweight. Just because someone is super skinny doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with their own body issues as well. I’ve been skinny my entire life and I’m ok with it, but a few extra pounds wouldn’t hurt…

 

About the author

Tom

I'm a married man in his 30's who doesn't really "like" food. If it weren't for my wife I would be living off of pizza and cheeseburgers for the rest of my life. Follow me as I venture slightly out of my comfort zone to try different foods and restaurants.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Newsletter

Subscribe to be notified of new food, restaurants, and recipes!

Follow Me

Sometimes it's food, sometimes it's not...