FDA approves new constipation drug

By Brooke Strickland

If you’ve suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the constipation that comes with that, you know how frustrating and uncomfortable it can be.  Well now, there may be hope for individuals over the age of 16 that have chronic constipation.  The FDA just approved a drug made by Ironwood Pharmaceuticals called Linzess that can help treat constipation for those living with IBS.[1] Millions of people live with prolonged constipation and the abdominal pain accompanied with it can be miserable and at times, unbearable.

What are the symptoms of IBS with constipation?

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Bowel movements that feel uncontrollably urgent, difficult to pass, or incomplete
  • Clear or white mucus with the stool

Generally, these symptoms must be present for at least 12 weeks during the last 6 months before doctors will officially diagnose you with IBS.  Doctors will want to complete a complete diagnostic test on you to confirm the diagnosis, as IBS can often be confused with other illnesses or issues.  If you have blood in the stool, a chronic fever, weight loss, and continuing abdominal pain, see your doctor right away, as these are not signs of IBS and could be signs of something serious.

As always, medication should not be the first choice in treating IBS with constipation.  There are a variety of other ways to treat the problem.  Dietary changes can help many people with IBS control their symptoms.  Fiber can reduce constipation by softening the stool, so introducing good sources of fiber into your diet such as whole grain bread, beans, dried plumbs, ground flaxseed, fresh fruits and vegetables, and six to eight glasses of water a day can all help ease symptoms.  In addition, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, or really sugary foods or beverages can benefit your gastrointestinal tract.  In addition, try keeping a journal of foods that you eat to see if you notice any triggers of gas, constipation, or diarrhea and eliminate those that cause stomach upset.

[1] Reuters. “Constipation Drug Is Approved.” New York Times. August 30, 2011.  Accessed August 31, 2012.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/31/business/fda-approves-drug-for-constipation-and-irritable-bowel-syndrome.html?_r=1&ref=health