cipralex (lexapro) for IBS and a gut that acutely feels stress?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 11, 2011 at 10:41 PM

I'm still really struggling with IBS. I notice how much worse my gut feels when I'm stressed, which is a lot of the time, and of course when you're in fight-or-flight you simply aren't digesting your food. I see a psychiatrist who is not pressuring me to take meds, but feels my anxiety/IBS might be helped by Cipralex. I hate the idea of meds, but maybe I'm making things harder than they need to be for myself. And yes, I am doing yoga and other methods of stress reduction, and I am looking for a new job that would be less frenetic and desk-bound than the one I'm in. But I would still say I am a high-strung, anxious, easily-stressed person. I am not an oasis of calm.

I am afraid that Cipralex will cause weight gain and/or make the IBS worse. The internet is full of both success and horror stories, it's hard to know what to believe, and everyone responds so differently. I was on an SSRI in college, many years ago - I recall it helped a little with my mood, but made me very drowsy.

Does anyone take this drug? Will it help me feel calmer, less reactive and possibly lessen obsessive thinking as well? Could it help my IBS? I have IBS-C (constipation predominant) with lots of spasm and bloat.

(Oh, and my diet/supplements: low FODMAPS, no dairy, no caffeine, some rice, probiotics and prebiotics (ONFH ProBio SAP-90), some fermented foods (still trying to find ones I tolerate), liquid vit D, magnesium citrate, ADHS, herbal tincture/oregano oil from naturopath to kill blastocystic hominis. meds: 50 mg elavil, 0.25 mgzopiclone and Alesse BCP. 10 mg melatonin for sleep. Just did a stool test with Doctor's Data which showed no dysbiotic flora, but I am low in two beneficial flora, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium spp.)



on March 28, 2012
at 11:50 PM

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on December 12, 2011
at 06:25 AM

I just found this from another place, and thought you might find it at the very least interesting (if not practical). http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/fecal-transplants-work/?intcid=story_ribbon

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10 Answers

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on December 12, 2011
at 08:37 AM

My brother was on Lexapro for several years and was basically numb the whole time he was on it. I'd highly recommend that you don't take it because although there are studies showing increased serotonin can help a subset of people with IBS, the effects of SSRIs on the brain are not worth it as these articles show . . .http://www.wellnessresources.com/freedom/articles/why_antidepressants_cause_brain_damage_breast_cancer_and_early_mortality/
http://www.antidepressantsfacts.com/toxicity-brain-damage.htm. Also, it takes quite some time to wean yourself off these drugs and if you don't do it very slowly it's hell. I know a girl who took it and gained a significant amount of weight which is a side effect for some people, in addition to a bunch of other side effects. Try upping your dose of magnesium too, but take magnesium malate which is less likely to cause diarrhea, that should help with the gut spasms and reduce some of the anxiety. Without extensive testing you can only guess what's wrong with your body and causing your anxiety. Many times it's an imbalance of hormones with high cortisol levels, which alone can cause chronic indigestion and gut damage, see other posts here on how to reduce cortisol levels. Other times it's having a deficiency of inhibitory neurotransmitters such as gaba and serotonin. The symptoms you described indicates to me that you have some degree of imbalance of gut bacteria, which can also explain the anxiety because bad bacteria in the gut can metabolize tryptophan before your body can convert it to serotonin and cause a deficiency of it. They also can increase inflammation in the brain, which also can cause anxiety http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/dr_blaylock/Anxiety_Brain_Function/2011/04/21/385822.html. Stool tests are often accurate but not always because the bad bacteria can create biofilms that attach to the lining of the gut. If you're taking probiotics and they aren't working, this could be the reason why. Since you say you're deficient in certain bacteria, that could mean the bacteria you do have aren't necessarily pathogenic, but could be in the wrong place without the ones you mentioned to prevent their overgrowth, also known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Try things to increase your gaba levels as well such as l-theanine, valerian, etc. You're taking a pretty high dose of melatonin, which can actually help gut issues with some people but exacerbate gut issues with others, which was my experience. Try getting off the melatonin for a week or so and see if you have any improvement in your gut symptoms.
So to sum up, try lowering your cortisol levels first, and test with a cortisol saliva test, then continue to have fermented foods and drinks to maintain a good balance of bacteria in your gut, and go from there. Btw, I noticed you're on elavil which is a trycyclic antidepressant, and one of it's side effects is constipation, which you said you have. Most doctors don't even prescribe trycyclics anymore because they have so many side effects, they use the so called "cleaner" ssris. Turns out the ssris aren't that clean either.


on December 11, 2011
at 11:06 PM

I would ask for an IBS-specific drug and only take a drug that is hard to get off of if that didn't work. I took clidinium all the time when I had a bad diet, but kept it on hand for a few years after I reformed. I ended up using it a few times, mainly while traveling. It had some annoying side effects, but was pretty easy to get off of. And if you can find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, I think that really helped me and mine was only for drugs if other things didn't work.


on June 23, 2012
at 03:01 PM


I have been on cipralex now for about a year with great results. I was extremely hesitant to go on it but it got to the point that my anxiety and obsessive thoughts were so bad that I had to. I also went to a psychologist at the same time to help me deal with my obsessive thinking (she does cognitive behavioral therapy). Cipralex worked for me, BUT it can make you more anxious when you are first going on it before it settles in your body. Also, when you want to go off eventually it can also make you more anxious than you were for a short time (I wish someone had told me this when I first started on the medication). All people reacte differently, and I must say that I HATE drugs and avoid them at all costs, but cipralex worked well for me.


on March 28, 2012
at 09:45 PM

Everyone is different, but I personally had (and am still having) a great experience taking Lexapro.

I have been on Lexapro for two years and it's virtually gotten rid of IBS for me. Never in my life did I think I would get on medication for anxiety, but then a panic attack landed me in the hospital and I realized that perhaps my anxiety wasn't normal after all.

I too suffered from severe IBS related to stress, and it's all but gone now. I still feel bloated and gassy sometimes, but I almost never experience stomach pain anymore (PHEW).

As for the anxiety itself, it's just about gone. I still experience some anxiety in stressful situations just like anyone else, but never to the point where I feel unstable or not in control. Sometimes I worry that it numbs me a bit much, but I am such a better person than I thought I could be because of it. For example, I used to be extremely needy, insecure, and dependent in relationships, which drove my exes crazy -- but I had no clue it was so deeply rooted in anxiety. Now all of my relationships (both romantic and otherwise) are healthier and I feel clear-headed and rational about how I behave towards my loved ones.

In terms of the bad stuff, the main side effect for me is a lack of libido (but I never had a huge one in the first place, so this isn't a big deal for me) and a ~1 hour increase in the amount of sleep I need every night to feel alert. That said, now that I'm doing Paleo I may find that it cancels out all the extra sleep I've been needing :)



on March 28, 2012
at 11:50 PM

There's no doubt that your health can be improved quickly and without much effort. Visit my webpage and contact me, you don't have to pay, but there's info about raw food I'd like to teach you about.



on December 11, 2011
at 11:23 PM

Make sure to keep your Omega 3:6 ratio in check. While lexapro can be helpful in the short-term, I have tried several other interventions including developing higher quality sleep patterns and increasing my omega 3 ratio, both of which have helped immensely and in combination with CBT have almost completely resolved any anxiety/stomach issues I had before. You can also try kava root tea. Keep in mind that lexapro and similar drugs can induce nausea.

But as Melissa mentioned, CBT provides the best long-term resolution.


on November 09, 2012
at 06:03 AM

I am on Cipralex for over two years now. I do not have anxiety, but I am always angry and was sleeping too much. This is the reason why my doc gave me the drug, but ive decided not to be dependent on drugs and now I'm paying for that. It's really hard to get off Cipralex it's ruined my life and now my IBS is killing me



on June 24, 2012
at 05:12 AM

I struggled with IBS for years. It went away completely when I stopped eating grains and cut back on high fiber foods. I haven't had any problems since. I eat a variety of fermented foods including dairy (kefir) and kraut. Why pay for probiotics if you can get them naturally. I think that getting gluten out of my diet helped the most.

My wife is celiac and she couldn't tolerate dairy until she went gluten free now it doesn't bother her at all.


on June 23, 2012
at 07:34 PM

Therapist here. Lexapro is GREAT for some and causes horrific GI stress/problems for others. No way of knowing until you try because everyone truly is different. That said, you'll likely know within 3 days if you will be one to have the severe GI side effect or not.

I've also seen some IBS patients do really well on Propranolol, which address more of the bodily experience of anxiety.

What about psychotherapy vs psychiatry? Psychiatrists are primarily trained in psychopharmacology rather than counseling except in the rare exception where someone has a strong interest in clinical work. Learning triggers, body cues and new responses can do wonders for anxiety.

I'd also consider adding a b vitamin supplement (taken in the morning) for anxiety in addition to the above mentioned fish oil.


on June 23, 2012
at 06:28 PM

I have a long history with Cipralex for anxiety.

I went to a hypnotherapist to deal with teeth grinding and it ended up resolving a lot of things that meant I no longer needed the tablets.

I'd highly recommend hypnotherapy as an alternative to popping pills.

Good luck, hope you get sorted.


on June 23, 2012
at 03:18 PM

Lexapro worked ok for me, though it was before I went Paleo, but it took me years to figure out it was the thing causing me an allergic reaction that made it hard for me to breath fully - always felt out of breath and often ready to pass out.

And frankly, the right liquid fish oil supplement has done more for me (for depression) than any anti-depressant (and for me it really depends on the brand - and I can tell the difference within 2 days when I am on or off a particular fish oil).

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