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DrSugar Answers: Antidepressant, IBS, and Weight Gain?

DrSugar is in the house and he's answering your health questions.

Dear DrSugar,

I've recently been diagnosed with probable irritable bowel syndrome that is exacerbated by anxiety and depression. My doctor prescribed the antidepressant Citalopram to decrease my abdominal pain and stabilize my mood. I've read multiple reports about the correlation between antidepressant medication and weight gain. I was an overweight teenager with poor eating habits and have finally managed to lose a great deal of weight in the past year. I'd rather not pile it back on as a result of a pill. Is it true that Citalopram is likely to make me put on weight? Are there any other remedies that might help abdominal pain from IBS? Thank you.
Concerned about Citalopram

This is a complicated issue and worthy of investigation, so to see what the doctor has to say on this matter, just


Controlling the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be very difficult, and getting a handle on anxiety and depression is a great place to start. Unfortunately, many antidepressants are associated with weight gain. The antidepressant Citalopram is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). While this class of medication is less likely to cause weight gain than older antidepressants, SSRIs still have about a 25 percent incidence of weight gain. Weight gain when starting an SSRI is not inevitable, but it is still a possibility. Alternative antidepressants not associated with weight gain, like buproprion and venlafaxine, have not been as thoroughly researched for effectiveness in treating IBS as the drug you were prescribed.

There are some simple IBS therapies, including dietary modifications and medication for constipation or diarrhea, that may help with your abdominal pain as well. Regular exercise can also help to relieve symptoms of constipation and uncomfortable bloating. If anxiety and depression are the main issues exacerbating your IBS, an antidepressant, like an SSRI, is probably your best option. Remember that if you begin to rapidly gain weight once you begin taking an SSRI, you can consult your doctor for other options. Good luck!

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DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Join The Conversation
hillamaria hillamaria 8 years
I did gain about 7 kilos while on anti-depressants. I was a bit bloated too, guess they stored some water to my body aswell. I was never full even if i ate a big meal. I didn't use the pills for a long time because I didn't like how they made me feel. I knew I was getting better pretty fast and didn't like how the pills made me feel so emotionless, i couldn't even cry when I needed to. But really, there are so many pills out there I'm sure some will work for almost everyone! You should try and if it's not good, just ask for another brand. You'll notice in a month already if there's something not right.
sunsmuckers sunsmuckers 8 years
long story short, I was given lexapro, and a side affect is appetite suppresion, so I actually lost weight
hottpink hottpink 8 years
My husband has battled IBS for sometime now. He hates taking pills so I read somewhere about peppermint oil. It has done wonders for his IBS!
michlny michlny 8 years
It's sad how quickly Dr.'s prescribe medication. There are so many other avenues one should try before taking pills. Diet is a GREAT place to start - and with the help of a qualified professional, altering the diet can cure IBS, depression, et al....
ellenp1214 ellenp1214 8 years
most IBS is caused by food allergies. not the type that make your throat swell up, but the type that hit you hours or even days later (ie. stomach pain, constipation, bloating) it's a secondary reaction, and not one most doctors know how to test for. if you can find someone to do the blood test, it will save you a lot of time, anxiety and medication!
Sarah10563 Sarah10563 8 years
I used to be a pharmacy student and now have re-evaluated my stance on most prescribed medications. Citalopram can become addictive and before you start down that road you might want to investigate a chiropractic adjustment. People overlook the fact that the spine is the axis of the body and that if it is tweaked it can cause various problems throughout the body. A little research online will provide you with facts, my chiropractor always regales me with stories about new patients who have headaches, ear-aches or irritable bowel for years and use pills to cover up the pain and after a couple of visits to him eliminated the ailments entirely! It is def worth checking out before forking over a bunch of cash for pills that might cause weight gain, emotional instability, and addiction.
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
SSRi's can help to suppress the colon spasms. I have been prescribed a tablet that I can just take whenever I feel the spasms causing a problem. Seems to work OK.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I didn't realize antidepressants were given for IBS symptoms, although I guess that makes sense if psychological problems are exacerbating the issue.
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
I was prescribed anti-depressants for my IBS and it didn't help me at all. I found the most useful thing was to do an elimination diet where I lived on "the basics" and introduced possible trigger foods after 3 months. I was able to identify my trigger foods and control my diet to help my IBS.
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