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Medications Can Have Digestive Side Effects

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digestive side effects of some medications Photodisc/Thinkstock

Whether it's for pain relief, heartburn relief, diabetes care or other purposes, the many prescription and over-the-counter drugs at our disposal are usually formulated to do the trick.

But sometimes that relief comes at a cost, namely, the side effects felt by your digestive system.

Side effects like constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux and irritation of the stomach and esophagus can occur with a number of medications.

You will want to work carefully with your health care practitioner to monitor such side effects and change medications if needed.

An online article called "Medications & the Digestive System" from the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University spells out various side effects and possible ways to avoid them.
For instance, constipation is a common complaint with medications for high blood pressure, peptic ulcers and high cholesterol and with iron supplements and certain antacids. The Wexner site explains that such products affect nerve and muscle activity in the colon to the point of slowing down the passage of stool.
Possible solutions include adding more fiber to your diet, getting regular exercise, drinking more water and taking a laxative or stool softener, if your doctor advises it.
Diarrhea poses another problem with some medications, especially antibiotics. That's because they change the bacterial environment of the intestines, sometimes leading to a Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection.

The Wexner site says ampicillin, amoxicillin, clindamycin and cephalosporins are commonly linked to diarrhea.
Dealing with diarrhea is a matter of avoiding foods that you already know irritate your stomach, along with replacing lost fluids and perhaps changing antibiotics.
When the concern is stomach irritation, a well-known culprit is the category of medications known as NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ibuprofen and other common pain relievers can weaken the stomach lining's resistance to acid, sometimes leading to inflammation and bleeding.
The best advice is to buy pain relievers that have coated tablets, to avoid alcohol and to take the tablets with food or a full glass of milk.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.