In this blog, we are going to talk about zoloft induced stomach pain. We will also discuss the reason behind this side effect and what could be done to avoid or counteract it.
We will also shed some light on lifestyle changes which can help dilute the side effects of zoloft.
Does zoloft cause stomach pain?
Zoloft is associated with side effects that upset gastrointestinal tract. These include heartburn, nausea, gastric acid reflux and diarrhoea, as it increases intestinal motility. These are the probable causes of stomach pain in zoloft users.
Typically, less adverse side effects of zoloft fade away in 3 to 4 weeks, as your body adapts to the med. But if your side effects are not bearable, and if your stomach pain causes major discomfort, immediately reach out to your healthcare provider.
Do not wait for it to go away on its own. It’s not advised to take chances with your health. It should be a priority.
What does research say?
Researchers believe that zoloft induced stomach pain is usually because of other gastrointestinal side effects like acid reflux, diarrhoea, vomiting etc, but it can also exacerbate any existing medical condition.
In one case study, a 55-year old woman with acute pancreatitis was presented with a severe and unbearable stomach pain. She had been taking zoloft for a month.
The study concluded that zoloft enhanced the symptoms of acute pancreatitis and caused abdominal pain so severe that it resulted in discontinuation of treatment with the antidepressant.
Make sure you properly give your medical history and try not to miss anything out. If there’s a slight chance of zoloft worsening your pre-existing health condition, your doctor will not prescribe it. Instead, a safer medicine will be preferred.
How to relieve zoloft induced stomach pain
Zoloft induced gastrointestinal side effects usually begin to subside within two to three weeks of treatment. Meanwhile, your healthcare provider might prescribe some medications to provide some relief. These medications include:
Antacids are given when your acidity is the cause of your stomach pain. These meds are alkaline in nature, in order to neutralise gastric acid. These include calcium carbonate, aluminium hydroxide etc.
Proton pump Inhibitors
These meds are used to inhibit the production of stomach acid. Omeprazole (most commonly used) and esomeprazole belong to this class of medicines.
In case of severe diarrhoea, your doctor might prescribe antidiarrheal agents like loperamide (Brand name: Imodium). It slows down the movement of food through your intestines, which lets your body absorb more liquid and makes your stool less watery.
Probiotics should be considered a must, when dealing with meds that upset your stomach. They are actually ‘good’ bacteria which reside naturally in your gut.
In case of diarrhoea, most of these bacteria are lost because of watery stools. The addition of probiotics will help replenish those good bacteria and bring your stomach back to its normal state.
Lifestyle changes that might help
There are a few lifestyle changes that might help to fight against zoloft induced side effects. These include:
Exercise helps to release ‘happy chemicals’ in your body. Make sure you include some kind of physical activity in your routine. Be it walking, jogging, HIIT (High intensity interval training) or even just yoga. Exercise at least 3-4 days a week.
Diet is the most important aspect of your lifestyle. Make sure you include nutritious foods in your diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein etc.
It’s not much of a surprise that smoking is injurious to your health. It harms you in more ways than you can think. If you’re a chain smoker, you can not quit it overnight.
In order to cut back, you should start activities that support your smoking cessation. Nicotine gums are often used as the first step to quit smoking
Limit the use of alcohol
The use of alcohol along with zoloft increases the intensity of side effects. It can cause confusion and anxiety. Try to limit it as much as you can. It also leaves drastic effects on your liver.
Limit the use of caffeine and energy drinks
The use of caffeine or energy drinks can increase the intensity of these gastrointestinal side effects. Carbonated drinks also play a negative role here and they should be avoided if you’re having an upset stomach.
Drink plenty of water. It removes toxins from your body. Try making detox water, using your favourite fruits. It makes your water less boring and much more nutritious.
- Make sure you take your zoloft properly, as directed by your healthcare provider
- Try to take your med everyday at the same time
- It’s best to take zoloft with or after food to prevent gastric acid reflux which not only causes stomach pain, but can also result in burning sensation in your stomach, oesophagus and throat.
- If you’re taking an oral liquid form of zoloft, you can either dilute it in water or other beverages like juices to mask the bitter taste of the drug.
- Do not overdose.
- Keep your medication away from children and pets, if any.
Other common side effects
Other common side effects of zoloft include:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling angry or agitated
- Weight gain
- Inability to digest food
- Loss of libido
- Sweating/Night sweats
- Tremors or shaking
- Decreased sex drive
- Inability to ejaculate
Dangerous side effects which require immediate medical attention
Some side effects require immediate medical attention. These include:
- Skin allergy, which could include Stevens-Johnson. You might notice red, swollen, or blistered skin, with or without fever.
- Allergic reactions, like rash, hives are common. It also includes wheezing, difficulty in breathing, tightness in the chest, trouble breathing, swallowing, or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat. Few of these symptoms indicate anaphylactic shock.
- It could cause low sodium levels which can result in psychological symptoms like confusion, agitation, inability to understand surroundings, memory loss etc.
- It can cause elongation of QT interval, causing increased heartbeat or arrhythmia
- The inability to have an erection
- Hypothyroidism (low thyroid gland function)
- Bone marrow failure associated with low blood counts
- Abnormal behaviour/mania
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling guilty all the time
- Extrapyramidal symptoms
When to call your doctor
Call your doctor if:
- Your stomach pain gets unbearable
- You are unable to eat
- You’re constantly throwing up your food or can’t even stand the smell of it
- You’re losing weight rapidly
Immediately contact your healthcare provider if you notice other symptoms which require immediate medical attention.
Do not stop taking Zoloft abruptly. Otherwise, you will end up suffering from withdrawal or discontinuation syndrome.
Such medications are always tapered off if one needs to stop using them. This too, is done under the supervision of your doctor.
In this blog, we discussed zoloft induced stomach pain. It is a common side effect and usually coupled with other gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, acid reflux, flatulence etc.
Zoloft associated side effects are believed to fade away within a few weeks of treatment. For some people it could take up to 2-3 months but they eventually subside when your body gets used to it.
If your stomach pain does not go away on its own, your healthcare provider will prescribe some medication targeting the root cause of your stomach pain.
For example: If you’re struggling with acid reflux which is making your stomach ache, a suitable antacid is prescribed to counteract the acid reflux. Make sure you closely monitor your side effects and inform your doctor.
FAQs: Zoloft stomach pain
Can Zoloft cause stomach pain?
Zoloft is associated with side effects that upset gastrointestinal tract, abbreviated as GIT. These include heartburn, nausea, gastric acid reflux and diarrhoea, as it increases intestinal motility. These are the probable causes of stomach pain in zoloft users.
Does the upset stomach from Zoloft go away?
Typically, less adverse side effects of zoloft fade away in 3 to 4 weeks, as your body adapts to the med. But if your side effects are not bearable, and if your stomach pain causes major discomfort, immediately reach out to your healthcare provider. Do not wait for it to subside on its own.
Why do antidepressants make my stomach hurt?
When SSRIs increase the level of serotonin, they stimulate serotonin receptors in the GI tract as well. It results in increased serotonin activity in GIT which induce nausea, diarrhoea, gastric acid reflux etc.
How long until Zoloft side effects go away?
The side effects of zoloft stay until your body gets used to the medication. Once it adapts to the presence of zoloft, the side effects begin to fade away. It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks, depending on how your body reacts to the med.
Why should you not take sertraline at night?
If sertraline causes insomnia, loss of libido or urinary problems, it’s best to take it in the morning instead of night time. But if it causes drowsiness or nausea, it’s better to take it at night. It basically depends on what kind of side effects you are having.
What foods should I avoid while taking sertraline?
Zoloft interacts with the following foods and drink:
- Grapefruit juice
Grapefruit juice increases the level of zoloft in your body by inhibiting its metabolism. Be aware of using these two together. You might find more pronounced effects of zoloft, including adverse effects, as it will not convert into its inactive metabolite.
- Green Tea
The combination of green tea and zoloft may increase the risk of bleeding
Do not use cannabis while you’re on zoloft. It will cause symptoms like confusion, panic attacks, seizures, anxiety, nervousness etc.
- Tyramine rich foods
Tyramine is an amino acid. The combination of zoloft with tyramine rich foods, like cheese, milk, chicken liver, beef, avocados, bananas, canned figs, soy beans etc, can cause sudden and dangerous increase in your blood pressure.
Concomitant use of zoloft and alcohol may cause much more pronounced symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Vincenzo Oliva et al. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2021. – Gastrointestinal side effects associated with antidepressant treatments in patients with major depressive disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33549697
- U Ladabaum et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2002 – Effect of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline on gastric sensitivity and compliance in healthy humans https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12213107/
- ZOLOFT Side Effects by Likelihood and Severity https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-35/zoloft-oral/details/list-sideeffects
- Sertraline https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/sertraline-01
- Sertraline – oral use https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/sertraline-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20065940?p=1
- André Malbergier et al. Braz J Psychiatry. (2004) – Sertraline and acute pancreatitis: a case-report https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15057839/