What to do if sertraline causes diarrhoea? (5+ tips that help)

What to do if sertraline causes diarrhoea?

If sertraline causes diarrhoea, there are a few things that can help:

  • Talk to your doctor
  • Take antidiarrheal medications
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try oral rehydration solutions (ORS)
  • Take probiotics
  • Eat a bland diet

Talk to your doctor

If sertraline causes diarrhoea, it’s best to report it to your healthcare provider. Diarrhoea is considered one of the common early side effects of sertraline, and people do report nausea, vomiting, loose motion, stomach cramps, etc (1,2). 

These side effects are usually expected to get better with time, but they can make people suffer while they last. So, talking to your doctor about your side effects can help, as your doctor may adjust your dose to help your body adjust to it. 

Dose reduction is quite helpful, especially for people new to Zoloft or whose dose has recently been increased. This can reduce the intensity of your diarrhoea. However, sertraline may not work well for everyone. 

If Zoloft is not the right choice of antidepressant and continues to affect your stomach, your doctor will consider alternative treatment options. Make sure you keep your prescription the same.

Take antidiarrheal medications

You can also take antidiarrheal medications, such as Imodium (loperamide). It does not necessarily interact with Zoloft but can cause some side effects in certain individuals (3). 

If you’re experiencing severe diarrhoea while taking sertraline, it’s best to reach out to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure that you take those medications which are compatible with the antidepressant and with any pre-existing health condition you might have. This ensures your safety and alleviates your symptoms effectively.

Drink plenty of water

It is crucial to stay hydrated while experiencing diarrhoea; this condition excessively removes water from your body and can cause severe dehydration. Vomiting associated with diarrhoea also causes water loss (4). 

This dehydration can dangerously reduce blood volume, cause low blood pressure, and induce weakness. So it is necessary to drink plenty of water and fluids in general to ensure that your body has enough hydration for normal physiological functioning.

Try oral rehydration solutions (ORS)

It is also important to include oral rehydration solutions (ORS) in your diet if you’re experiencing severe diarrhoea (5). These solutions contain electrolytes, which your body also loses along with water. 

This can also affect your blood pressure and cause muscle weakness and body pain. So, it’s important to ensure that you’re not getting electrolyte deficient and drink plenty of hydrating fluids.

Take probiotics

Probiotics are also essential if you’re experiencing diarrhoea. Probiotics containing Lactobacillus acidophilus can prevent and manage diarrhoea to some extent. Research suggests that taking probiotics can speed up the recovery process and improve digestion (6). 

You can look for a probiotic supplement that contains multiple strains, including those from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera. Different strains may have varied effects on gut health. 

The typical duration for taking probiotics in medication-induced diarrhoea can vary from person to person, depending on the severity. However, most doctors suggest taking probiotics 2-3 times a day for 3-5 days.

Eat a bland diet

What you’re eating while suffering from diarrhoea can make it better or worse. Eating spicy or heavy foods can aggravate your symptoms, and no matter how many medications you are taking, it will significantly slow down your recovery. 

So it is crucial to stick to a diet that is light on your stomach and easy for you to digest. Some diarrhoea-friendly dietary suggestions are: (7)

Food optionsDetails 
BRAT dietBananas: Easily digestible, and provide potassium.
Rice: Helps bind stools and provides energy
Applesauce: Gentle on the stomach, a source of pectin.
Toast (plain): Low in fibre, easy to digest.
Low-fibre foodsBoiled or steamed white rice: Easily digestible.
Boiled or baked chicken (skinless): Lean protein.
Plain crackers or dry toast: Low-fibre options.
Probiotic foodsPlain yoghurt with live cultures: Introduces beneficial bacteria for gut health.
Binding foodsCooked carrots: Low-fibre, helps absorb excess water in the intestines.
Baked potatoes (without skin): Easily digestible, binding.
Low-fat proteinsBaked or grilled fish: Lean protein, easy to digest
Skinless, boiled chicken or turkey: Lean protein source.
Clear LiquidsClear broth (chicken or vegetable): Hydrating and provides electrolytes
Clear fruit juices (apple, grape): Gentle on the stomach.
Coconut water: Natural source of electrolytes.
Weak tea: Non-caffeinated, soothing.

What to do if sertraline-induced diarrhoea persists?

If sertraline-induced diarrhoea persists, it is important to talk to your doctor about this. These side effects, as stated earlier, should go away once your body adjusts to the medication. However, sertraline does not work for everyone.

If you’re persistently experiencing negative effects on this antidepressant, your doctor will consider alternative treatment options. However, you shouldn’t make any changes to your prescription on your own. 

Sertraline-induced gastrointestinal side effects

Sertraline-induced gastrointestinal (GI) side effects are quite common. In my experience as a pharmacist, I have come across many people who reported nausea, GI upset, stomach pain, indigestion, gas, acid reflux, and several other GI side effects while taking sertraline. 

However, most of these cases improve once the body adjusts to the antidepressant. Sertraline can affect serotonin levels, which are involved in various physiological and psychological functions.

Serotonin also has receptors in the gut, which explains why people experience GI side effects on this antidepressant. However, it is important to note that people are different and respond differently to medications. 

It’s best to keep an eye on your side effects and report anything that concerns you to your healthcare provider.


  1. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. ZOLOFT (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use. Available from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/019839s74s86s87_20990s35s44s45lbl.pdf
  1. National Library of Medicine. Sertraline: MedlinePlus Drug Information [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. National Library of Medicine. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a697048.html
  1. Sahi N, Nguyen R, Santos C. Loperamide. 2023 Mar 20. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 32491808. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557885
  1. Cutting WA. Mechanisms of diarrhoea and why they matter. Dialogue Diarrhoea. 1988 Dec;(35):4-5. PMID: 12281645. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12281645/ 
  1. Cutting WA, Langmuir AD. Oral rehydration in diarrhoea: applied pathophysiology. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1980;74(1):30-5. doi: 10.1016/0035-9203(80)90007-3. PMID: 7434417. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7434417/ 
  1. IQWiG (Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care). Bookshelf ID: NBK373095. Can probiotics help against diarrhoea? Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK373095/ 
  1. Nemeth V, Pfleghaar N. Diarrhea. 2022 Nov 21. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 28846339. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448082/#:~:text=A%20bland%20’BRAT’%20diet%20including,reduce%20the%20frequency%20 of%20 stools

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