Zoloft and IBS (A positive relationship) 

In this blog, we will talk about the relationship between zoloft and IBS. We will also discuss what researchers have discovered so far and if it’s okay to use zoloft in irritable bowel syndrome. We will also cover other off-label uses of zoloft in this blog. 

What is the relationship between zoloft and Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? 

Zoloft is often used to treat the symptoms of IBS. This treatment is most commonly used in people who have IBS associated anxiety and depression. Zoloft can alter the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain and gut. 

This effect was found to be helpful in patients with IBS. However, one study indicated that people who use SSRIs are at high risk of getting IBS. This is probably because of their underlying psychiatric symptoms. 

IBS has a two-way relationship with anxiety and depression. Heightened stress and anxiety levels can make IBS symptoms worse and vice versa. The drug itself is used to treat the symptoms of IBS. 

What does research suggest? 

A 2003 study concluded that sertraline can be used to help relieve symptoms of IBS, especially in patients which suffer from anxiety and depression. Zoloft can also make a positive impact on intestinal motility in patients with IBS. 

A 2007 study concluded that the use of SSRIs was found to be effective in patients with IBS, as compared to those who were receiving placebo, but more research is required for better understanding. 

What is IBS?

IBS or Irritable bowel syndrome is a syndrome of the digestive system. It is a chronic condition that develops over time and does not go away that easy. 

This syndrome is not associated with a single or one type of symptom. It actually comes with a number of symptoms and conditions, affecting your digestive health and bowel movements. 

Signs and symptoms associated with IBS

IBS is associated with the following signs and symptoms:

Abnormal bowel movements

People with IBS suffer from abnormal bowel movements. These include:

  • Diarrhoea 
  • Constipation 
  • Frequent urge to pass stool
  • Inability to have a complete bowel movement
  • Pain during a bowel movement 
  • Bleeding
  • Anal fissure or fistula
  • Haemorrhoids 
  • Burning sensation in anal canal

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Stomach pain is one of the most common symptoms of IBS. The intensity of pain varies from person to person. Some people feel excruciating pain while others have mild pain. 

Some people complain of certain foods to trigger abdominal pain. Flatulence and bloating are also included in gastrointestinal symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. 

Psychological symptoms 

IBS is surely associated with psychological symptoms. The pain and discomfort associated with IBS can trigger anxiety episodes in some people. 

The treatment duration or failure can also cause depression in some people as it’s not that easy to live with disturbing symptoms of IBS. Experts also believe that anxiety and depression can exacerbate the gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS and make them even more pronounced. 

Who’s at risk of developing IBS? 

Following people are at risk of developing IBS. These include:


People who are older than 40 years of age are more susceptible to developing IBS, but IBS can affect people younger than that as well. 


Women are more likely to suffer from IBS as compared to men. It is probably because of the fact that women undergo way more hormonal changes than men throughout their life. 

Poor mental health 

Prolonged stress and anxiety can make negative changes in your gastrointestinal tract which can result in a number of digestive illnesses, one of which include IBS. 

Certain foods 

Certain foods can trigger IBS symptoms in people like lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, spicy and greasy foods, excessive use of alcohol, caffeine and carbonated sodas etc. It is recommended to stay away from foods that could exacerbate your IBS symptoms. 

What are other treatment options?

There is no specific treatment of IBS. Multiple medications are considered to help relieve the symptoms of IBS. these meds include:


As discussed earlier zoloft can be used to treat the symptoms of IBS, especially it can help relieve constipation in people with IBS. Tricyclic antidepressants are also used, in fact, TCAs are preferred over SSRIs. 

They can help reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, psychological symptoms and can help relieve pain associated with IBS.

Anticholinergic agents

Anticholinergic agents, like bentyl, levsin etc, can be used to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS. These drugs can help relax GIT muscles and can decrease intestinal motility which  can help in ibs associated diarrhoea.


Anxiolytics or antianxiety agents are also used to treat ibs associated anxiety these agents include ativan, valium etc. However, the prolonged use of benzodiazepines is not recommended because they can produce dependence and your body craves the drug in its absence. 

Antidiarrheal agents

These meds, as the name indicates, are used to treat diarrhoeal symptoms of IBS. imodium is most commonly used. It is recommended to use these meds when they are absolutely needed, otherwise should not be used. If you do take them, do not deviate from the dose directed by your doctor.


Alosetron is approved to be used in the treatment of IBS associated diarrhoea in women. 

What not to eat? 

Following foods and drinks can contribute to the gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS. These include:

  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products like milk and cheese
  • Alcohol 
  • Spicy foods including red peppers
  • Wheat 

There are other foods that might act as trigger factors of IBS symptoms. These foods vary from person to person so, avoid eating anything that can exacerbate the symptoms of IBS in your body. 

How can diet help with IBS? 

It is extremely important to watch what you eat. Foods can have a huge impact on your IBS. For some people, lactose acts as a trigger factor so it is recommended for them to limit or sometimes completely stop using dairy products. 

If you come to realise that stopping lactose does not make your symptoms any better, you can continue using it. Doctors usually recommend to stop using foods that can increase bloating or flatulence. Such foods include beans, cabbage, eggs, cauliflower, bananas, radish, prunes, wheat etc.

During the episode of IBS, it is recommended to eat foods that you can tolerate well. Now, this varies from person to person and how their stomach reacts to food. 

Some people cannot tolerate foods which are often tolerated by other people battling with IBS. It is advised to increase your fibre intake and foods which act as a good source of probiotics for your gut health. 

Importance of psychological therapy 

Psychological therapy and counselling comes in handy when people have correlation between IBS, depression and anxiety. Different therapy sessions are conducted to help relieve the symptoms of IBS psychologically. 

Other off-label uses of zoloft 

Zoloft and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are indicated for off-label use for the following health conditions:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Migraine 
  • Neuropathy associated with prolonged diabetes 
  • Premature ejaculation

Make sure you only use zoloft for above mentioned purposes, if your doctor deems fit. It is not recommended to start self-medication, and if your doctor has advised using zoloft, make sure you stick to the dose advised by your doctor. 


In this blog, we discussed the relationship between zoloft and IBS. Several studies suggest that zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants can be used to relieve the symptoms of IBS. 

Other studies suggested that there is an increased incidence of IBS in people using SSRIs, but it is connected with psychological symptoms rather than the antidepressant. 

IBS should be managed as it can give rise to several complications. Make sure you watch what you eat. It is extremely important to detect your trigger foods and avoid eating them. 

It is also recommended to avoid spicy greasy food as it could exacerbate the gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS. In this blog, we also covered other off-label uses of zoloft, other than its use in the symptomatic treatment of IBS. 

Make sure you stick to the dose prescribed by your doctor. Every medication has its own side effects. It’s best to avoid overuse or use when it’s not absolutely necessary. 

FAQs: zoloft and IBS

Does zoloft help with IBS?

Yes, zoloft can be used to help relieve the gastrointestinal and psychological symptoms of IBS. Make sure you only take it if recommended by your healthcare provider. 

Does Zoloft cause GI problems?

Zoloft induced GI side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Abdominal pain

Can antidepressants worsen IBS?

Antidepressants usually make IBS associated symptoms better but in some people, it can worsen the symptoms. This condition is more likely to be connected with psychological symptoms, rather than the drug itself. 

Can Zoloft make you irritable at first?

Yes, zoloft can cause irritability, restlessness and nervousness in people who first start taking it. Make sure you inform your doctor about your side effects to rule out any complication. 

Which antidepressant is best for IBS?

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are the best class of antidepressants to help relieve the symptoms of IBS. 

What is the most common side effect of sertraline?

Common side effects of Zoloft include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling angry or agitated
  • Weight gain
  • Inability to digest food
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of libido
  • Sweating/Night sweats
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Impotence
  • Inability to ejaculate

Zoloft, sometimes, causes serious side effects. Consult your healthcare provider as soon as you can if these symptoms occur:

  • Seizure/convulsions
  • Eye pain with vision problems
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Memory problems/Dementia 
  • Severe weakness and inability to move

How long do side effects last when starting Zoloft?

Zoloft induced side effects usually begin to subside within 2 to 3 weeks of treatment. It usually varies from person to person. Some people recover earlier from the side effects, while others struggle for a long, long time. 


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