Which Over-The-Counter Meds Help?


People with IBD often take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and supplements in addition to their prescriptions. While there is lots of research on prescription drugs, it is hard to find reliable information on OTC products.

Crohnology members, of course, have access to our treatment database. There you can find information and rankings for many popular supplements. Vitamin B12, Probiotics, Iron, Vitamin D, and digestive enzymes are all highly rated (although B12 may include people who receive injections).

In decades of dealing with the disease, I have tried dozens of OTC products, mostly with no success. A few, however, stand out as being truly helpful. These are not official endorsements, but just a partial list of medicines I have found effective:

  • Bean-O: this supplement is basically a digestive enzyme, but it totally changed my relationship to vegetables. Bean-O works by breaking down the plant matter that causes gas for most people. For me, that plant matter causes cramping and diarrhea. Taking Bean-O has helped me rediscover salads and other raw veggies that were missing from my diet. I started small and built my way up to full servings, but now I have no problem digesting veggies if I take Bean-O before.
  • Loperamide: this is the active ingredient in Immodium, the anti-diarrhea medicine. I take four every evening, to keep my guts quiet through the night. I know this causes cramping for some people — it used to, for me — so this is definitely one to talk to your doctor about.
  • Melatonin: I also take melatonin every night to help me sleep. Melatonin is a hormone your body is supposed to make naturally to regulate your sleep cycle. I take it an hour before bedtime, and it helps me fall asleep.
  • Diphenhydramine: this is the active ingredient in Benadryl and Unisom, and is often used by IV for hospital patients having trouble getting enough sleep. I don’t take it all the time, but it is a real help if melatonin isn’t enough to get me to sleep. Usually half a Unisom quick-melt lozenge is enough to help me sleep without being groggy the next day.
  • Pectin lozenges (Luden’s): most cough drops and sore throat lozenges have ingredients that mess up my guts. Pectin lozenges help — not as much as medicated drops, but enough that it’s worth having them.

It is a good idea to talk to your doctor about any OTC medicine you want to try specifically for IBD, and definitely remember to list all meds — OTC and Rx — among your current medications when filling out forms.

What OTC meds and supplements have worked for you?


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4 thoughts on “Which Over-The-Counter Meds Help?

  1. I also use Beano and Phazyme by the truckload, wish they were prescriptions because I spend so much on them. Melatonin and some type of sleep aid are needed for me to sleep at times, even though I take Lunesta. I need to use a stool softener because I alternate diarrhea and constipation. I’m one of those that can’t of can’t tolerate immodium, I just ride it out. I do take steroids every day to manage my Addison’s Disease and I think it helps keep my flare ups quiet.

  2. Anusol ointment (NOT the cream or the HC cream- contains more unnecessary chemicals and too much risk of skin thinning, respectively!) has worked wonders for my fissures. The prescription GTN cream made me raw and much worse, but this is really helping to heal (contains cocoa butter, zinc, peru balsam and kaolin).

  3. I forgot to add that bovine colostrum and S. boulardii are really helping, so much so that the S.boulardii can cause a tendency toward constipation! I have vitamin C and zinc lozenges which I take at the first hint of a cold/people around me being ill.

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