Are Probiotics Good for IBS? Your Supplements and Meds Might Make Your IBS Symptoms Worse.

Do you feel like you could just use a break? You’re overworked, stressed and tired? Do your IBS symptoms have you feeling exhausted and frustrated?

Well, it is possible that your poor gut feels the same way. Having a break from potentially irritating foods, drinks and supplements may feel as restorative to your gut as a weekend at the spa feels to you.

Giving your gut the opportunity to rest and heal can do wonders for managing your IBS symptoms. The challenging part is figuring out which things, including your foods, medications and supplements, are not working well for your gut.

How frustrated would you feel if the very same supplements that you were taking to reduce your IBS symptoms were actually causing your symptoms to get worse? (UGH – we have been there.)

Have you ever wondered if probiotics are good for IBS after all?

This article walks you through common connections between IBS symptoms and certain medications as well as supplements.

What is IBS?

It is really crummy to be planning your social events and menu choices around that you *think* might be safe and what will keep you from making a mad dash to the nearest bathroom.

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and is very common. There is no specific test used to diagnose IBS, rather tests are used to rule other conditions out, such as celiac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and food allergies.

If you’ve been trying to eliminate potential food offenders, this can feel like detective work – and it is – really important data to learn how to achieve your Belly Bliss. Finding the right foods for you is one really important piece of managing your IBS (psst, we can help with that).

You may also have even slowed down on coffee and cut out alcohol. But…you’re still having symptoms. What gives?

You could be having symptoms because of your current medications and supplements.

What are symptoms of IBS?

There are three main types of IBS, depending on your main symptoms. Overall, symptoms are varied, but you may be experiencing:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating & gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Fatigue

What’s challenging, and sometimes overwhelming, is that symptoms can be influenced by so many things. These can include:

  • What foods you’re eating
  • When you’re eating, and if you’re skipping meals
  • Dehydration
  • Exercise
  • How thoroughly you chew each bite of food
  • Additives in your foods, such as artificial sweeteners
  • Drink choices, including caffeine, alcohol, and carbonation
  • How much you’re sleeping
  • Medications and supplements, including any additives

Symptoms of IBS overlap with a lot of other conditions. To achieve remission from your symptoms sooner, your treatment plan should include working with a knowledgeable practitioner that can confirm that your diagnosis is correct, and not a misdiagnosis of something else such as fructose intolerance or SIBO, small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

What medications can cause IBS symptoms?

There are a few medications that we recommend taking a second look at, but please do not make any changes to medications without first consulting your doctor.

What is amazing is that the symptoms that your physician gave you a medication for might actually be part of the root cause of your IBS. For example, if your stomach acid is too low, you’re at greater risk of heartburn. But if your doctor prescribes an antacid medication, your symptoms might worsen in the long run because we need to have acid in our stomachs for proper digestion.

This is one common example we see of physicians treating symptoms vs. getting down to root causes.

Are you taking any of the following medications?


If you have been struggling with heartburn, your doctor may have given you a prescription for an acid reducer. As mentioned above, this might actually backfire and make things worse.  In fact, use of acid-reducing medications, called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), is a risk factor for developing SIBO.


Antibiotics are powerful tools in the medical arsenal, but they can be overused. They can kill not just the pathogenic bacteria – the bad guys – they can also kill the good bacteria in your gut that helps to keep you healthy.

Without the right mix of good guys in your gut, you can have dysbiosis, which can cause constipation, diarrhea, or both.


Narcotics, opioids and other pain medications can really slow down the movement of the muscles along your GI tract. Constipation is a really common side effect of these pain medications.

What supplements can cause IBS symptoms?

Betaine HCL

This supplement is used to help your stomach to make more acid.  Have you ever been diagnosed with an ulcer? H. Pylori is one common cause of stomach ulcers. For anyone with an H. Pylori infection, taking Betaine HCL is not recommended since having H. pylori can reduce the protective mucosal layer in the stomach. Adding Betaine HCL may be too irritating and may cause stomach bleeding (yikes!). 


Ginger is famous for helping to reduce nausea and speeding up motility. And for many people, ginger does just that. But if you have IBS-D, you may experience even worsened diarrhea. Too much ginger may also cause heartburn, otherwise known as “ginger burn”.


Iron supplements can cause constipation in some people. How much iron you’re taking, which form of iron and when you take it all impact how well you can tolerate iron supplements.


Wait a minute – are probiotics good for IBS? They are, for many people. Probiotics are very well studied in the medical literature to help with IBS. It is important to know that there are many different strains of probiotics, just like there are different kinds of animals at the zoo. 

Not everyone tolerates probiotics. If you have IBS, you may need to limit probiotics or take specific strains for them to be helpful and not risk your symptoms getting worse. We can help you to find the right strains to match your specific health goals. 


For some people, peppermint can help to settle your stomach, and reduce bloating & gas. For others, it can cause heartburn and vomiting – ACK – talk about unintended consequences!

Are supplements safer?

It is really common to assume that taking an herbal supplement is safer than a prescription drug – and it isn’t an assumption that you can safely make. Would you be surprised to learn that supplements are not regulated, at all, before being made available for you to purchase them?

Herbal supplements have active compounds in them, just like medications from the pharmacy. Those compounds are what can make supplements effective. There is quality research to suggest using certain supplements for specific conditions, including IBS.

We need to have respect for supplements – they can be powerful healers – but we also need to make sure that we’re using the right ones, in the right dose, at the right time of the day. It’s important to ensure that you do not have a risk of contraindication with any other supplements or medications you’re currently taking. Always tell your doctor if you’re taking any supplements.

How to reduce IBS symptoms?

Finding the best eating plan to find relief from your symptoms and actually feel energetic and focused might feel impossible right now. And no wonder – symptoms can vary from person to person and so too can triggers.

First, please do not make any changes to your medications without first speaking with your doctor. But, if this article makes you consider any of your current medications or supplements, a conversation with your prescribing practitioner might be a good thing to get on the calendar.

Be an informed patient in order to advocate for your improved health. We recommend looking up your medications and supplements on a reputable site such as MedLine. All medications and herbal supplements come with both the risk of side effects and the potential rewards of improved symptoms.

By working with a functional nutritionist, we take a comprehensive approach to improving IBS. Together, we look at your whole health history, your diet, supplements, medications, sleep, stress and exercise.  We not only want to help you feel better ASAP but we address the root causes of why you’re feeling the way you feel today, in order to achieve lasting results.

And if you’re ready to get to the root cause of your IBS and work towards being symptom-free, know that this isn’t magic and we’re ready to help.


Cozma-Petrut, A., Loghin, F., Miere, D., & Dumitrascu, D. (2017). Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients! World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 23(21), 3771–3783.

Pittler MH, Ernst E. Peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome: a critical review and metaanalysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Jul;93(7):1131-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1998.00343.x. PMID: 9672344.

Salari-Moghaddam A, Hassanzadeh Keshteli A, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P. Water consumption and prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome among adults. PLoS One. 2020 Jan 24;15(1):e0228205. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228205. PMID: 31978193; PMCID: PMC6980581.

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