over the counter medicine

Over The Counter Cold Medicine To Avoid, When Living With IBS

medicine So this week I have been suffering with a sore throat, which is unusual for me as I rarely get cold or flu like symptoms, but hey, I’m a grown up, I can deal with it! (while writing this I’m slumped in bed with a hot towel around my head, while hubby looks on disapprovingly…) What! I’m poorly… leave me alone.

Moving swiftly on, unlike most, for those of us who suffer with IBS or other digestive health issues, treating a sore throat can be somewhat tricky to say the least. The worst part for me is whenever I have get a sore throat or flu it always disturbs my digestion, because of travelling bacteria. Below I have listed popular over the counter medication to avoid if you suffer with IBS and are following a Low FODMAP diet.

Ibuprofen & Aspirin

Taking Ibuprofen and Aspirin are no go’s, as they can make IBS symptoms worse and in some cases have been proven to be the cause and development of IBS, in the first place. The reason for this is that they irritate the gut by disturbing the mucosal barrier (the barrier between the inside of the gut and the rest of the body), this is what helps us absorb nutrients and stops germs from passing through to the gut as a result the intestinal flora can become unbalanced. In most, this just causes a mild irritation but for those with sensitive tummies it can wreak havoc on your digestion for weeks.

That being said paracetamol does not irritate IBS symptoms so thats one saving grace!

Mary Poppins IllustrationMedicinal Syrups & Lozenges

Cough, sore throat and flu syrups also need to be avoided. Not only do they contain copious amounts of sugar (yes, I know Mary Poppins said “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down”, but being able to fly and see talking animals is not the answer…crazy lady…). The common Honey and Lemon Strepsils Lozenges, are packed with sugar, for a 12 pack, there is 36g that’s 9 teaspoons of sugar and our RDA of sugar for the day! Yikes!

They can also contain dextromethorphan, which can cause diarrhoea, and if you follow a low FODMAP diet, they contain most of the binding agents you can’t have including honey.

So, next time you wake up with a cough, sore throat or flu, don’t pop to the drug store to find a saviour, your more likely to trade one aliment for another. Read my Post on Treating Cold & Flu Symptoms With A Digestive Illness

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Treating Cold & Flu Symptoms With A Digestive Illness




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4 Responses to Over The Counter Cold Medicine To Avoid, When Living With IBS

  1. Rachel February 4, 2018 at 4:09 am #

    Thank you so much! I just came across this post. I have ibs and I have a cold right now. I was feeling nauseous, bloated etc and was wondering if it was from my otc cold medicine!

  2. Kaitlin December 6, 2019 at 4:02 am #

    I remember trying to have a dose of NyQuil a couple years ago (I don’t remember if it was for cold or nighttime allergy trouble), and it gave me the worst intestinal pain I’ve ever felt in my life – no exaggeration, it was that bad. It makes sense to hear that high sugar content is a factor, but high amounts of sugar never gave m that kind of pain before or since then. Could there be another ingredient in NyQuil that could have played a part in this?

  3. Casey Todd August 8, 2022 at 10:05 am #

    I have my IBS-D under control with a careful and strict adherence to the FODMAP diet. However, my husband and I were going on a weekend trip and I had come down with a cold. I promptly went to the drugstore and got some liquid, daytime/nighttime cold meds. We headed out, checked into our motel and by 3:00 am the nexxt morning I was in full, uncontrolled diarrhea mode, with no clue what was happening. The worst was that I was in a motel room and not at home. Long story short, I did not check the ingredients in the cold medicine and after mentally going through all possibilities, I FINALLY checked the ingredients in the cold medicine. To my shock, high fructose corn syrup was on the list. Now I read EVERY INGREDIENT on everything that I’m not already sure is okay for me. When we returned home, which was immediately, I promptly read every ingredient label on every OTC medication I had. Liquid gel caps contain sorbitol for one and those were promptly tossed. I now buy regular tablet forms of OTC meds. I now have another cold and I will suffer through it as best I can, taking cough lozenges (carefully vetted for ingredients and containing no sugars) and muddle through until it’s cleared up. Fortunately, I am retired and taking it easy isn’t a problem.

  4. Jan November 25, 2022 at 10:25 pm #

    Thank you! A really helpful article. I have a cold (or flu) right now and have been taking cough syrup. I’ve experienced terrible pain and an upset stomach.

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