person holding their stomach in pain, calm chronic diarrhea, IBS, low FODMAP diet

Q. I suffered both flatulence and abdominal pain for more than three years to a degree of misery I’d like to forget. I had lots of tests for digestive problems but they showed no problem and my doctors could offer no help.

Eventually I figured out that my prescription medicine was causing the problem and stopped taking it, with my doctor’s permission. I am now pain free and no longer suffer from excessive gas.

A. Congratulations on superb problem solving. Many medications can cause stomach upset and flatulence. Some include osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax, cholesterol-lowering drugs like Tricor and even pain relievers such as naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn).

We have a more complete list, along with a discussion of treatments for flatulence, constipation and heartburn, in our Guide to Digestive Disorders.

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  1. peppy

    Tim, your cardiologist needs to look at your meds and see which ones are causing the problems. If you were just recently stented then you somehow have to find a way to stay on your Effient and aspirin. Don’t quit them. They might try you on Plavix instead of the Effient. They have the option now where they did not when I was stented five years ago. Staying on the Effient will depend on how many stents you have and where they are. Certain stenting situations are more likely to clot and need Effient/Plavix far longer. The new stents are much better now and they don’t need to keep you on the meds as long.
    I found the bp meds can cause plenty of digestive problems as well. Your cardiologist needs to see which ones are bothering you and try something else. When I changed cardiologists it made a huge difference. The second one was willing to see which meds were bothering me. I am back on Crestor but only 5mgs instead of the 40mgs. they put me on after the stent procedure. What a difference! And the low dose is working just as well. My LDL is 66-69 and tri’s are under a 100. But I eat a very careful diet and exercise a great deal as well. All works together. Good luck!

  2. Tim

    Kathy, I have the same situation. One stent, then Effient (like Plavix), metoprolol, Lipitor and baby aspirin. I have trouble every time I eat or drink. The cardiologist wants me on them for life; my internist wants me off them. Did things settled down for you? Did you make any other successful changes?

  3. MBM

    I am suffering severe bloating that started two years after taking ambien.
    I have also gone from 190 to 210 with NO change in eating habits. I am going to have an upper and lower gastro exam next week. What have you figured out? No other sleep medicine helps me sleep. I’ve tried to go cold turkey and it was bad, tried 4 days in a row and never got more than 2 hours at a time.

    • Jag

      Mh: I’m in the same boat. Under 100 lbs, IBS diagnosis and no relief, and taking ambien. Other factors involvef, but wondering if you ever found out whether ambien was the cause in your case.
      Hope you’ve had some relief. I’m at wit’s end.

  4. M G

    I have also had unexplained abdominal problems – bloating and constipation- have been on Ambien for over 2 years and feel I can not come off it. I also have some swelling in my ankles too, which I have never noticed.

  5. MG

    I have been taking Ambien for over 2 years. I know the drug is habit forming, as I feel I can not go to sleep without it. I have been having severe bloating in the lower abdominal region- to the point where I have looked pregnant. I seem to blow up no matter how much or little I eat. Exercising does not seem to help at all. Does this sound like side effects of Ambien? I am worried to take myself off of the drug, due to terrible withdrawal symptoms I have read.

  6. AK

    I was suffering from constipation for 2 years and for the last 7 months I now have frequent soft stool. The condition has gone from one extreme to the other. I have only been told that I have IBS, but I’m not so sure. I never had stomach problems but I have been on medicines for the past 10 years to treat bipolar depression. Does anyone know if seroquel can cause these stomach problems? I have many brothers and sisters that do not have this problem and none have been on these medicines but myself. I’m thinking it has to be the seroquel.

  7. Rembot

    You really need to see a gastroenterologist promptly. Ambien has many negative side effects but unbearable gastric pain is not one of them. Don’t rely on “natural” medicines and herbs when you have persistent pain — that’s a red flag that something else is going on. No one (especially online) can diagnose your problem without a complete exam and tests, so you need to seek professional help, get tested and see whats really going on. Check websites (WebMD etc.) for Ambien side effects and note that it is very addictive. Your doctor can recommend how best to break the Ambien habit.

  8. MH

    Thank you for your comments. I have lost weight (from 116 lbs. to 97 lbs.) since starting on Ambien less than a year ago. The digestive/intestinal pain is unbearable and my appetite is non-existent. I’d tried more than twenty different kinds of natural, herbal, sleep aids before finally going on Ambien and now I want to quit cold-turkey. But I’m not able to sleep due to a disorder that was discovered during a sleep study at the hospital.
    I feel that I’m out of options. I’d appreciate any help you can give me.

  9. m.j.

    I have always had trouble with cholesterol meds. Just recently my doctor prescribed tricor. After taking it a month I had constipation and bloating and pain in my stomach. I believe this is the problem. Because I have never had problems with my bowels. They always acted normally.

  10. Rem

    Just to update my earlier post on this topic, my daily dose of Miralax has now seemingly eliminated the blockage pain and extreme bloating I had before. Since the only thing the main ingredient in Miralax (polyetheline glycol) seems to be is little more than a high-tech lubricant, my guess is that it is reacting with any “stuck” fecal matter and enabling the colon to clear. My only question about using it “daily for months” as my G.I. doctor prescribed, is that the manufacturer recommends not using it for more than 1 week — but doesn’t say why there’s a restriction.
    Perhaps another reader (any doctors out there?) could tell us about the long-term effects or dangers? By the way, I’ve used the brand Miralax and both the CVS and Costco versions and can find no real difference in the three — except price!

  11. Dru

    Any type of abdominal distress, especially bloating and flatulence should signal a need to be tested for celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance. There are many other symptoms that can be caused by an intolerance to gluten, however, gastric distress is a primary one.

  12. Sandy Albrecht

    My husband had a day or two of intestinal distress (gas, bloating, and sharp and dull pains)in the lower stomach area and intestines. After dinner he was doubled over in pain and we headed to the ER. They gave him an IV with meds for nausea and pain — no help.
    Then they gave him morphine-like pain-killer and in 20 minutes he could sit straight up and eventually lay down on the bed. They said it was gastritis and prescribed an acid blocker to keep his stomach from hurting from the pain meds they prescribed. The next day the pains were back.
    I researched Sherry Brescia’s, Pain Free in 1 Day, program of proper food combining, a way to eat to restore healthy acid/alkaline PH balance. Within one day he was not complaining of stomach pain! We have been on this way of healthy eating for two weeks and plan to be on it forever!

  13. DC

    If you are taking Ambien that may be causing stomach problems. After a series of tests from cardio to gastro, everything was normal. After seeing an article in the newspaper from People’s Pharmacy, I researched the side effects of Ambien on the internet and discovered that belching, gerd, rapid/irregular heart beat, panic attacks and nightmares were possible side effects. I had all of the above. I have been off Ambien for 1 month and all my symptoms have stopped. I was on Ambien from Dec-June of this year.
    I believe more people should be informed about this. My family physician, my cardiologist and gastrologist knew I was on Ambien and none of them sited the drug as a possible reason.

  14. Rinchu

    Hello, I have digestive problems, as well… but I find great help with 2 Beanos before I eat a meal… and Gas-X and Dr. Mercola’s Digestive Enzymes during the meal. I have no problems if I follow this routine. Also, I am lactose intolerant… If I happen to eat anything with cheese of milk products, I take a Lacto… made by Enzymedica. These were suggested to me by a Gastroenterologist.

  15. Rem

    I had unexplained sudden abdominal pain followed by a constriction somewhere in my lower G.I. tract that would make me blow up like a balloon. Usually after a few hours of intense discomfort, the constriction releases and all slowly returns to “normal”. After many tests showed nothing, we finally got an x-ray (while an episode was in progress) that showed some fecal material trapped in the right side of my intestine (as opposed to the left side, where it should be), causing inflammation and probably the backup. Doctor now has me on a daily dose of Miralax, which causes a lot of bloating, but seems to have alleviated the main problem by softening and moving everything along. Hope this helps someone out there!

  16. STEVE

    Which prescription was it? Was it listed in the article? If not it would be helpful to know. My wife does not use any of the above medicines, but has to take 2 daily doses of miralax as suggested by her doctor who does not know what the abdominal pain is caused by. She is not bothered by flatulence. She has seen a female doctor, and had colonoscopy, etc, which also showed no problems just like described in the article.
    I have read many articles on the internet trying to get information and found a lot of such info on diet, constipation, other diseases, etc. But nothing so good as to point to what the cause is so she can stop using a certain medication or eating certain food. The miralax seems to help, but she still has interrupted sleep at night due to bowel movements and need to urinate.

  17. BobK

    Last year my wife had a bout of ulcerative colitis. The doctor put her on two medications, prednesone and Acecol. While the bleeding stopped the stomach cramps got worse. Then the doctor upped the amount of Acecol but the cramps got worse and to the point she spent most of some days in bed with pain. At one point the doctor wanted to switch to some more “aggressive” drugs but we said no. One Saturday evening we called the doctor and asked if it was ok to drop the Acecol as we wanted to try anything to eliminate the cramping pains. We did and the cramps subsided the next day and were completely gone the day after.
    So my wife went through four months of misery due to the prescription drug. It’s odd that neither the doctor OR the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug (who she spoke with) indicated that this drug would cause such problems. They both felt it was a result of the ulcerative colitis condition itself.

  18. ns

    For all the years I was on hormone replacement (Prempro), I was troubled by terrible smelly gas. I was embarrassed to go out in public. This and similar drugs are not being used widely anymore. Since being taken off of Prempro I have had no problem with gas.

  19. Kathy

    When I had a stent placed and was suddenly put on a “heart cocktail” after having taken no medicine I suffered the worst burning stomach and other side effects including spasms in my stomach every time I swallowed something. It was horrible. I was sick for months.
    The cardiologists wanted to deny my pain and then decided they needed to change my meds a bit on the insistence of a gastro doctor referral. No doctor will change a cardiologist’s med order I found out. I changed cardiologists. She did work with me by lowering my aspirin dosage and stopped the Crestor. It took months to reach a place where I could tolerate the “have to” meds. She would not touch the low dose aspirin or Plavix. I am much better but still feel a burn in my stomach which I think is the Plavix but they won’t stop that drug after thirty months. I have one drug eluting stent in a side feeder artery. They just don’t want to stop Plavix in any of their patients until more research is available on safety. That could be years if ever definitive research results ever become available. Doubtful.
    Digestive medications only made everything worse for me and when those were stopped also things became a bit better slowly. Not everyone can tolerate these strong medications. I guess the bottom line is to prevent the need for them in the first place.

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