Medications and their side effects on the digestive system

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1. Overview

Each drug taken orally (by mouth) has a lot of effects and repercussions in the body, beside the therapeutic purpose for which it was given.

Whether prescribed by a doctor or are taken as self-treatment, medications can interact with other medications or with certain diseases and can be harmful for the patient’s health.

Before administering any drug, it is essential to carefully read the patient information leaflet and consult your doctor for possible allergies, sensitivities or medical conditions that might interact with that medication.

People who have food intolerance or gluten intolerance must ensure that there isn’t any component such additives. Among the most common digestive problems after taking medicines include:
- Esophagus irritation
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Gastric irritation
- Constipation
- Diarrhea


1. Overview
2. Esophagus irritation
3. Gastroesophageal reflux
4. Gastric irritation
5. Constipation
6. Diarrhea

2. Esophagus irritation

People who have difficulty swallowing tablets or oral pills or those that tend to operate them without any liquid may suffer from irritation of the esophagus.

In such cases, pill stationed a time into the esophagus before it reaches the stomach and releases certain chemicals that can irritate the esophageal mucosa. The time irritation may degenerate into serious diseases like ulcers, bleeding, perforation or esophageal stricture.

People who are at risk to develop such a problem are those who suffer from diseases such as:
- Presence of esophageal stricture;
- Scleroderma;
- Achalagia.

Drugs which cause esophageal irritation
- Antibiotics;
- Vitamin C;
- Aspirin;
- Quinidine;
- Potassium chloride;
- Iron.

To prevent this adverse effect is important to administer medicine with plenty of fluids (at least one glass of 250 ml water) and to stand up or sit when you swallow them, never lying down.

3. Gastroesophageal reflux

When ingested, some medications interact with the activity of sphincter muscle located between the esophagus and stomach. It is a passage that allows the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach after swallowing.

When a failure arises at this muscle, occur the phenomenon known as gastroesophageal reflux or stomach contents climbing back into the esophagus. Drugs responsible for this effect are:
- Nitrates;
- Theophylline;
- Calcium channel blockers;
- Oral antibiotics;
- Birth-control pills.

Reflux cannot be avoided entirely, but it can decrease the chances of developing or worsening symptoms if the patient avoids eating foods such as chocolate, coffee, fried foods, alcohol etc. Quitting smoking and avoiding bed resting immediately after eating can help in this regard.

4. Gastric irritation

Gastritis or gastric irritation is one of the repercussions of prolonged administration of NSAIDs. These drugs sensitize the stomach lining, which resist gastric acid in the stomach, and may lead to its inflammation and irritation, also known as gastritis.

Risk factors for the onset are present in people suffering from peptic ulcer or those who already have gastritis or are treated with such drugs for chronic diseases.

5. Constipation

Constipation is one of the most common side effects of many types of drugs and is caused by the fact that it affects the muscles and nerves of the colon (large intestine).

This effect leads to constipation. Some common drugs which cause constipation include:
- Antihypertensives;
- Anticholinergics;
- Cholestyramine;
- Iron;
- Antacids (especially those containing aluminum).

To prevent these side effects it is important to keep a balanced diet, rich in fiber, which helps improving slow bowel activity and easy evacuation of stools.

It is recommended throughout the treatment with such drugs, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, but especially whole grains. Fluid intake must increase, because it improves digestion and ensure a balanced bowel.

Daily physical activity or sport must complete diet rich in fiber and hydration. Physical activity is one of the most important adjuvant for digestion and bowel movements.

If constipation persists, while the treatment with drugs that have this side effect continues, it is important to consult your doctor in order to recommend you some laxatives to help digestion and fecal discharge. Laxatives are given only on medical advice.

6. Diarrhea

Diarrhea is another common consequence, especially after consumption of antibiotics. These drugs affect normal bacteria naturally present in the large intestine and leads to the appearance of an imbalance.

This raises the growth or multiplication of bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) which has the effect of antibiotic-induced diarrhea. Excessive multiplication of bacteria leads to the development of colitis, a condition that manifests with very soft and watery stools.

The most common types of antibiotics that cause these side effects are:
- Penicillins (including ampicillin and amoxicillin);
- Cephalosporins;
- Clindamycin.

There are other types of drugs, besides antibiotics that can disrupt the bowel and may determine diarrhea installing:
- Colchicine;
- Magnesium.

To treat colitis, the doctor also prescribes an antibiotic, but that fight C. difficile bacteria multiplication. Prevention of diarrhea caused by drugs can be achieved with gastric or probiotics dressing, and during treatment by avoiding foods that irritate the stomach.

It also acts in order to regulate fluid levels in the body. Through diarrhea is losing a lot of fluid resulting a high risk of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.

If diarrhea persists and does not improve after therapeutic measures listed, please consult your doctor in order to prescribe appropriate treatment.



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