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Bentyl for IBS: An Overview

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Updated September 30, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Bentyl (dicyclomine) is an antispasmodic medication often prescribed for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

How Bentyl Works:

Bentyl is considered an anticholinergic medication because it reduces the effect of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The diminished action of acetylcholine results in a decrease in muscle spasms and secretion of mucus.

Side Effects of Bentyl:

The anticholinergic effect of Bentyl can affect systems throughout the body, resulting in uncomfortable side effects. The most commonly reported side effects include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Decreased urination
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth

Is Bentyl Effective?:

One clinical study assessed the effectiveness of Bentyl in reducing symptoms. The results indicated that Bentyl was superior to a placebo in reducing abdominal pain and tenderness, and improving bowel functioning and overall IBS symptoms. The downside was that approximately 68% of the patients experienced unpleasant anticholinergic side effects.

Taking Bentyl:

  • Antispasmodics such as Bentyl are especially helpful for IBS patients whose pain symptoms are worsened or triggered by meals. Because of this, Bentyl is best taken 30 to 60 minutes before eating.

  • Due to the risk of constipation, Bentyl might not be right for patients who suffer from constipation predominant IBS (IBS-C).

Sources:

Lacy, B., Weiser, K. & Lee, R. The treatment of irritable bowel syndrome Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology 2009 2:221 - 238.

Page, J. & Dirnberger, G. "Treatment of the irritable bowel syndrome with Bentyl (dicyclomine hydrochloride)" Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 1981 3:153-156.

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