IBS Tales Home > Treatment Reviews > IBS Medications > Elavil


Rated 4.1/5 based on 10 reviews

Elavil (amitriptyline) is a tricyclic anti-depressant which affects the balance of chemicals in the brain. Although Elavil is most commonly used to treat depression, like other anti-depressants it can also be used to treat IBS, and particularly the pain of IBS. It is generally given to IBS patients in lower doses than those given to depressed patients. Elavil comes in tablet form.

Elavil side effects

The most common side effects of Elavil are drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, weight gain and problems with urination.


Review by Katie

I have suffered with IBS since I was around four. I have tried many diets and food diaries and been hospitalised on many occasions. I have always suffered with IBS-C so I took laxatives (Movicol and Fybogel) and Buscopan. Sometimes it was so bad I would take a Fleet laxative which is to prepare people for operations on the bowel, as even after five enemas I could not go to the bathroom!

Last year I had my gallbladder removed as I was in constant pain. Even though all scans and test were clear, when it was removed it showed I had been in organ failure and it had lesions all over it. Not having my gallbladder made me feel a lot better, but I started to suffer with IBS-D. I was 27 and I did not like going out, I couldn't enjoy meals or go for drinks, I was always worried about needing the bathroom and I started leaving meetings at work to go to the bathroom.

My doctor recommended treatment with Imodium (for diarrhea - what a genius thought!). However, whenever I took Imodium my stomach became very swollen and I started being sick. They also put me on 30mg of codeine which just made me really ill and relieved none of the symptoms.

Eventually one of my mum's friends told me she was on amitriptyline and said it has changed her life. I went straight to the doctor and I was told we should give it a go (I am not sure why they had never suggested it before). It is day four and I have noticed a huge difference! I went to lunch with friends for the first time in ages and I had no pain and did not need to run to the bathroom after every five mouthfuls. I have been slowly trying different foods and it has been amazing. I even managed Chinese which had been off-limits since I can't remember how long!

It's still early days. I take 10mg before bed and I have had no side effects, I've been getting up fine and not feeling drowsy. After reading some of the reviews of amitriptyline's side effects I was concerned, but I have had none. It's been amazing and I feel more confidant about eating again already. I haven't eaten out or enjoyed food in a long time but now me and Bernard (this is my nickname for my bowel) are starting all over again!

Review by Rae

I have had Crohn's for 25 years and I have managed it very well, but last year I was stricken with terrible stomach pains. I thought it it was the Crohn's until my gastro told me I could be the poster child for IBS, the worst case he has ever seen. This has affected my quality of life and work, making it impossible to enjoy the things that I loved to do.

I tried all the meds and probotics with no relief until my doctor gave me Elavil. I feel 90% better. I have not had coffee in six months and I am enjoying my first cup as we speak. I am on a very low dosage and I have not had any side effects other than dry mouth.

Review by Chris

I have been taking Elavil for IBS for over four years now. I am currently taking 125mg and my doctor wants me to up it to 150mg. I don't have to go as much as before, but it has done nothing for gas and bloating. I still cannot eat any fiber or I will suffer horrible cramping attacks that can last for hours. I doubt adding 25mg will help. My symptoms were actually getting worse. My doctor also put me on Flagyl which is an antibiotic for bacterial overgrowth in the intestines. I just finished yesterday and tomorrow I have to start probiotics. We will see. My daughter takes 100mg Elavil for her IBS and it works well for her.

Review by Julie

I have lived with IBS for about eight years. It had been getting progressively worse and was beginning to control my life. It determined whether I would go out to dinner with friends or even whether I would leave the house for more than an hour or two. I was taking Imodium every morning as a preventative measure, but I still had attacks throughout the day. I was thinking about buying stock in whoever makes Imodium!

But about a year ago I found my cure. I hadn't been seeing a GI doctor for my IBS because all they had been able to do for me was prescribe Donnatal which didn't help at all. But I had been seeing a psychiatrist during this time since I've also dealt with depression for over a decade.

So, about a year ago I asked my psychiatrist to switch me to Cymbalta because I had heard it could be used for IBS relief as well as depression. Well, to make what's turning into a long story short, the Cymbalta didn't work, but once my shrink found out I also had IBS he prescribed imipramine (brand name Tofranil), which is closely related to amitriptyline. I have been IBS-free ever since.

I take 150mg per day and it treats both my depression and my IBS. It has truly changed my life. I can eat whatever I want...Mexican, Italian, whatever! I can now go to dinner and a movie, whereas before I had to go to the movie first and then dinner, because I knew we would be speeding home after the dinner so I could go to the potty!

I can leave the house in the morning and stay out all day and not worry about how far I am from a bathroom. The difference is amazing. IBS is such a horrible disease to live with, I sincerely hope that imipramine works for some of you.

Review by Laurie

I discovered that Elavil was used for both diarrhea-predominant IBS and migraines - both of which I have. I got my doctor to prescribe it and it has been the only thing that has helped me keep on weight. The sleepiness is manageable with careful timing at night, and I tested different times to see what works. A routine sleep schedule is best.

One drawback - I seem to desensitize to it. I've had to increase my dose by about 10mg every year or so due to an increase in frequency of stools. I'm currently at another one of those breakthrough points, where the dose needs to go up. I'm not happy about that because I was so happy on my lower doses (10, 20, then 30mg) and I'd rather not be on a high enough dose to start experiencing some of the other side effects (eg: urinary retention).

Review by J

After seeing several different doctors, each with a different diagnosis, I had lost about 80 pounds due to diarrhea and cramping. This put me at about 145lbs for a six foot two young man. I finally read that Elavil could relieve some of the symptoms of this disorder and convinced my doctor to prescribe it for me.

This medicine is almost like a miracle cure. I steadily upped the dosage to 50mg a day once at bedtime, and found that this dosage was a good balance between pain/cramping/diarrhea relief and some of the sedative side effects. I managed to put back on about 35 pounds and I have had relatively few symptoms. I eat a high soluble fiber (no lettuce, celery etc) no-fat diet and exercise regularly which seems to keep most of the other symptoms at bay.

Review by Keith

After a good response with anti-spasmodics for two months the drugs stopped working, so I tried others with no success. My doctor put me on Elavil, and it worked very well within a day of taking my first dose of 20mg a day, but the side affects were tiredness and lack of energy, so my doctor has said to half the dose and hopefully that will help.

Review by Celeste

I took Elavil for a couple of years after being diagnosed with IBS-D. It was the first thing that gave me any relief after trying various anti-spasmodics and anti-cholinergics. Elavil relieved my symptoms about 90% and allowed me to live a pretty normal life.

My one problem with it was that I found it very sedating. I constantly felt sleepy and I had a lot of trouble getting up in the morning. Then I discovered Digestive Advantage IBS. I took both for a while and eventually I was able to give up the Elavil altogether. I noticed how much less sedated I was immediately. I had been taking it for granted, thinking it was just me, but it wasn't.

Review by Jessica

This product has helped by reducing the IBS-D. When I forgot to take it once, I felt worse the next day. It does not help with the bloating and heaviness though, and sometimes I still get cramps.

Review by Mary

Elavil completely made my IBS-D disappear beginning with the first pill. I started at 10mg a day, and now I am at 50mg and feel zero pain and have zero diarrhea problems. Unfortunately, I am now a blueberry - I gained about 15 pounds. So I'm not in pain anymore and can actually leave the bathroom behind, but I'm fat!

Do you suffer from IBS? Have you tried Elavil? Please contact Sophie to send in your review.