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Home arrow Health arrow Gut Health arrow Does Gabapentin Cause Constipation?

Does Gabapentin Cause Constipation?

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: July 18, 2023
5 min read 1302 Views 0 Comments
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Gabapentin is a drug used to treat seizures and nerve pain, but does it cause constipation?

does gabapentin cause constipation

An anticonvulsant, gabapentin helps to prevent, reduce the frequency of, and control seizures in those with epilepsy. 

Though it does help with the management of seizures, it is not a cure for the condition. It can also be used as a non-opioid pain medication to treat nerve pain in adults who have had shingles.

Like many medications, taking gabapentin comes with some side effects. In this article, we’re going to take a look at how taking gabapentin can cause constipation and other common side effects of taking gabapentin. Read on now to learn more.

Does Gabapentin Cause Constipation?

Taking gabapentin can result in constipation, but it is not a common side effect of taking the medication. In clinical trials of the drug, in adults taking gabapentin to treat nerve pain, only about 4% of people reported constipation, while in those taking gabapentin to control seizures, only 2% of people reported constipation as a side effect.

Though it is not yet common, gabapentin’s ability to induce constipation in some has led to the potential for the drug to be used to relieve symptoms of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. However, more research may still be needed.

Gabapentin works for many people with epilepsy and those with nerve pain related to cases of shingles, and as such, the benefits outweigh the negative side effect of constipation. Many drugs and health supplements, including iron supplements and NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, cause constipation, but the benefits outweigh the inconvenience of constipation.

How Common Is Constipation With Gabapentin?

Constipation caused by gabapentin is pretty rare. Clinical trials have shown it to be a rare side effect of taking gabapentin and may go away as your body adjusts to taking the drug. If you find that constipation becomes debilitating or causes problems like back pain or nausea, you may want to speak to your doctor about changing dosages, but it is important to note that stopping suddenly without seeking professional medical advice can cause serious problems.

As reported, constipation is rare in adults taking gabapentin, and the incidence of constipation caused by other medications, foods, and lifestyles is higher. The actual percentage of reported constipation cases caused by it may be much lower than originally thought.

What Are the Most Common Side Effects of Gabapentin?

The most commonly reported side effects of taking gabapentin appear on the drug information label as:

  • Feeling sleepy and tired
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Mood changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Memory issues
  • Headaches
  • Peripheral edema

Most side effects of gabapentin are found through self-reporting and clinical trials. While these are the most common side effects of the drug, they are by no means the only side effects you can experience. Likewise, you may not experience any side effects.

Other Gabapentin Side Effects

Other side effects of the drug found in clinical trials and through self-reporting include:

  • Suicidal thoughts – Though rare, thoughts of harming or killing yourself can occur within one week of taking the medication. If you experience this side effect, you should seek immediate medical attention.
  • Stomach pain that lasts a long while, feeling sick, or being sick – This can be a sign of an inflamed pancreas and need medical attention.
  • Violent behavior, aggressiveness, or anger.
  • Anxiety, depression, and irritability that is new or worse.
  • Panic attacks – This may be a symptom of heightened anxiety.
  • Insomnia and other sleeping difficulties.
  • Breathing difficulties not related to an allergic reaction – There is some evidence to link gabapentin with respiratory depression and possibly fatal difficulty breathing. Symptoms of respiratory depression include tiredness, weakness, shortness of breath, and shallow breathing. (For this reason, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic lung disease, are not advised to take it due to the possibly fatal difficulty breathing.)

Allergic reaction

Though rare, some people may experience an allergic reaction to this non-opioid drug. Symptoms of an allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, include:

  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness
  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Being sick or having stomach pain
  • Swelling

You must seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms of gabapentin misuse

Withdrawal symptoms of gabapentin misuse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating

Though it is rare, gabapentin misuse has been reported. It does not give the same effects as other misused drugs, like an opioid drug, but may be misused by someone with a history of substance abuse. You should speak with your doctor if you have such a history and are concerned about the use of gabapentin.

How to Relieve Constipation Quickly at Home

If you have infrequent bowel movements while on gabapentin, you may be looking for a home remedy to relieve constipation quickly and encourage a bowel movement. There are many home remedies that you could try out, including taking a fiber supplement, eating more high-fiber foods, and ensuring you are properly hydrated.

Fiber supplements are an effective method of relieving constipation quickly. Many of them can take effect within 24–72 hours and are effective in reducing the incidence of constipation and bloating.

These supplements are thought to cleanse the gut and promote better digestive health. They are also thought to stabilize blood sugar levels and can improve the look of the skin.

For further relief, you could try eating more high-fiber foods. Getting more fiber into your diet can help to promote regularity in bowel movements. Fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble, and they work together to help the body pass soft, painless stools on a regular basis.

If you’re not drinking enough water, your bowel movements become harder and more difficult to pass, which can result in constipation. It is recommended that you drink at least 2.7 liters a day for women and 3.7 liters a day for men.

Lastly, getting more exercise, like rowing for weight loss or cycling, is thought to help keep you regular. It is recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

FAQs

Is gabapentin a blood thinner?

Gabapentin is used as a treatment for epilepsy, a seizure disorder, to better treat seizures. For those who experience seizures, it can reduce their frequency of them. As well as a treatment for this seizure disorder, it may also be used as a non-opioid pain medication to relieve pain in the nerves.

Can gabapentin cause stress and anxiety?

Gabapentin has been shown to have some side effects. One of them is increased or new anxiety. However, this is considered a rare side effect.

Does gabapentin cause diarrhea?

While reported constipation is a rare effect of gabapentin, diarrhea is considered a more common negative effect of the drug. To find out more about the effects the drug can have, read through the drug information.

A Word From MD

Gabapentin may lead to constipation, but it is considered a rare side effect. If you experience infrequent bowel movements, it is likely to resolve itself after your body gets used to the drug and can be treated with at-home remedies.

Like many drugs, you can find most of the side effects of gabapentin in the medication guide. Side effects include everything from peripheral edema and diarrhea to heightened anxiety, though you may not experience any of these.

Some people, including those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a chronic lung disease), are advised not to take the drug as it could cause serious breathing problems, and in some rare instances, some people may experience an allergic reaction to the drug.

If you’re concerned about starting gabapentin, your doctor can explore the side effects with you. However, many drugs have side effects that are outweighed by the benefit they have for you. Everything from Tylenol to calcium supplements can cause constipation, and many at-home remedies exist to ease discomfort as your body gets used to them.

Conclusion

Constipation is a common experience for many, and many remedies exist. Some medications, like gabapentin, may cause constipation, but it is rare and is usually resolved as your body gets used to the drug.

If you experience constipation, you can call your doctor immediately to get some advice, but it is important to not stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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