First Defense for GI Ailments

Posted by Pharmacist on July 31, 2010

If you suffer from lactose intolerance, heartburn, acid reflux or other stomach problems, your physician or pharmacist can recommend a variety of medications to treat these problems.  As a first defense, you may want to try some natural remedies before you initiate a drug.  Here is a list of some of the best:


A recent study showed that tea reduces the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

This can greatly affect digestive health.  Tea has long been recommended in treating gas, indigestion, diarrhea, and bloating.

Best bets– Ginger, peppermint, and chamomile.


Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have long touted the benefits of spices.  Promising ones include cinnamon to aid in constipation and relieve abdominal spasms caused by gas.

Ginger is used for treating diarrhea and nausea.

Best bets– Use ginger root extract from pills or fresh ginger in cooking or hot water.  Do avoid ginger in pills if you are on blood thinning meds or on blood pressure medication.


Fiber promotes regularity, removes toxins and promotes regularity.  Fiber has also been shown to help in lowering glucose and cholesterol levels.

Best bets-Fruits and vegetables with skins on, bran flakes, and legumes.  Try to eat 25-35 grams of fiber per day and make sure to increase your water intake if you are increasing your fiber.  Increasing your fiber and not increasing your fluid can cause constipation.

Fruits and Vegetables:

Some fruits and vegetables contain digestive enzymes that aid in breaking down protein, carbohydrates and starches.  Bloating, gas, cramps and indigestion all decrease due to these digestive enzymes.

Best bets– romaine lettuce, spinach, papaya, pineapple and seaweed are all high in digestive enzymes.  Stick to fresh as canning can make these enzymes inactive.

Probiotics and Prebiotics:

Probiotics can help treat gastrointestinal illnesses and keep the bad bacteria in your stomach from causing problems.  Prebiotics help probiotics work.  Combining prebiotics and probiotics will provide the most benefit for your stomach.

Best bets for prebiotics– bananas, flax, honey, oats, garlic, legumes, berries, almonds, artichokes.

Best bets for probiotics– cottage cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk.  Look for the National Yogurt Association’s Live and Active Cultures seal check out to ensure that there are enough probiotics for a health benefit.

One Response to “First Defense for GI Ailments”
  1. M. Hopson says:

    I’ve read some articles that not all yogurt or kefir are created equal. Some yogurt or kefir could have more sugar or other ingredients that may not contribute positively on our body. I’ve also read that when choosing yogurt, the most preferable onse would be the greek style or plain yogurt. Here’s a good resource about probiotics :

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