OTC and herbal treatment of upper and lower GI problems
Aloe vera gel can be effective for GI issues.
Benefits: Treats a wide variety of upper and lower GI symptoms, including heartburn, indigestion, nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea and is even part of prescription regimens to eradicate Helicobacter pylori in combination with other agents. Effectively prevents and treats travelers' diarrhea.
Cautions: Avoid in children younger than 12 years old due to possible Reye's syndrome risk from salicylate component. Darkens stool, which can be confused with melanic stools. Not for continuous use.
Benefits: Ginger has been used in cooking, steeped in teas, and more recently used in supplements successfully to treat nausea. In addition, it has promotility and anti-inflammatory effects.2
Cautions: Generally well tolerated. Can stimulate bile flow, which may problematic in patients with gallstones or hepatobiliary obstruction.
Benefits: Improves reflux by increasing lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure. This has allowed numerous individuals to discontinue PPI therapy, and it also helps sleep. Anticancer properties are being studied. The dose needed for LES effects is generally in the range of 3 to 5 mg per day.3
Cautions: Needs to be taken two to three hours prior to going to bed to help sleep. May cause vivid dreams.
Zinc and zinc-carnosine
Benefits: Zinc alone has anti-inflammatory and gastroprotective effects. Zinc-carnosine has even stronger effects and specifically has been shown to speed up the healing of ulcers. It may also improve the elimination of Helicobacter pylori in combination with other agents.
Cautions: Zinc and zinc-carnosine can cause nausea, vomiting, and kidney and stomach damage, and it can have a metallic taste.
TABLE 1. Selected agents for upper GI problems
Zinc and zinc-