Probiotics: Friendly Bacteria
Probiotics contain living organisms -- mainly bacteria and one type of yeast. These resemble good bacteria in the gut that contribute to proper digestion. The supplements are used to treat certain GI problems and for general digestive health. Some types of probiotics may provide relief from diarrhea and may also relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Consider adding them to malted milk or yogurt.
DGL (Licorice): Cooling Heartburn
Licorice has long been used to treat symptoms of indigestion like heartburn and acid reflux. However, these uses are not supported by scientific evidence. In its unpurified form, it can also have side effects, including contributing to high blood pressure in some people. DGL is a specific extract of licorice with a certain chemical removed -- it doesn't have those side effects. Still, pregnant women should not take DGL -- or any other supplement -- without consulting their doctor.
Peppermint Oil: To Ease IBS
While the jury's still out, several studies suggest that peppermint oil may reduce pain and bloating that comes with IBS. Enteric-coated capsules don't dissolve in the stomach. They pass through to the small and large intestines, where the oil is released. In small doses, peppermint oil appears to be safe.
Chamomile: More Than a Soothing Tea
Chamomile is widely used for multiple ailments. Naturalists have tried chamomile in an effort to treat digestive problems such as upset stomach, colic, and nausea, as well as anxiety and insomnia. People with some plant allergies like ragweed, however, could theoretically have an allergic reaction to chamomile. Always discuss your use of any supplement with your doctor.
Ginger: Comfort for the Stomach
Asian medicine uses ginger to treat stomachaches. In the West, ginger is used to relieve nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Ginger is available as a powder, in capsules or tablets, or as freshly cut root. It's generally considered safe when taken in small doses -- 1 to 3 grams per day.
L-Glutamine: The Intestinal Helper
Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid. It supports the functioning of the intestines and other organs. The supplement L-glutamine may help relieve diarrhea induced by surgery, infections, or stress. It also enhances the absorption of nutrients in some patients. That includes people with excessive amounts of unfriendly bacteria in their digestive tracts, people who are taking cancer drugs, and people who have had part of their intestines removed.
Psyllium: Fiber for Constipation
Psyllium is used as an ingredient in bulk laxatives. Because of its high fiber content, it's able to absorb water in the intestines. That makes the stool bulky and easier to pass. It's important when treating constipation to drink plenty of fluids. This helps you avoid dehydration or a worse case of constipation. People allergic to English plantain pollen, grass pollen, or melon could have a serious allergic reaction when taking psyllium.
Artichoke: Relief of Stomach Upset
Artichoke leaf extract may relieve symptoms of dyspepsia, or indigestion. When used daily, the extract seems to reduce nausea, vomiting, gas, and abdominal pain. It also may be beneficial in treating IBS and in reducing cramps and abdominal pain. The extract has no known interactions with drugs. But it can cause allergic reaction in people who are allergic to ragweed and related pollens.
Check With Your Doctor First
Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA. That means there is no guarantee of their quality, effectiveness, or safety. It's important to always read the labels. It's also important to talk with your doctor before starting any new therapy. That's especially true if you're pregnant, have an existing medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements.