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Ask the Pharmacist: Solutions for gastrointestinal upset

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Suzy Cohen, Columnist
Published 7:43 a.m. ET Jan. 18, 2021

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Heartburn, nausea, constipation or other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are no fun. Unfortunately, neither are many of the medications used to treat them. Some popular categories of medication that can upset your stomach include antibiotics, cholesterol pills, acid blocking heartburn drugs and hormones such as oral contraceptives.

By a mile, acid blockers are the most popular over-the-counter (OTC) drug that people take. Millions of people use them due to easy accessibility. If you do, you should know they are one of the strongest “drug muggers” out there, capable of robbing your body of practically every essential nutrient you need for health! They can reduce levels of probiotics, magnesium, folate, B12, calcium, vitamin C, iron and others. 

Laxatives can help safely relieve a person’s occasional constipation, but when used excessively, they’ll reduce levels of several minerals including blood-pressure stabilizing potassium and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Complications from muscle cramps, to vision problems, to heart palpitations can result. If you get diagnosed with diseases related to your eyes, muscles or heart, it could be related to routine use of laxatives. I have a longer version of this article hosted at my website. Whatever the problem and whatever cause, here are some natural solutions to help you if you’re experiencing GI discomfort: 

Zinc carnosine

If you have mouth sores, this could be helpful. These supplements help heal the mucosal lining and there is research that shows it helps repair the gut and reduce inflammation in the mouth. It can help a little with gastric ulcers/pain. Generally taken as twice daily, once before breakfast and again at bedtime for a total of eight weeks.  

Make marshmallow tea

If you have reflux (GERD), heartburn, peptic ulcers, hiatal hernia, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, diarrhea, celiac disease, or H. pylori infection, then this remedy can help you. The magic happens because marshmallow root (not the fluffy confection) contains a lot of mucilage, a gooey, gelatinous substance that some plants naturally produce. When you drink it, it acts as a demulcent, creating a soothing film that coats your irritated mucous membranes and relieves pain and inflammation quickly. My recipe video is on YouTube which shows how to make it. 

Get some mastic gum

Mastic gum is a resin extracted from the mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus. It’s used as a natural remedy for many intestinal and bowel disorders, including indigestion, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, gastritis, ulcers and dyspepsia. 

Focus on fiber

One of the easiest ways to relieve constipation is to get enough fiber. You don’t have to supplement necessarily, just increase your intake of vegetables and fruits.

Use DGL

Licorice root contains an abundance of healing flavonoids and phytoestrogens, along with the anti-inflammatory compound glycyrrhizin. It can soothe irritated membranes. DGL is best taken in a chewable tablet about 20 minutes before meals. 

Pump up your probiotics

These are the friendly bacteria in your digestive tract that make up your microbiome. The more friendly ones you have, the better you feel and faster your transit time.

More: Ask the Pharmacist: Five effective tips to lose weight

And: Ask the Pharmacist: Tea seed oil has profound health benefits

Also: Ask the Pharmacist: The new medications in 2020

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.

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