• Gas, Indigestion, Poor Digestion, Stomach Upset
Dyspepsia is a catchall term that includes a variety of digestive problems such as stomach discomfort, gas, bloating, belching, appetite loss, and nausea. Although many serious medical conditions can cause digestive distress, the term dyspepsia is used when no identifiable medical cause can be detected. In this way, dyspepsia is like a stomach version of the symptoms in the intestines called
The standard medical approach to dyspepsia begins by looking for an identifiable medical condition such as
It's thought that stress plays a role in dyspepsia, as it does with irritable bowel syndrome. Interestingly, one study of 30 people with dyspepsia found that after 8 weeks of treatment with placebo, 80% reported their symptoms had improved.
In Europe, it is widely believed, though without much supporting evidence, that dyspepsia is commonly caused by inadequate function of the gallbladder.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
An extract of artichoke leaf has undergone considerable study in the last few years as a treatment for a variety of conditions, most prominently
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
The spice turmeric contains a substance, curcumin, that may stimulate gallbladder contractions.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Combination Herbal Treatments
Several studies, enrolling a total of more than 600 participants, have found benefits with a proprietary herbal combination therapy containing bitter
) as the major active ingredient.
A double-blind trial of 60 people given either placebo or a combination of artichoke leaf,
Essential Oils of Carminative Herbs
Herbs believed to assist in the passing of gas are traditionally called "carminatives." Classic carminatives include
For example, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study including 39 individuals found that an enteric-coated peppermint-caraway oil combination taken 3 times daily for 4 weeks significantly reduced dyspepsia pain as compared to placebo.
Results from a double-blind comparative study including 118 people suggest that the combination of peppermint and caraway oil is comparably effective to the standard drug cisapride, which is no longer available.
A preparation of peppermint, caraway, fennel, and
: Essential oils of herbs can present health risks. In particular, wormwood (the herb in absinthe) is dangerous when taken long term. Physician supervision is strongly recommended.
Preliminary evidence suggests that oral use of the herb
Here’s how it works: All hot peppers contain a substance called capsaicin. When applied to tissues, capsaicin causes release of a chemical called substance P . Substance P is ordinarily released when tissues are damaged; it is part of the system the body uses to detect injury. When hot peppers artificially release substance P, they trick the nervous system into thinking that an injury has occurred. The result: a sensation of burning pain. When capsaicin is applied regularly to a part of the body, substance P becomes depleted in that location. This is why individuals who consume a lot of hot peppers gradually build up a tolerance. It’s also the basis for a number of medical uses of capsaicin. When levels of substance P are reduced in an area, all pain in that area is somewhat reduced. Because of this effect, capsaicin cream is widely used for the treatment of painful conditions such as shingles, arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy.
Oral use of capsaicin may also reduce discomfort in the stomach.
In a double-blind study, 30 individuals with dyspepsia were given either 2.5 g daily of red pepper powder (divided up and taken prior to meals) or placebo for 5 weeks.
Other Herbs and Supplements
Herbs with a reputation for relaxing a nervous stomach, such as
Reduced levels of digestive enzymes may play a role in dyspepsia. One double-blind study found that use of pancreatic enzyme supplements improved symptoms following consumption of a high-fat meal.
Very weak evidence hints that melatonin might be helpful for dyspepsia.
Various herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to treat dyspepsia. For more information on this potential risk, see the individual drug article in the Drug Interactions section of this database.
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Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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