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Do you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux often? Does a regular sized meal make you feel very full? Do you experience gastric pain in your upper abdomen, especially after a meal? Do you find that some foods or food groups don’t suit you? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be suffering from a condition known as Functional Dyspepsia (FD). Functional dyspepsia is common worldwide. One study estimated that 20% of the U.S. population could be suffering from Functional Dyspepsia, which also finds place among the top three gastrointestinal diseases here.
Dyspepsia simply means hampered or inefficient digestion. We could trace it back to a number of causes – from infections such as bacterium called Helicobacter pylori to stomach ulcers and to more serious issues like stomach cancers.
In the absence of any serious structural problems like ulcers or hiatus hernia, the dyspepsia is termed ‘functional dyspepsia’.
Some of the symptoms of functional dyspepsia, like acidity and heartburn, can overlap with other conditions like GERD (Gastro-Intestinal Reflux Disease). In fact, some recent research has suggested that FD and GERD overlap to such an extent that they could perhaps be considered related diseases.
The first step is to get a confirmed diagnosis of functional dyspepsia. Sometimes, functional dyspepsia can be caused by a Helicobacter pylori infection. You may be prescribed a course of antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection. Dietary supplements can help in the battle against H Pylori too. In some people, the elimination of this bacterium does not result in complete relief from the dyspepsia. Ginger and artichoke extracts can provide specific relief from functional dyspepsia.
Ginger is an integral part of both the regular cuisine and the home medicine cabinet in many eastern cultures. Ginger supplements have been studied for functional dyspepsia too. It has been found that ginger root extracts can increase the contractions of stomach muscles and help to empty the stomach and let food move forward in the digestive system. This is known as ‘gastric emptying’. Gastric emptying can eliminate the feeling of being too full or bloated.
In a clinical trial with 125 people, supplements containing extracts from ginger root and leaves of artichokes were given to people as part of their functional dysplasia treatment. Over a 4-week follow-up period, patients who received the supplement (1 capsule before lunch and dinner, each) had lower stomach pain and no sensations of nausea or bloating when compared to those who received the placebo. The supplement contained 100 mg of artichoke leaf extract and 20 mg of ginger root extract.
Ginger has been indicated as a medicinal supplement for functional dyspepsia treatment in traditional Iranian medicinal literature as well. Artichoke Leaf Extract, in addition to having support in traditional medicine literature, is known to exert its action by being a bile-stimulant. Bile is needed for the efficient digestion of fats and ALE may be acting through this route to help with FD.
Another interesting fact about ginger is that it finds support in Traditional Chinese Medicine (called TCM in the U.S.) as well. Ginger is an important constituent of a pill called Xiao Yao (also called Happy Tummy Pills). In a trial with perimenopausal women who also suffered from functional dyspepsia and depression, this pill was given for 8 weeks (3 grams before breakfast and dinner, each) and the patients were followed-up for 6 weeks thereafter.
The Xiaoyao pill brought about reduction in symptoms of functional dyspepsia and depression. The results are not surprising since functional dyspepsia can also cause a state of malabsorption of nutrients, leading to other effects like depression or fatigue. When the proper absorption of nutrients is restored, it can help to reduce other health problems as well.
Ginger is also a part of other traditional Chinese medicines, namely Liu Jun Zi Tang (LJZT) and Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang (XSLJZT). These formulations have been found to be effective in the treatment of functional dyspepsia with the same effectiveness as allopathic drugs that stimulate contractions of the stomach.
Ginger root extracts seem to have beneficial effects on the digestive system; this becomes even more potent when it is combined with Artichoke Leaf Extract. Here is a guide to the dietary supplements that can help support acidity and related conditions.