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 irritable bowel syndrome .
The standard medical approach to dyspepsia begins by looking for an identifiable medical condition such as gallstones , ulcers , or esophageal reflux . If none is found, various treatments are often suggested on a trial-and-error basis, including medications that reduce stomach acid as well as those that decrease spasm in the digestive tract. The drugs cisapride (Propulsid) and metoclopramide (Reglan) increase stomach emptying, and have also been tried for dyspepsia. However, cisapride has been taken off the market, and metoclopramide causes many side effects.
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
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Artichoke article.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Essential Oils of Carminative Herbs
Herbs believed to assist in the passing of gas are traditionally called "carminatives." Classic carminatives include caraway , chamomile , dill, fennel , peppermint , spearmint, and turmeric . Essential oils made from some of these herbs have been studied for the treatment of dyspepsia.
Note : 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. See the Essential Oil article for more information.
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.
Other Herbs and Supplements
Herbs with a reputation for relaxing a nervous stomach, such as chamomile , valerian , and lemon balm , are also sometimes recommended for dyspepsia. Numerous other herbs that have been recommended for dyspepsia include angelica root, anise seed, barberry , bitter orange peel, blessed thistle , cardamom, centaury, chicory, dandelion root, cinnamon , cloves, coriander, devil's claw , dill, gentian , ginger , horehound , juniper , linden , milk thistle , radish, rosemary , sage , St. John's wort , star anise, and yarrow .
Betaine hydrochloride increases the acidity of the stomach, and on that basis it has been proposed as a digestive aid for people with inadequate stomach acid. However, there is no evidence that reduced stomach acid levels causes symptoms of indigestion.
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.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 07/25/2012 -