Life Extension Magazine®
Man holding his stomach in pain

Issue: Winter Edition 2020

Thwart Post-Meal Bloating and Indigestion

Up to 30% of people complain of after-meal bloating and related discomforts. Researchers have identified plant compounds that target the underlying causes. Clinical studies show they can help prevent gastrointestinal distress.

By Michael Downey.

As people age, they often experience bloating, gas, or nausea before they even finish a meal.

It’s more common than most people realize.

Up to 30% of people suffer from after-meal bloating, that uncomfortable feeling that your belly is swollen.1-3

Even when small meals are consumed, after-meal bloating remains a widespread problem.

Scientists have identified four plant extracts that target underlying causes of gastrointestinal discomforts.

In one human trial, more than 63% of the subjects taking an artichoke-ginger blend experienced significantly reduced feelings of bloating, gassiness, nausea, and other symptoms of indigestion.4

A fennel-curcumin combination relieved symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including bloating and stomach pain, by more than 50%, and completely prevented all symptoms in 25.9% of users.5

Taken together, these nutrients promise to relieve post-meal distress and improve quality of life.

The Causes of Bloating

Bloating is one of the most commonly reported gastrointestinal symptoms. It’s characterized by a feeling of excessive fullness, trapped gas, distension, and abdominal pressure and pain.2

No treatment has proven consistently effective,2 and drugs may have serious side effects.

Propulsid® was a drug frequently prescribed to alleviate bloating. But it caused abdominal pain, indigestion, gas, and nausea.6 It was removed from the U.S. market after it was associated with heart rhythm abnormalities.7

Two of the underlying causes of after-meal bloating are slow gastric motility and excess gas production.

When gastric motility slows, the ability of the stomach muscles to move food through the digestive tract is impaired.

Artichoke and Ginger

Man and woman sitting outside sharing a salad

Indigestion in the upper abdominal region is described as bloating or gassiness, a burning sensation, nausea, or feeling too full too quickly after starting to eat.

About 40% of patients have abnormally delayed gastric emptying, which means food simply sits in the stomach longer than it should.

Prokinetic drugs accelerate gastric emptying. They are often used to treat indigestion. But like Propulsid®, they have side effects.8

Fortunately, there are specific nutrients used for centuries that safely facilitate gastric emptying.

Researchers first focused on artichoke leaf and ginger root, which have long been used in traditional medicine to treat indigestion.8-10

Ginger has been shown in animal and human studies to promote gastric motility.4,8,10

Artichoke promotes bile acid secretion from the liver. Bile acid secretion is essential for accelerating gastrointestinal transit.

Artichoke is also an antispasmodic, which means it suppresses gut spasms or cramping. This also helps speed the movement of food through the digestive tract.4

Scientists decided to combine ginger and artichoke extracts to test their effects on bloating.4,11

Human Trials

Researchers created a blend of 100 mg of artichoke leaf extract and 20 mg of ginger root extract.4,11

They tested it on 126 healthy men and women, aged 18-70, who had functional dyspepsia (indigestion).

This was defined as having had complaints of early satiety (fullness), postprandial fullness (feeling too full after eating), bloating, or nausea for at least three months during the last year, without a known structural or biochemical cause.4

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, two groups took either 120 mg of the artichoke-ginger blend or a placebo twice daily. Patients rated the severity of each of six dyspeptic symptoms: fullness, bloating, early satiety, nausea, vomiting, and upper abdominal pain.

In 14 days, 44.6% of participants taking the artichoke-ginger blend had a marked (clinically significant) improvement in digestive symptoms, compared to 13.1% of the placebo users.

After four weeks, 63.1% of the artichoke-ginger group had a marked symptom improvement, while only 24.6% showed improvement in the placebo group. No adverse effects were reported.4

In another study, scientists used ultrasound to measure the size of the stomach area of 11 healthy men and women, aged 20-60, both before and after a standardized meal.11

When the artichoke-ginger blend was taken, subjects had a significantly smaller stomach area than when the placebo was taken. This indicates that the artichoke-ginger blend works by encouraging enhanced gastric emptying. 11

Fennel Seed and Curcumin Relieve Pain and Gas

Man eating a salad

Two other nutrients have been used to aid digestion: fennel and curcumin.

Seeds from fennel, a plant known for its licorice flavor, have long been consumed after meals to promote digestion and prevent flatulence.12

Studies show that fennel reduces gas production by inhibiting the activity of a methane-producing bacterial enzyme.13

In addition, clinical trials have shown that fennel seeds, tea, and seed oil promote gastrointestinal stimulation, improving gastric motility.5,14,15

Like artichoke, fennel also has an antispasmodic effect, reducing irregular muscle contractions that impair normal gut motility.5

Researchers combined fennel seed oil and a low-dose curcumin in a clinical trial to test their effect on bloating and abdominal pain.5

What you need to know

Relief for Post-Meal Problems

  • Bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms, marked by a feeling of excessive fullness, gas, and abdominal pressure and pain.
  • Scientists have identified four clinically effective compounds that target the underlying causes of bloating before it occurs.
  • A blend of artichoke leaf and ginger root extracts relieves symptoms of dyspepsia (indigestion), including bloating, nausea, vomiting, and upper abdominal pain.
  • A mix of fennel seed oil and curcumin decreases bloating, abdominal pain, and other severe symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Taken together, ginger root, artichoke leaf, fennel seed oil, and curcumin may help prevent or significantly reduce gastrointestinal distress, and improve quality of life.

Clinically Effective

Scientists enlisted 121 male and female volunteers, aged 18-60, who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.5 IBS is a chronic disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and abnormal bowel movements in the absence of identifiable cause.

Participants took a capsule twice daily that contained either a placebo or a combination of 25 mg of fennel seed oil and 42 mg of curcumin.

Researchers combined low-dose curcumin with fennel seed oil to reduce assorted symptoms of bloating. The curcumin was added to reduce inflammation in the gut. Fennel seed oil was used for its antispasmodic properties.

When these two compounds were used together, researchers found reduced abdominal pain and abdominal distention in study subjects.

After 30 days, those taking the fennel-curcumin mix reported an average 50.05% decrease in bloating, abdominal pain, and other IBS symptoms, nearly double the 26.12% decrease in the placebo group.5

All symptoms were improved by treatment. Among those taking the fennel-curcumin mix, 25.9% became completely symptom-free, compared to 6.8% of placebo users.

The treated group also reported significant improvement in quality of life, with no adverse effects.

Taken together with ginger root and artichoke leaf, this fennel-curcumin combination may significantly improve or even prevent after-meal bloating, gas, and abdominal pain, providing a solution to a problem many people thought they just had to live with.

Summary

Group of friends gathered around a table outside

Up to 30% of people complain of bloating after eating, which is often accompanied by gas, abdominal pressure and pain, and reduced quality of life.

Scientists have identified four compounds that target the underlying causes of this discomfort, which are slow gastrointestinal motility (movement) and excess gas production.

Ginger root, artichoke leaf, fennel seed oil, and curcumin have been shown to target these causes.

In clinical trials, they significantly reduce bloating, gas, feelings of excessive fullness, stomach distension, abdominal pain and discomfort.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

  1. Naseri M, Babaeian M, Ghaffari F, et al. Bloating: Avicenna’s Perspective and Modern Medicine. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016 Apr;21(2):154-9.
  2. Lacy BE, Cangemi D, Vazquez-Roque M. Management of Chronic Abdominal Distension and Bloating. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Apr 1.
  3. Lacy BE, Gabbard SL, Crowell MD. Pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment of bloating: hope, hype, or hot air? Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2011 Nov;7(11):729-39.
  4. Giacosa A, Guido D, Grassi M, et al. The Effect of Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) Extract Supplementation on Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomised, Double-Blind, and Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:915087.
  5. Portincasa P, Bonfrate L, Scribano ML, et al. Curcumin and Fennel Essential Oil Improve Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2016 Jun;25(2):151-7.
  6. Available at: https://www.rxlist.com/propulsid-side-effects-drug-center.htm. Accessed July 30, 2020.
  7. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/propulsid_to_go_off_market_-_warning/views.htm. Accessed July 30, 2020.
  8. Hu ML, Rayner CK, Wu KL, et al. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jan 7;17(1):105-10.
  9. Nathan M. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Annals of Internal Medicine. 1999;130(5).
  10. Micklefield GH, Redeker Y, Meister V, et al. Effects of ginger on gastroduodenal motility. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Jul;37(7):341-6.
  11. Lazzini S, Polinelli W, Riva A, et al. The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) extract supplementation on gastric motility: a pilot randomized study in healthy volunteers. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2016;20(1):146-9.
  12. Rather MA, Dar BA, Sofi SN, et al. Foeniculum vulgare: A comprehensive review of its traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and safety. Arabian Journal of Chemistry. 2016 2016/11/01/;9:S1574-S83.
  13. Patra AK, Kamra DN, Agarwal N. Effects of extracts of spices on rumen methanogenesis, enzyme activities and fermentation of feeds in vitro. J Sci Food Agric. 2010 Feb;90(3):511-20.
  14. Alexandrovich I, Rakovitskaya O, Kolmo E, et al. The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;9(4):58-61.
  15. Ma HW, Zhao JT, Zhao X. The Effect of Fennel Tea Drinking on Postoperative Gut Recovery after Gynecological Malignancies Operation. Sichuan Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Xue Ban. 2015 Nov;46(6):940-3.