Tummy tips: Digestive precautions for the holidays

December 10, 2014

What to do when your innards let you know that you've done too much already.

The end of the year brings rounds of holiday celebrations that can sorely tax partygoers’ good intentions - and digestions. For those who have a tendency to overindulge, it’s a good time to consider some products to keep on hand for the night before or the morning after.

Heartburn, gastric reflux

Symptom relief is a good place to start. For frequent heartburn sufferers who haven’t heard, Nexium went OTC this year and is now available under the name Nexium 24HR. The extremely popular proton pump inhibitor - its active ingredient is esomeprazole 20 mg - from AstraZeneca is being marketed by Pfizer, which has exclusive global rights.

Here is some intriguing Nexium math, found at the Nexium website: “Nexium 24HR may take 1-4 days for full effect, which is 24 hours of complete relief from frequent heartburn.” Don’t try to decode this.

The website also states that “Nexium 24HR has been shown to treat frequent heartburn for up to 24 hours when taken once each morning before eating for 14 consecutive days.” Incidentally, patients should not take this product for more than 14 days, or more often than every four months, unless a doctor tells them to.

For patients who ask the difference between Rx Nexium and OTC Nexium24, according to the manufacturer it is a matter of indications and directions for use; in the case of esomeprazole 20 mg, the drug and the dosage are identical. Other dosages and formulations remain available by prescription only. (www.nexium24hr.com/us)

Flatulence

As our theoretical case of unbridled gourmandise moves from excess to distress, one symptom of crabby tummy might turn out to be flatulence. Relief is at hand, in the form of Phazyme Anti-Gas soft gels, a product of C.B. Fleet Co., available in strengths of 180 mg and 250 mg. Calling the latter formulation “the first increased-strength anti-gas product in over 15 years,” the company states that Maximum Strength Phazyme’s 250 mg of simethicone qualify it as “the strongest dose available without a prescription to relieve the bloating, discomfort, and pressure from gas.” The single-dose soft gels are easy to swallow and go to work in minutes. (www.phazyme.com)

For simethicone fans who want to play the field, Boehringer Ingelheim offers DulcoGas Maximum Strength Chewable Tablets (125 mg), available in three flavors: Wild Berry, Tangy Citrus, and Sabor Tropical. The product starts working in minutes to provide “dependable relief from discomfort, bloating and pressure ... from gas that may accompany constipation or result from eating certain foods.” (www.dulcolax.com)

 

Constipation

This brings us to another unfortunate consequence of holiday excess: consumption of so much - or so much of the wrong sort of thing - that the hardworking digestive enterprise simply lays down its tools in protest and grinds to a halt. As all post-surgical patients know, constipation is notable for knocking thoughts of anything nonconstipatory entirely out of one’s head.

No visit to the Dulcolax armamentarium is complete without a look at the other weapons it offers to those seeking to fight the good fight, including DulcoLax and (for women) DulcoLax Pink Laxative Tablets (active ingredient bisacodyl USP 5 mg), Dulcolax Stool Softener and (for women) DulcoEase Pink liquid gels (active ingredient, docusate sodium 100 mg), and Dulcolax Laxative Suppositories (active ingredient, bisacodyl USP 10 mg), with or without DulcoGlide Applicators. (www.dulcolax.com)

But wait - there’s more. Constipation sufferers who prefer to place their trust in a less overtly pharmaceutical alternative can avail themselves of the Prunelax products from Garden House, which are made from dried plum extract and an assortment of herbs.

The Prunelax Tablet is described as an “effective yet gentle laxative that relieves occasional constipation within 8 to 12 hours.” Dried-plum aficionados can go for Prunelax Jam, while the whole family can down Prunelax Liquid, made with fruit juice and herb extracts, and designed for users two years of age and up.

The tablets do not contain sugar and are safe for diabetics; the other two products do contain sugar and are not recommended.

It should be added that the Prunelax website presents a page of health tips that is noteworthy for its common sense and clear information. (www.ciruelax.com/usa/prunelax/)

Immune support

Once the misery of overindulgence and its attendant ills has been remedied, the thoughts of the newly penitent may turn to prevention.

It is becoming more widely known by consumers that the immune system can be considered to reside in the gut, powered by troops of friendly bacteria (probiotics are new recruits), and that it is a good thing to nourish them and keep them strong (enter digestive enzymes and prebiotics), so that they will stay on the job of keeping us strong. To that end, probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes are high on many people’s daily go-to list. Below are some possibilities.

The Digestive Health line of Core Health Products offers several items. The company states that its Digestive Enzyme Blend includes high levels of proteases designed for maximal protein use and a lipase blend that maximizes digestion and use of fat for energy. Its Probiotic Blend provides “more than 2.5 billion CFU of live, active probiotics from 13 different species,” chosen for their known health benefits. The Prebiotic and Herbal Support Blend combines inulin, a dietary fiber, with glutamine and the digestive aids ginger, peppermint, beet root, and chamomile, and according to the manufacturer addresses all aspects of intestinal health. The Maximum Enzyme Delivery System is said to offer numerous benefits, including digestive and eliminative aid, calming properties for stomach and digestion, immune support, enhanced use of muscle-building nutrients, and increased nutritional absorption. (www.corehealthproducts.com)

While we’re on the subject, worth noting, although not new, is the Digestive Health Probiotic from Nature Made. Each capsule has 10 billion live cells of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, a probiotic occurring naturally in human beings that helps foster the growth of friendly bacteria and supports balanced digestive health. (www.naturemade.com/supplements/probiotics/digestive-health-probiotic).

Also from Nature Made is Lactobacillus Acidophilus, said to “improve intestinal motility to help maintain regularity” in addition to promoting digestive balance and supporting intestinal health. Each tablet contains 500 million live cells; recommended dosage is two tablets daily. (www.naturemade.com/supplements/acidophilus)

Those with a tendency to celebrate not wisely but too well might consider stocking up on some of these digestive aids. And hey, whether you go for an ounce of prevention or a pound of cure, be careful out there!