Medicinal Foods for Functional GI Disorders

  • Brent W. Acker
  • Brooks D. CashEmail author
Neurogastrointerology and Motility Disorders of the Gastrointestinal Tract (S Rao, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Neurogastroenterology and Motility Disorders of the Gastrointestinal Tract


Purpose of Review

Over the past 10 years, there has been a dramatic increase in basic and clinical research involving functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs). New diagnostic and biomarker procedures are helping to identify physiologic disruptions associated with FGIDs on cellular and molecular levels. Simultaneously, clinicians are using new approaches to help manage patients with FGIDs. Among these, an important component of care has been the use of medical foods. These include probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, peppermint oil, caraway oil, curcumin, bovine immunoglobulin and many others.

Recent Findings

The putative effects of different medical foods make these therapies attractive for the management of FGIDs. These include effects on several pathophysiological mechanisms such as anti-inflammatory, smooth muscle relaxation, analgesia, mitigation of gut barrier dysfunction, and stimulation or inhibition of gastrointestinal receptors. Recent research has also demonstrated the efficacy of medical food products such as peppermint oil and serum-derived bovine immunoglobulin for the management of irritable bowel syndrome. Older data supports the probiotic VSL#3 and Bifidobacterium species. For functional dyspepsia, positive effects have been observed with the combination of caraway seed oil and peppermint oil as well as with STW-5, a botanical combination preparation, although robust RCTs are lacking.


With advancing knowledge regarding the pathogenesis of FGIDs, it is likely that the compounds available in the medical food category will increase dramatically, and they could play an important role in the management of several common and bothersome gastrointestinal conditions in the future.


Irritable bowel syndrome Functional dyspepsia Peppermint oil Serum-derived bovine immunoglobulin STW-5 Medical foods 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Brent Acker declares no conflict of interest. Brooks Cash reports receiving personal fees from IM Health Sciences.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Division of GastroenterologyUniversity of South Alabama School of MedicineMobileUSA

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