Holidays and Corona Restrictions Can Become a Recipe for an Upset Stomach

The way to the heart is through stomach, as the old saying goes. But the effects of corona-related restrictions, stress and our favorite foods are felt there as well. Plant-based medicinal products can relieve unpleasant symptoms – and get the digestive tract back on track.

As the year draws to a close, families and friends around the world gather for the holidays. Due to the pandemic, this year’s gatherings and family celebrations will take place in ways we are unaccustomed to – but the long months of social distancing have made these days all the more precious. What brings good cheer to our hearts can sometimes also challenge the stomach – especially if festivities include enjoying sweets and more fatty or rich foods than normal.

 

Why do fatty foods trigger a pleasure response for so many people? Certain regions of the brain light up when we eat food rich in fat and calories. Another reason is that many flavors are highly fat-soluble – so fats intensify aromas in our food as so-called flavor carriers. But large amounts of fat or carbohydrates can also cause food to spend longer in our stomachs, which can lead to gas. These intestinal gases give us flatulence, stomach aches, or make us feel bloated. Sometimes going for a brisk walk helps. But if the discomfort is more persistent or recurring, then physical activity alone often isn’t enough – that’s when plant-based medicinal products can get the stomach and the intestine back on track.

 

Life During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Gastrointestinal Problems as a Response to Stress

Overeating is not the sole cause of digestive tract problems, though. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the present situation is causing stress, worry and anxiety in people around the world1,  and these emotions can be a real blow to the stomach – often a chronic one.

 

In many cases, the consequences are chronic gastrointestinal complaints, including stomach aches or flatulence. Strong feelings can cause issues, because each of us has a “second brain” – the enteric nervous system (ENS), a mesh-like system of about 100 million neurons in our abdomen that governs the digestive process. It regulates for example the production of gastric acid and the muscular contractions and relaxation of the stomach and intestines, for example.

 

The enteric nervous system is autonomous and can function independently of the brain - but it’s always communicating with the central nervous system via the vagus nerve. This connection to the body’s highest control center in our heads is of crucial importance: “The brain and the digestive tract are constantly exchanging important information. However, it is precisely this finely tuned communication that also can become unbalanced when disturbed,” says Dr. Olaf Kelber, an expert in plant-based medicinal products at Bayer.

 

Plant-Based Medicinal Products Can Bring Relief

When the brain needs to manage stress or major psychological strain, it often enlists other body functions as for example the stomach and intestines to assist in its response. After all, it’s not uncommon in such situations that we find ourselves coping with not only our mental agitation or frayed nerves – but also nausea, flatulence, or stomach pain. Here is where herbal remedies can save the day. Sometimes a cup of chamomile tea can really work wonders for stomach problems. The medicinal benefits of the chamomile flower have been celebrated for thousands of years. It has a relaxing effect on muscle cramps in the gastrointestinal tract and relieves, for example, discomfort from flatulence and bloating. Chamomile and a blend of other soothing medicinal herbs are also found in the new Iberogast® Advance. “A combination of medicinal herbs has the advantage of being able to simultaneously alleviate several different symptoms,” says Dr. Kelber, describing relief for an upset stomach and an irritated digestive tract.

Focusing on Regional, Sustainable Cultivation

Cultivation of medicinal plants used in Iberogast® Advance is subject to strict rules. Only the best medicinal plants available worldwide go into the bottle. And they are sourced and tested by the Bayer team in Darmstadt. “A number of different factors can affect the quality of our medicinal plants, including the climate, soil, harvest time, and processing. To assure the quality and safety of our plants, they are grown in specific regions in accordance with the Good Agricultural and Collection Practice (GACP),” remarks Dr. Dominic Sturm, Technical Supplier Manager Herbals. Joachim Leuschner, head of Technical Supplier Management Herbals at Bayer, adds: “Sustainability in purchasing, ecology, and ethics is always our highest priority in the cultivation of medicinal plants.” This is how growing medicinal plants can even enhance biodiversity.

“But even heartburn or other digestive issues should not prevent us from enjoying the precious time spent with family and friends,” admits Dr. Kelber. Because when all is said and done, social interaction satisfies our most fundamental human needs, which in turn strengthens our immune system – something more important now than ever before.

 


 1 https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf