Digestive Aids: FSA Eligibility
What are digestive aids?
Digestive aids are OTC medicines that encompass a wide range of potential treatments that are used to alleviate common digestive issues, such as diarrhea, heartburn, irregularity, bloating and other maladies that can arise infrequently or as a result of an underlying medical condition. These medications are available in numerous forms, including gelcaps, liquids, tablets, powders and much more to treat a wide variety of potential symptoms. The most common digestive aids on the market include:
- Acid Controllers: Acid controllers, also known as antacids, are the most commonly used products to neutralize acid buildup in the stomach that is produced normally to aid in the digestion of food and to kill harmful bacteria. Acid controllers counteract the effects of stomach acid by introducing bases (alkalis) into the stomach. Combining alkalis and acids will nullify the effects of the damaging effects of the acids in a process called "neutralization." By making the contents of the stomach less corrosive, acid controllers effectively eliminate the pain and discomfort associated with acid reflux and stomach acid issues (WebMD).
- Laxatives: Individuals who suffer from constipation can utilize laxatives that contain ingredients that can improve stool frequency, bulk and intestinal motility to expel material from the gastrointestinal tract. These medications fall into a series of categories including bulking agents (typically containing fiber), lubricant laxatives (mineral oil), emollient laxatives (stool softeners), osmotic laxatives and stimulant laxatives.
- Anti-Diarrheals: Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-diarrheal medicines are one of the most effective means of clearing up diarrhea symptoms available. Anti-diarrheal medicines like loperamide (Imodium) work by slowing down peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the bowels that work to expel material from the digestive tract. Conversely, products like Kaopectate/Pepto Bismol that contain bismuth subsalicylate fight diarrhea by changing the balance of fluid in the intestines. While products like these are extremely effective in eliminating diarrhea symptoms, they do not treat the underlying cause of the problem and patients should consult their doctors if the problem persists.
- Anti-Gas Medicines: Excessive gas buildup in the body can lead to uncomfortable symptoms, and many turn to over-the-counter (OTC) anti-gas medicines for fast-acting relief. The primary ingredient found in most anti-gas medicines is simethicone, which alleviates the painful symptoms of excessive gas buildup in the stomach and intestines by allowing gas bubbles to come together, therefore allowing them to pass more easily. In addition to its over-the-counter variants available in tablets, liquids and capsules, simethicone also has a role in mainstream medicine and it is typically given to patients before undergoing a gastroscopy or a radiography to examine the bowel.
- Enzyme Supplements: The gastrointestinal tract consists of a variety of gut flora, or digestive bacteria and enzymes that aid in the breakdown and absorption of food. For example, some individuals will take a lactase enzyme supplement to prevent digestive issues that arise from ingesting products made with dairy. There are a wide variety of digestive enzyme supplements on the market, including both single enzyme and multiple enzyme variants that are taken with food and have the potential to clear abnormal digestive symptoms over time. However, it's advisable for patients to speak with a doctor before embarking on a digestive enzyme regimen to find the right product to suit their needs.