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All the Latest GI Research You Actually Need to Know

Image of All the Latest GI Research You Actually Need to Know
Image of All the Latest GI Research You Actually Need to Know

When you struggle with a GI condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it’s easy to feel discouraged.

While there are treatments that can help reduce the severity of those not-so-fun symptoms, there’s no magic pill or cure that immediately kicks all of your misery to the curb.

Fortunately, the field of medicine advances quickly, which means there are a number of new medications and treatments on the horizon that you can get excited about.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest GI research—whether you want to consider a new course of action or just want to impress your friends with your cutting-edge medical knowledge.

New GI medications that are FDA-approved

Rifaximin for bloating in IBS-D

Status: FDA-approved Treatment type: Oral antibiotic Effectiveness: Proven effective in a clinical trial Availability: Available with a prescription

If you struggle with IBS-D (meaning, IBS that causes increased diarrhea), Rifaximin could provide some much-needed relief from some of your most unpleasant symptoms. In a recent composite of three trials, Rifaximin showed that it’s not only effective at treating the diarrhea itself, but that participants also experienced a significant improvement in bloating.

New GI medications undergoing clinical trials

Delayed-release Linaclotide for IBS-C

Status: Linaclotide is FDA-approved, but the delayed-release formula is currently in development. Treatment type: Oral capsule Effectiveness: Proven effective in clinical trials Availability: Linaclotide is available with a prescription, but the delayed-release formulation is not yet available

Perhaps you deal with the other end of the spectrum when it comes to IBS—you experience frequent constipation. You might have heard of a medication called Linaclotide (or, perhaps by its brand name Linzess®), which is already FDA-approved and available with a prescription. However, that’s the immediate-release formulation. Now, researchers are studying whether a delayed-release version could be even more effective. So far, the results are promising with study participants experiencing a reduction in both constipation and abdominal pain.

Vonoprazan for acid reflux

Status: In development for FDA submission by Phathom Pharmaceuticals Treatment type: Oral tablet Effectiveness: Proven effective in clinical trials Availability: Not yet available

Vonoprazan is part of a class of drugs called potassium-competitive acid blockers (P-CABs). Quite the mouthful, isn’t it? P-CABs are available in various parts of the world already, but aren’t yet widely available here in the United States. Much like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), P-CABs reduce the amount of acid that’s made by the stomach—which, in turn, means less acid reflux symptoms. Studies indicate that PCABs could be an effective alternative to PPIs when it comes to treating acid reflux, peptic ulcer disease, and Helicobacter pylori infections in the stomach. Vonoprazan is a specific type of P-CAB that’s currently undergoing clinical trials in the United States.

Baclofen for GERD

Status: FDA-approved for treating muscle spasms Treatment type: Oral tablet or liquid Effectiveness: Positive results in trials, but more trials are needed to confirm recommended usage Availability: Available with a prescription for treating muscle spasms, but its application for GERD is still being studied

When it comes to potential medications to treat your GERD, a muscle relaxer probably isn’t the first to come to mind. But, that’s exactly what Baclofen is—a medication used for muscle spasms and muscle pain in people with multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury. However, some trials have shown that Baclofen can reduce lower esophageal sphincter relaxations and, in turn, reduce acid reflux symptoms. It’s a step in the right direction, but more randomized trials are needed to make sure this medication is actually recommended for treating GERD.

New non-medication GI treatments

Pathophysiology to look beyond acid

Status: Undergoing trials Treatment type: Holistic Effectiveness: Proven effective in a clinical trial

When researching and discussing your GI symptoms, there’s probably a word you’ve heard come up time and time again: acid. It’s true that stomach acid plays a major role in a lot of GI conditions. However, more and more medical professionals are zooming out to take a more holistic look at the factors at play. That’s exactly what pathophysiology is—it looks beyond only acid as a cause and digs into the chemical, mechanical, psychologic, and neurologic factors that could be causing symptoms. So far, it’s proven to be a potentially effective treatment approach.

Cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce IBS and GERD symptoms

Status: Undergoing trials Treatment type: Talk therapy Effectiveness: Showed positive results in a clinical trial

Wait a minute...psychological intervention to help with your IBS and GERD? Yep. You read that right. Cognitive behavioral therapy is focused on helping people break negative patterns, and so far it appears to be helping people in trials. One study of more than 550 patients with IBS found that participants experienced a reduction in the severity of their IBS symptoms after three months of treatment. How? Well, the short answer is that cognitive behavioral therapy can decrease hypersensitivity of the gut-brain connection (a fancy term for the fact that your thoughts and your brain can have an impact on your gut health, and vice versa).

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Photo by David Sherry via Death to Stock