Understanding Prokinetics for Digestive Health

by | Apr 29, 2024

Digestive health plays a crucial role in our overall well-being, yet many individuals struggle with digestive disorders that can significantly impact their quality of life. Fortunately, there are various strategies, including the use of prokinetics, that can help optimize digestive function and alleviate symptoms associated with gastrointestinal issues. In this blog, we’ll explore what prokinetics are, who can benefit from them, and what the science says about their effectiveness in promoting digestive health.

What are Prokinetics?


Prokinetics are substances or medications that help stimulate contractions of the gastrointestinal tract, thus promoting the body’s natural ability to move food through the digestive system (Camilleri, 2015). These contractions are known as peristalsis. They are essential for proper digestion and the timely emptying of the stomach. Prokinetics work by enhancing the coordination and strength of these contractions, thereby facilitating the transit of food through the digestive tract.

Types of Prokinetics:


There are several types of prokinetics, each with a different mechanism of action. Some commonly used prokinetics include:

  1. Dopamine Receptor Antagonists: These are medications, such as metoclopramide and domperidone. They work by blocking dopamine receptors in the gut, which helps to stimulate gastric emptying and enhances intestinal motility (Parkman et al., 2004).
  2. Serotonin Receptor Agonists: These are drugs such as prucalopride. They act on serotonin receptors in the gastrointestinal tract, promoting the release of neurotransmitters that stimulate bowel movements and improve colonic transit (Lacy & Weiser, 2020).
  3. Prokinetic Foods and Supplements: Certain foods and supplements exhibit prokinetic properties and can naturally support digestive motility. Examples include ginger, peppermint, probiotics, and dietary fiber (Törnblom et al., 2012).

Who Can Benefit from Prokinetics?


Prokinetics can be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing symptoms of slow digestion or those diagnosed with specific digestive disorders. Here are some groups that may benefit from the use of prokinetics:

  1. Individuals with Gastroparesis: Gastroparesis is a condition characterized by delayed gastric emptying, leading to symptoms such as nausea, bloating, and early satiety (Tack et al., 2014). Prokinetics like metoclopramide and domperidone are commonly prescribed to help improve gastric motility and alleviate symptoms.
  2. Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits (Nyrop & Palsson, 2010). Studies suggest that certain prokinetics, particularly those targeting serotonin receptors, may help relieve symptoms and improve bowel function in individuals with IBS.
  3. Those with Functional Dyspepsia: Functional dyspepsia is a condition characterized by chronic indigestion and upper abdominal discomfort without any evident structural abnormalities (Lacy & Talley, 2012). Research indicates that prokinetics like domperidone may help alleviate symptoms and improve gastric emptying in patients with functional dyspepsia.

Effectiveness of Prokinetics:


The effectiveness of prokinetics in managing digestive disorders has been extensively studied, with varying results depending on the specific condition and prokinetic agent used. Here’s an overview of some key findings from scientific research:

  1. Gastroparesis: Clinical trials have shown that prokinetics like metoclopramide and domperidone can improve symptoms and gastric emptying in patients with gastroparesis (Tack et al., 2009). However, long-term use of these medications may be associated with side effects such as tardive dyskinesia and cardiac arrhythmias.
  2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Research on the use of prokinetics in IBS is limited but promising. Some studies suggest that medications like prucalopride may help improve symptoms and bowel function in patients with IBS-C (constipation-predominant IBS) (Lacy & Weiser, 2020).
  3. Functional Dyspepsia: Prokinetics like domperidone have been shown to improve symptoms and gastric emptying in patients with functional dyspepsia (Nyrop & Palsson, 2010). However, the use of these medications may be limited by side effects such as headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances.


It’s important to note that while prokinetics can be effective in managing digestive disorders, they should be used judiciously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes, stress management, and regular exercise can complement the use of prokinetics in promoting overall digestive health.



Prokinetics play a valuable role in supporting digestive health and managing gastrointestinal disorders. Whether used as medications or incorporated into the diet through prokinetic foods and supplements, these agents can help enhance gastrointestinal motility and alleviate symptoms such as bloating, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. However, it’s essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate prokinetic therapy based on individual needs and medical history. Working with a dietitian in our office to create an optimal diet plan for you is another piece of the puzzle.


  1. Camilleri, M. (2015). Prokinetics in Gastroparesis. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, 44(1), 97–111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gtc.2014.11.006
  2. Lacy, B. E., & Weiser, K. (2020). Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Medical Treatment. In K. D. Olden & D. H. Alpers (Eds.), The SAGES Manual of Gastroenterology (pp. 313–328). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-28272-8_25
  3. Lacy, B. E., & Talley, N. J. (2012). Functional Dyspepsia: Advances in Diagnosis and Therapy. Gut and Liver, 6(3), 259–271. https://doi.org/10.5009/gnl.2012.6.3.259
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  6. Parkman, H. P., Hasler, W. L., Fisher, R. S., & American Gastroenterological Association. (2004). American Gastroenterological Association Technical Review on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastroparesis. Gastroenterology, 127(5), 1592–1622. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2004.09.055
  7. Rao, S. S. C., Rattanakovit, K., Patcharatrakul, T., & Patcharatrakul, T. (2017). Diagnosis and Management of Chronic Constipation in Adults. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 14(5), 295–305. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrgastro.2017.23
  8. Tack, J., & Camilleri, M. (2009). Gastroparesis: Current Concepts and Management. Gut, 58(9), 1339–1350. https://doi.org/10.1136/gut.2008.165852
  9. Tack, J., Vanuytsel, T., & Corsetti, M. (2014). Modern Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: More Than Motility. Digestive Diseases, 32(3), 266–273. https://doi.org/10.1159/000358086
  10. Törnblom, H., Van Oudenhove, L., & Simrén, M. (2012). Probiotics: Mechanisms and Efficacy in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, 26(4), 483–491. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpg.2012.09.003

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