Free-From Business Spotlight: tummydrops, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Non-GMO Natural Digestive Relief
We’ve all been gluten-ed, it unfortunately happens to the best of us. Once the gluten-ing has occurred I have a few favorite remedies that don’t cure the symptoms, but do help to make the situation less painful. My go-to combination is ginger tea, hot lemon water, and my new favorite item: tummydrops.
tummydrops were developed by Gastroenterologist Dr. Dustin James in partnership with his wife after hearing the frustration his patients expressed to him about the lack of effectiveness of over-the-counter stomach ache remedies. Dr. James was inspired to create a completely natural, non-GMO way for his patients to soothe their tummy upsets, using concentrations of peppermint and ginger oil. After two years of clinical trials, tummy drops received the green light to go to market and are now available in Natural Ginger, Natural Peppermint, Cranberry Cinnamon, Ginger Peach, Fresh Apple Cinnamon, Ginger Pear, and Valencia Orange Ginger flavors. I spoke with co-founder Dr. James about the research process behind the ingredients in tummydrops, the physical effects of peppermint and ginger, what inspired the chef series flavors, and more.
AFW:Â How did tummydrops come to be?
Dr. Dustin James: My own patients inspired me to create tummydrops. Almost everyone has digestive complaints from time to time. Some people have them more frequently, and often would seek out a digestive specialist (Gastroenterologist) to help. Some conditions that lead to the digestive complaints can be managed quite well, such as a gluten-free diet with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or avoiding lactose with lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, many do not have cures.
Many of my patients we disillusioned with the available prescription medications, either because they were chemicals with side-effects, or they weren’t getting the results they hoped for, and asked what natural remedies were available. There are several medical studies which supported the use of natural products such as peppermint oil, ginger, and probiotics. In the case of botanicals, none were in a convenient form based on sound science.
It took us two years to complete the clinical trials for tummydrops. We studied many different forms and concentrations of ginger and peppermint oil until we found the right combination that balanced efficacy with convenience. The result is a simple natural remedy developed by science and naturally crafted.
Right off the bat, my patients loved the product. We have loved watching customers who prefer a simple, natural product give tummydrops a life of their own. Each day our customers tell us how they help them with issues such as motion sickness, morning sickness, nervous stomachs, nausea from cancer therapy, bloating, and more.
AFW: Lately there has been a shift and I’ve seen a larger emphasis being placed on finding a natural approach/remedy for digestive upsets as opposed to taking over-the-counter medicine. Do you believe that the natural approach can alleviate symptoms as effectively as their non-natural counterparts?
Dr. Dustin James: This entirely depends on the condition. For instance, if my own children have a tummy ache or car sickness, my go-to product is tummydrops. However, if they complain of a problem frequently, I have them evaluated by a physician. In some cases, say like strep throat, an antibiotic, is superior to any natural product. If it’s a condition like irritable bowel syndrome, a combination of a healthy diet, peppermint oil, probiotics does wonders without the side effects common to the prescription and over-the-counter medications.
AFW: When researching potential tummydrops ingredients, what was most important factor in the selection process?
Dr. Dustin James: We had no intention of re-inventing the wheel and scoured international medical literature on botanicals with sound science to assist with digestive complaints. We identified ginger, peppermint oil, and cinnamon from this process. In terms of the ginger and peppermint oil, we sampled hundreds of botanicals. Our criteria was to focus on products from the USA, and, in the case of ginger, to source from California, which has the most strict laws on arsenic and lead. From here, we experimented with different combinations and extracts. For instance, ginger has two main compounds, volatile (aroma and flavor) and non-volatile pungency compounds (solids give ginger its spiciness). Science showed that the pungency compounds provided relief from nausea and motion sickness. We then worked with a manufacture to create an extract using the most pure processing technique called supercritical C02 extraction to provide an extract that was enriched.
Beyond this, we wanted the product to be as simple as possible, gluten-free, natural, and non-GMO verified. Just as a home-cooked meal with just four ingredients tastes vastly better than a fast-food item with thirty, tummydrops shine with their simplicity.
AFW: You started tummydrops with your wife. How is it balancing being married, raising three children, being a full-time doctor, and running a business on the side? How do you split up tummydrops responsibilities with your wife?
Dr. Dustin James: I find that our family is defined by our acts. Each component, my wonderful wife and kids (and Beagle dog Lucy), my medical job, tummydrops, and each of our dreams are shared by one another. For better or worse, my children have seen the triumphs and trials that go along with starting a small business, or navigating the ever changing business of medicine. But it tickles our hearts when they give us advice on new tummydrops, or talk about their own dreams. As for Helen and myself, we try to play our strengths. I am more the dreamer, and focus on the R&D and branding side, while Helen conducts most of the business and logistic end. It’s worked out well for the family!
AFW: Your TummyDrops are hand-crafted in small batches. Is making the TummyDrops in smaller quantities important to you? If so, why?
Dr. Dustin James: There’s a certain romanticism about the artisan movement, whether it be eating out, coffee, farmer’s markets, or even products like tummydrops. The farm to table approach helps you appreciate the product that much more. We’ve had several opportunities to outsource production to the giants in the industry, which are almost all are located in another country and at a much reduced cost. They also have a slight advantage in consistency. Our company vision is to always support the US artisan.We feel fortunate to know the people that craft our tummydrops, and to have been able to see them at their trade. As the base of a tummydrop is a confection, a large amount of the process is hand-made, using century old tools. It’s quite a fascinating process. As our company grows, we are able afford making more tummydrops with each batch. This scaled up production helps with consistency, but it still is being done with the same methods as before, just with a larger quantity of ingredients.
AFW: You have a son with serious food allergies. How do you manage this with two other children?
Dr. Dustin James: This has been tricky, as some of his are anaphylactic (legumes, certain nuts) in nature, and some more insidious (he has eosinophilic esophagitis as well). He’s now 12, and has learned to navigate the waters of knowing what he is eating. We try to cook most of our meals ourselves, so we are able to create healthy, tasty meals without those ingredients. My other 2 children are self-proclaimed foodies are miss certain foods. To make up for this, we often will let them eat anything they want when we do go out to a restaurant. We make sure they wash their hands, brush their teeth, and avoid close contact with my oldest son afterwards.
AFW: How do you come up with the idea for the flavors? I love the Chef Series! Tell us a bit more about that.
Dr. Dustin James: For the ginger and mint, we wanted the botanical to shine and worked with a great gentleman who has become a mentor to us. His career was in food science, and he helped us add just a touch of natural flavor to each to help balance them more. For the chef series, we wanted to have some fun!
Helen and I love to cook and eat. We keep a home garden with tons of herbs and some more exotic plants such as sorrel, figs, and swiss chard, and I make craft cider for Helen. When we built our house, the first room we planned was the kitchen. One of our best friends is Chef Fabrizio Schenardi, who is currently the executive Chef at the Four Seasons at Disneyworld. While we were living in the same city, we’d often celebrate weekends Italian family style, which often meant hanging out and eating and drinking all day. His mantra is always fresh and simple. If you and your family ever get the chance to eat at one his restaurants, you’ll see his food as testament. He helped provide us with different flavor combinations that we enjoys with ginger, peppermint, and cinnamon. We were able to work with our US based natural flavor company to develop the flavors, and then fine tune them for the chef series. This is a fun project that I hope to continue, and expand with other chefs as well. One of our goals is to launch chef series where our company and the collaborating chef would donate a percentage of net profits to a cause we felt would benefit.
AFW: In addition to stomach issues, I also see that many women who are pregnant love tummydrops as well. What ingredient is present that works well if you’re pregnant?
Dr. Dustin James: Medical literature supports both ginger and peppermint for morning sickness. The how part is trickier to answer, as no one is quite sure of all of the mechanism. There is likely a gestalt process where the botanicals are doing many things that can help alleviate morning sickness. Peppermint oil has the ability to act at a receptor called TRPM8. In your mouth, this causes a cooling sensation. In your gut, it can block the signal for cramps and bloating. It is unclear if this role of peppermint oil plays a role in reducing nausea. Ginger seems to act in at least two ways, one is directly in the digestive tract to reduce inflammation, and the other is in the part of the brainstem that controls nausea. We have many OB offices that request samples of tummydrops for their pregnant patients, as the general customer preference has been to utilize a natural approach.
AFW: What’s your hope for tummydrops in the future?
Dr. Dustin James: Our eventual goal is to have tummydrops become a household name for natural digestive relief. We would love people to reach for a tummydrop over a bottle of Pepto, or a dramamine. Also, as our company grows, we are excited to make more meaningful contributions to charities that seek to improve the lives of people with chronic medical conditions, conduct additional research into potential healing properties of the natural world, and become as green as possible from a production perspective.
I’m giving away a goodie box of all tummydrops flavors plus bags of the limited-edition chef series to a lucky reader. Enter below, and leave a comment telling me your go-to remedy when you’ve been gluten-ed. Good luck!