Each person has their own ideal combination of bacteria in the GI tract. Supplements can help to keep yours intact despite the stresses of modern life.
The digestive system is the foundation of overall health. It breaks down food, extracts nutrients, and eliminates waste and toxins. The gastrointestinal tract is lined with neurons that release neurotransmitters. Thus, poor digestion impairs immunity, the nervous system, and mental health.
Each person has a “digestive fingerprint” made of bacteria. Some of these are “good” and some are “bad. This ratio changes throughout your lifetime. This fingerprint contains more than 10 times the number of cells you have in your entire body.
Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include gas and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and sugar cravings. A severe imbalance could present as a mood or psychological disorder, diabetes, hypertension, or acne. If you need a “digestive makeover,” follow the “Four Rs” adapted from the Institute for Functional Medicine: Remove, Repair, Restore and Replace.
REMOVE foods and toxins that could stress your digestive system. The most common are wheat, cow’s milk, soy, peanuts, corn, and eggs. Other irritants include the food chemicals in processed foods, as well as alcohol and coffee.
REPAIR your body with rest and specific nutrients to heal. Consume foods rich in zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin C. The amino acid L-glutamine will also help.
RESTORE your gut bacteria to the ideal. Start with fermented foods such as Lassi, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt, and Kimchi. These are “pre-biotics” that establish the environment for good bacteria to flourish. Follow this with a probiotic supplement—the good bacteria itself.
REPLACE your bacteria after stress by “rest-and-digest.” Supplement with digestive enzymes and organic salt to make sure you have enough hydrochloric acid to break down your food.
THE PANTRY FOR GOOD GUT HEALTH
Supplements plug the nutritional gaps that result from food and lifestyle choices, and make up for imperfections in our food supply. Recommended for digestive health:
- Fish oil and sea algae (chlorella, spirulina, E3 Live) help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and supports the immune system.
- Vitamin D3 increases energy levels, boosts immunity and mood, and balances hormones. It is a fat-soluble vitamin so it is best to take a supplement that uses a high-quality olive or other vitamin E rich oil as a carrier. Supplementation is necessary in the Canadian winter.
- Magnesium is directly involved in over 300 bodily functions!
- Probiotics counter stress, chlorinated water, polluted air, antibiotics, and chemicals in food that make it difficult to maintain good bacteria. They break down food, help you absorb nutrients and boost immunity. Look for a supplement with multiple bacteria strains, each with a minimum of 5 billion units.
- Prebiotics, sold as powders made from inulin and chicory root, help promote the growth of bacteria in the digestive system and colon.
- Digestive enzymes help your body digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
- Hydrochloric Acid (HCL), a critical component for proper digestion, is useful for reducing stomach upset, nausea, and heaviness after eating.
- L-Glutamine, an amino acid and the preferred food for intestinal cells, helps to heal and seal the gut and nourishes the brain.
- Colostrum helps restore the gut lining. Contains immunoglobulins that are thought to reduce harmful bacteria.
- Lactoferrin, a glycoprotein derived from colostrum, prevents and treats gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions.
- Fermented foods are easy to digest and contain good bacteria, B vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Helpful for digesting proteins and fats.
- Calcium (600 – 1,000 mg per day) causes fat cells to die. Calcium supplements are beneficial only when levels of vitamin D are adequate and maintained for individual needs.
Remember, healthy gut means healthy mind and body!
Discover More: Check out this great article on the to-foods for brain health!