AS cliche as might be the “Listen to your gut” trope, there’s a reason the gut is known as the second brain, and it gives us signals when something is or isn’t right. Whether you call it gut feeling or gut feeling, your gut refers to your gastrointestinal (GI) system, the health of which is generally determined by the levels and types of bacteria in your digestive tract, AKA your gut microbiome.
“In addition to digesting and absorbing nutrients from the food and beverages we consume, our digestive system protects us from harmful invaders with the small and large intestines housing nearly 80 percent of our immune system,” Paulina Lee explained, MSHS, RD, LD, a functional gut health dietitian and founder of Savvy Stummy, LLC. “The gut and gut microbiome are deeply connected to brain and mood health through the gut-brain axis, a two-way communication highway between our brain and gut.” Additionally, Lee noted that the gut microbiome creates 95 percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates anxiety and is essential for relaxation, sleep and concentration. Bottom line: When your gut health is poor (read: your gut microbiome is out of balance), your mood, immune health, and sleep quality, to name a few, take the toll.
Until tips for good gut health (more on that later) go, you can expect the usual suspects for overall health: a balanced and diverse diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fermented foods, staying hydrated, stress management, reducing inflammation by removing food sensitivities and toxins from your diet and lifestyle, get into daily motion and prioritize restful sleep. To complement a holistic approach to improving gut health? Supplements, of course. Next, a roundup of five gut health supplements which can help maintain a balanced gut microbiome, straight from the experts.
5 supplements for intestinal health
There are countless gut health supplements at our fingertips and knowing which ones are legit and worth trying can be overwhelming, so before we dive into the expert-approved recommendations, let’s first understand what gut health is really all about. how to improve gut health.
What is Gut Health?
Before we dive into supplements, let’s define what gut health actually is so you know what you’re working towards. If ever there was one wellness buzzword that earned its living room, it’s gut health. But what exactly is it? “Gut health refers to the balance and optimal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, especially the microbiome, which consists of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses,” said Dr. James Walker, a clinical physician at Welzo. “A healthy gut microbiome is diverse, with a balanced composition of beneficial bacteria that support digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and even mental health.” Dr. Walker cited various factors that can play a significant role in gut health, including diet, lifestyle, stress levels, lack of sleep, medications, and environmental factors (think: pollution and toxins).
While it seems obvious to keep our digestive system in check with the aforementioned influences in mind, with today’s go-go-go culture, maintaining a healthy digestive tract is easier said than done. Enter: superfoods to give your gut a healthy boost. Below, the experts introduce us to the gut health supplements that get their stamp of approval. FYI, Before taking any supplements, Dr. Walker emphasized the importance of consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can assess your specific needs, potential drug interactions, and any underlying health conditions. They can provide personalized recommendations and guidance to ensure safe and effective use of supplements.
The best supplements for intestinal health
Probiotics are live, good bacteria that promote gut health, both in supplement form and from food sources, and can help maintain digestive health and a healthy balance in the body. When the bad bacteria in your gut increase in number, probiotics can step in to fight the bad bacteria and return your body to a neutral state. The best part? Taking a probiotic supplement can tip the balance in favor of fewer gaseous bacterial strains, resulting in less gas and bloating.
“[Probiotics] contain a combination of beneficial bacterial strains, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus,” described Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, ACE Certified Nutritionist and Trainer. “Probiotics can help restore the balance of gut bacteria, support digestion, boost immune function, and improve bowel regularity.” Opt for a high-quality probiotic supplement with a variety of probiotic strains, follow the dosage recommendations on the product label, and store them according to the label directions (e.g., refrigeration, room temperature, etc.). If you have a compromised immune system or underlying health condition, or are taking immunosuppressant medications, it’s especially important to talk to your doctor before adding probiotics to your routine.
“Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that serve as food for beneficial bacteria in the gut,” Sabat said. Once they bypass digestion and make it to the colon, intestinal bacteria metabolize and ferment the prebiotics to survive, producing short-chain fatty acids that provide colon cells with energy, help with mucus production, and aid in inflammation and digestion. immunity. Prebiotics boast many health benefits, including helping to regulate bowel movements, improve the body’s anti-inflammatory response, reduce bad bacteria that cause disease, increase the production of good bacteria, and improve immune function.
Sabat suggested looking for supplements containing prebiotic fibers such as inulin, chicory root or fructooligosaccharides (FOS) to promote the growth and activity of healthy gut bacteria. That said, prebiotics aren’t right for everyone and can make irritable bowel syndrome symptoms worse since rapid fermentation can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation in sensitive patients.
Like breathing, we don’t think twice about digestion – it happens automatically. Well, without digestive enzymes, the food we taste can’t be broken down properly, and the body can become deficient in the nutrients it needs to function (hello, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain). In some cases, the body doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, resulting in a deficiency. Cue digestive enzyme supplements.
“Digestive enzyme supplements contain enzymes such as amylase, protease, and lipase that aid in the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, respectively, for better absorption,” Sabat clarified. “These supplements may support digestion, especially for people with enzyme deficiencies or digestive disorders.” Take the supplement with meals according to the recommended dosage on the product label. If you have a known enzyme deficiency or gastrointestinal disorder, be sure to consult your doctor before consuming a digestive enzyme supplement.
You probably associate carbs with helping move things along, and rightly so. The crunch factor you get from biting into a carrot or an apple? That’s good old fiber working its magic. Since the body is unable to digest fiber, it passes through the body undigested and makes its way to the intestines, promoting regularity and easing gastrointestinal issues. According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health The nutritional source, fiber reduces the risk of developing various conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease and constipation, due to its beneficial role in the gut microbiome which can produce anti-inflammatory effects that alleviate chronic inflammation. Adding a variety of high-fiber foods like whole grains, beans, leafy greens, and apples can help you meet your daily fiber needs, but fiber supplements can also step in to fill nutritional gaps.
“Fiber supplements, such as psyllium husk or glucomannan, can help promote regular bowel movements and support overall gut health,” said Dr. Walkers. “It’s important to drink plenty of water when taking fiber supplements to avoid constipation.” He looks for fiber supplements that contain a blend of both insoluble and soluble types of fiber to optimize digestion.
If you’ve found yourself on #GutTok, chances are you’ve heard of L-glutamine, a supplement that TikTokers promote for its gut health benefits. Is it worth the hype? The short answer is yes. Recent research has shown that the amino acid glutamine can positively influence gut health by supporting the gut microbiome, intestinal mucosal wall integrity (a crucial line of defense that can help protect against digestive problems and conditions), and the regulation of inflammatory responses. Glutamine is naturally produced in the body, however, during intense times of stress (think: infections, surgery, and trauma), the body may not be able to keep up with the higher demand, in which case supplementation of glutamine can provide a benefit.
“Glutamine is an amino acid that plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining,” echoed Sabat. “It may help support gut healing, reduce intestinal permeability, and improve immune function.” Whether you take a powdered or capsule glutamine supplement, follow the recommended dosage instructions provided by the manufacturer. Pro tip: While taking a glutamine supplement can improve gut health, if you have GI issues, getting to the root cause should be your first step.
Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before starting any treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never ignore professional medical advice or delay your research because of something you’ve read in this article.
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