Posted by Ramneek S. Bhogal, DC, DABCI on Jan 13, 2021 1:48:23 PM
On the tail end of a stressful year topped off with holiday indulgence, many find that their gut needs some extra attention.
Common gut offenders like refined sugar, processed foods, alcohol, OTC pain medications, and stress set the stage for compromised digestive and gastrointestinal (GI) health—and since 2020 may be the most stressful year in modern history, these offenders have played a more significant role than usual.
If you’re experiencing digestive upset and other GI discomforts, it’s important to understand your specific concern and how to best support your gut with foods and supplements.
Not all gut health concerns are created equal, and some are trickier than others to both discover and treat. Common digestive upset like gas and bloating is more naturally connected to GI health, but other challenges can also be linked to the gut.
Functional gut challenges refer to issues with the physical function of the gut. They often have similar root causes that must be addressed by finding and treating underlying problems, rather than repressing symptoms.
Functional challenges often include occasional gut irritability that doctors are unable to solve, excess acid or acid changes, and elimination irregularities like hard and loose stools or trouble going to the bathroom.
Systemic challenges are, in many cases, more difficult to directly connect with gut health, as they aren’t necessarily linked to the digestive tract itself. For example, skin issues like itchiness, frequent reactions to environmental and food irritants, and a heightened inflammatory response in the body may signal issues with the gut.
While these concerns aren’t typically viewed or treated in conventional medicine as gut-related problems, functional medicine providers are finding gut permeability and sub-optimal gut health is an underlying factor.1
A whole foods diet should always be the first line of defense for a healthy gut, but supplements can accelerate the process and fill nutritional gaps.
You might already take certain GI supports like probiotics or bitters, which are certainly helpful and important. The following four gut health supplements may be less well-known, but they can go a long way in supporting gut-related problems stemming from stress, sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.1. Prebiotic Fiber
Probiotic bacteria depend on prebiotic fiber for growth and proliferation. Having a variety of different strains and sufficient amounts of probiotic bacteria is essential for a healthy and balanced gut microbiome, and this balance depends on the quantity of prebiotic fiber in your gut.*
Inulin is one type of prebiotic fiber, a fructose chain that provides fuel to the gut lining and enables them to produce important chemicals like short chain fatty acids.* You can find inulin in chicory root, asparagus, garlic, onions, bananas, apples, and flaxseeds.2. Zinc Carnosine
Zinc is a mineral that has been used for its immune properties for centuries, and when chelated with the amino acid L-carnosine, allows for a slow dissociation and improved local effect.* This potent combination has been found to help stabilize small bowel integrity, promote a healthy stomach lining and environment, support the health of gastric cells, maintain a healthy gastrointestinal environment, and even help with gastric discomfort.*
L-glutamine is an amino acid. Amino acids are building blocks of protein that are necessary for blood sugar regulation. The body can sometimes synthesize adequate amounts of L-glutamine, but it often must be obtained from foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, beans, tofu, and leafy vegetables.
This amino acid is used in supplement form to quell sugar cravings, as well as for gut health. L-Glutamine is a fuel source for cells in the small intestine, helping them recover and even supporting healthy inflamatory response.*
Another type of gut supplement encompasses those aimed at soothing and repairing. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), marshmallow root, licorice, slippery elm, and aloe vera all provide a high mucilage content, meaning they swell when mixed with liquids and provide a soothing property to mucous membranes.3* These supportive gut supplements can help promote a healthy inflammatory response and boost the gut’s natural immune processes.*
Many functional medicine providers are finding success with professional grade products that use a combination of supplements for gut health, like G.I. Benefits, which targets GI comfort, a stronger intestinal lining, a healthy gut immune system, regular bathroom habits, and a balanced and wide variety of beneficial gut bacteria.*
To support both functional and systemic gut health problems like bowel irregularity, increased gut irritability, or general discomfort, consider pairing a whole foods diet with research-backed nutritional supplements for a strong and healthy gut.*
2020 has been an uncertain and stressful year, so taking steps to support the foundations of gut heath should be a top priority as it can help set the stage for a healthier and more balanced future.
1 Mu, Q., Kirby, J., Reilly, C. M., & Luo, X. M. (2017). Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Frontiers in immunology, 8, 598. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598
2 Ríos-Covián D, Ruas-Madiedo P, Margolles A, Gueimonde M, de Los Reyes-Gavilán CG, Salazar N. Intestinal Short Chain Fatty Acids and their Link with Diet and Human Health. Front Microbiol. 2016 Feb 17;7:185. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00185. PMID: 26925050; PMCID: PMC4756104.
3 Yusuf S, Agunu A, Diana M. The effect of Aloe vera A. Berger (Liliaceae) on gastric acid secretion and acute gastric mucosal injury in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Jul;93(1):33-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2004.03.027. PMID: 15182901.
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