By Dr. Stan Headley, natural health consultant for Cypress Pharmacy
While many of us like to think we have “stomachs of steel” and can eat as we please, our gut usually says otherwise.
Today, between 60 to 70 million Americans suffer from various digestive diseases – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Crohn’s disease and cancer, to name a few.
Overlooking unhealthy habits as simple as overeating or not chewing food properly can slowly chip away at our digestive ability over time until it’s too late, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms that can keep us from enjoying the most out of our daily lives.
Fortunately, steps can be taken to spot poor digestive function and reverse it by making necessary lifestyle changes and adding targeted nutritional supplements.
What is Gut Health?
Let’s begin by breaking down the popular term known as “gut health.”
It often refers to the physical state, function and balance of bacteria throughout our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the vital organs we need to digest food, absorb nutrients and process waste.
As an important part of the digestive system, the GI tract works to break down food into nutrients that can be used for energy, growth and repair within the body.
Why is a Healthy Gut Important?
A healthy gut plays critical roles in our overall wellness and contributes to everything from effective digestion to brain health and getting a good night’s sleep.
It can also affect how our immune system functions.
Research shows that 70% of our immune system is housed in our GI tract and that many chronic conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, may be directly linked to poor digestion.
Everything we consume can help or hurt our overall health, and influence how we feel. It’s important to note the gut-brain connection that exists inside our body.
Most people don’t realize we have more serotonin receptors in the gut than in the brain, which further speaks to the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive tract function. The serotonin receptors in the gut and brain help to keep our moods stable while improving digestion.
Scientists have found that about 60% of patients with some type of depression or anxiety have intestinal disturbances of some form, including leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, bloating or GERD.
Supporting a Happy, Healthy Gut
When it comes to how best to manage digestive disorders and their accompanying symptoms, you have many options. A wide selection of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements have been found to be very effective at supporting the digestive system without side effects commonly seen with prescription drugs.
Beneficial “good” bacteria from probiotic pharmaceutical-grade supplements – using the proper intestinal strains and therapeutic amounts of acidophilus, Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus – can help the body absorb all of the nutrients in food and supplements.
A few other well-researched supplement recommendations include:
- Digestive enzymes – this supplement combines protease, lipase and amylase, which break down protein, fats and carbohydrates into fine particles, so the body can absorb what it needs.
- Ginger – this well-known herb has many properties for healing but can be very helpful for improved digestion. It can also reduce inflammation.
- Zinc – this trace mineral is vital for the health of the entire GI system.
- Glutamine – this is an amino acid that is one of the most essential nutrients for the digestive tract. It has been found to help with ulcers, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and all forms of intestinal repair.
- A comprehensive blend of probiotics, digestive enzymes, amino acids, and a mucosal barrier for optimal digestive health.
By making necessary lifestyle changes and adding targeted nutritional supplements, your digestive system can respond by decreasing or eliminating symptoms and improving your overall health. Be sure to discuss your lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements with a qualified health care professional, doctor or pharmacist, especially if you take prescription medications.