Supplements for Gut Support?
Many people nowadays suffer from some kind of stomach issues, from heartburn to bloating, irritable bowel to inflammatory bowel diseases. It is well known that our gut bacteria, the microbiome, play an important role in these issues as well as in our general and brain health. So what can we do for gut support? Do supplements really help?
What are the reasons our stomach is not happy?
It’s NOT the acid. The commonly held belief that too much acid is the cause of heartburn is not correct and sadly leads to the widespread- and often unnecessary and chronic use of strong acid-blockers. In fact, when we get older, our stomach acid usually declines, and we often have too little acid. The reflux of acid (leading to heartburn) is not caused by the acid, but by a dysfunction of the sphincter muscle (a ring muscle) between the esophagus (the swallowing tube) and the stomach. This involuntary muscle is relaxed by certain foods as well as stress or pressure in the abdomen (eating too much at a time, pregnancy, constipation, obesity)
Why is stomach acid important?
Stomach acid is needed to break down proteins from our food (e.g. from meat, eggs, fish, poultry, nuts, beans…), into amino acids. This is why often, even with adequate food intake, there can be an amino acid deficiency. It also is essential for the absorption of Vitamin B12, a very important nutrient for our whole body and our energy levels. Stomach acid also protects us from infections with micro-organisms that enter our body with food which can disturb our gut bacteria.
Other reasons for stomach problems
Other common reasons are medications (esp. antibiotics), toxins (e.g. the infamous glyphosate), dis-stress, nutrient deficiencies and more which lead to a so-called “leaky gut” which in turn leads to immediate and delayed-type food allergies and chronic inflammation.
What can we do?
We cannot avoid medications or even antibiotics, which are sometimes absolutely necessary. Eat a varied, nutritious diet which contains pre-biotics (foods that support the “good” gut bacteria. (Check out my book: “Eating for Vibrant Health and Explosive Energy”).Supplements can help.
There are many supplements that can help with stomach problems. The three most important ones are acid (either vinegars or hydrochloric acid (stomach acid, HCl, also sometimes in the form of betaine-HCl), probiotics and digestive enzymes.
What is important when choosing a probiotic?
It always should contain several strains of bacteria (at least 5 different ones, among them bifidobacterial and lactobacillus). At least 15 Billion CFU (colony-forming-units) per capsule are recommended to have an effect. Sometimes you need to experiment to find the one that works best for you. It is important to note that every person’s microbiome is different, even the ones of identical twins. Be careful about high-dose (100,000 CFU or more) probiotics. Always ask an expert first to avoid side effects.
What about digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes can help to break down proteins, starches and fats from food. They can help to break down lactose and other sugars and support healthy stomach acid levels, especially when medications are necessary.
What’s to note:
As always, supplements have to be part of your “nutrition orchestra” to produce a great “symphony of life”. It is of no value just to have one component, e.g. the drummer, without the rest of the players.
Get the advice of an experienced health coach, nutritionist, dietician, doctor or pharmacist to get help for your individual situation.