How do you judge your gut health? Do you base it on having a stomachache or not? A stomachache isn’t the only identifying factor that sheds light on digestive issues. Discomforts are only a piece of the pie when it comes to having a healthy digestive system.
So why should you care about your digestive health? Digestion is responsible for turning all of the food we eat into something useful for our body. If you have weak digestion, your absorption of essential nutrients, your mood and of course bowel related pains become an issue. We need to make sure it is functioning at its best to ensure a healthy body.
Here are the top three supplements for healthy digestion (with a little help from Dr. Jessica Stout, D.O. [3rd year GI fellow]:
This amino acid is responsible for a lot of different functions in the body. Your body produces this naturally, but eating meats, seafood, milk, nuts, eggs, cabbage, & beans can also produce it. This amino amplifies the function of your digestive system, which means optimum nutrient absorption and organ health. “It is important in immune function, but unless you have a medical condition that is causing a glutamine deficiency or you aren’t eating any meat, you’re likely getting plenty of glutamine in your diet.” said Dr. Stout. If you can’t get enough of this amino acid in your diet, look into supplementing by protein powder/drinks to get enough in your system.
- Pre & Probiotics:
Your gut is home to hundreds of microorganisms helping to aid your immune system and digest your food properly. These wee little beasties also known as bacteria are largely responsible for the productive breakdown of nutrients in foods. “Probiotics are a hot topic of research right now. They have a lot of evidence for use in preventing antibiotic associated diarrhea, but many other measurable health benefits have been disappointing. That being said, they’re almost definitely not harmful, and I have plenty of patients tell me anecdotal stories about “how much better” they feel after starting probiotics. This includes mood enhancement and improvement in symptoms of bloating and diarrhea. I often recommend trying them—unfortunately, you often get what you pay for, as the more expensive probiotics tend to be hardy and more diverse. Speaking of diverse—don’t eat the same foods over and over again. Mix it up, try a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before. This will naturally improve the diversity of your gut flora,” said Dr. Stout.
Pre and probiotics make sure that your body is housing quality bacteria, instead of others that may promote disease and discomfort. Prebiotics are in foods such as whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurts, but also come in a pill form.
This one is a no brainer. You’ve probably heard of it from your doctor or on the latest health supplement commercial. Having fiber in your diet helps to relieve your digestive tract of waste. “Why care about fiber? It keeps blood glucose low and prevents diabetes, lowers cholesterol, and also keeps stool moving through the bowel preventing constipation. It can also add bulk to stools and help with diarrhea. Not all fiber supplements are created equal, I recommend looking for the word “psyllium,” said Dr. Jessica Stout, DO. Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day. If you don’t get enough, you become quite literally full of **it. This can lead to bloating, pain, an overgrowth of bad bacteria and essentially poor digestion. Fiber is important to include in your diet. Vegetables (green peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts), fruits (raspberries, pears, apples, bananas) and some grains (quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice) are natural sources of fiber. If you think you’re not getting enough, have a conversation with your doctor about how you can go about supplementing it. If you’re consuming fiber, be sure to focus on getting the recommended amount of water in your diet too, since fiber can’t do its job without it.
Nutrient breakdown starts with digestion and nutrients are the building blocks of your body. If you’re spending anytime in the gym trying to be healthy, don’t overlook the tool that helps fuel your engine. What’s your gut feeling?