Who would’ve thought that Americans would ever want to talk about gut health in a way other than when talking about the amount of flab rolling over the belt line?
It is estimated that three-quarters of the cells necessary for the immune system to function effectively are connected to the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, without proper digestive function, basic metabolic processes break down, leading to various disease states.1
The prime beneficiary of the gut-health conversation is probably probiotics, which are formulated into many dairy products such as yogurt, and available as dietary supplements. And with good reason: One 2008 study found the probiotic species Bifidobacterium infantis normalized gut permeability and improved disease in an animal model of colitis. In addition, probiotic bacteria modulate the immune system, thereby reinforcing the body's natural defense.2 This is why those yogurt containers contain pictures of a bare midriff with veiled claims about improving immune health.
Probably the best macro nutrient to eat to sustain digestive health is fiber. Once the province only of the geriatric set, fiber (and whole grains) have a new youthful vigor about them. It’s about time!
“There is no doubt that the amount of fiber in diet controls the amount of bulk, controls transit time, and determines whether the individual will suffer from chronic constipation,” explains Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, and Andrew Saul, PhD, in Orthomolecular Medicine For Everyone (Basic Health Publications, 2008). “People on food that is high in fiber have a very low rate of bowel cancer. With a long transit time, it is more likely that carcinogenic chemicals will be formed.”3
It may be important to mention here that fiber is also referred to as prebiotics, especially if it is paired with a probiotic. The prebiotic serves as a sort of culture upon which the prebiotic can thrive.
Digestive enzymes are another supplement-style ingredient used to help in the battle of the bulge. Enzymes break down food macromolecules into their smaller building blocks. Bromelain and papain are two of the more common digestive enzymes out there. Try them, you might find your heartburn gets better.
And not only that, but one human study with 1,242 patients with colorectal cancer found those taking enzyme supplements for nine months showed an improvement in the signs and symptoms of the disease.4
Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of WellWise.org, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended to constitute personal medical advice.