7 Supplements for Digestive Health

January 17, 2024

7 Supplements for Digestive Health

There’s a reason why scientists refer to the gut as the second brain. While your stomach may not help you solve math equations or remember where you left your keys, it uses the same neurotransmitters as the brain to digest food and alert you when something isn’t quite right. It communicates with the brain through the enteric nervous system when it detects an issue, triggering responses that often manifest as “a gut feeling” or discomfort. Sometimes, it’s trying to warn you about a threat or a trick, but in other instances, it’s trying to tell you that something might be wrong in the digestive system. [1, 2]

What is the Gut Microbiome and How Does it Affect Your Health?

The gut microbiome is a vast and diverse ecosystem of microorganisms (primarily bacteria) that influence various physiological functions, such as nutrient absorption, digestion, and the immune system.

Here's a breakdown of how the gut microbiome affects health:

  • Digestion and Nutrient Absorption: The gut microbiome assists in breaking down complex carbohydrates and fibers that our digestive enzymes can't fully process. This breakdown produces short-chain fatty acids and other byproducts that help with nutrient absorption.
  • Immune System Regulation: The gut is a significant part of the immune system, and the microbiome plays a crucial role in training and modulating immune responses. A balanced microbiome helps distinguish between friend and foe, preventing inappropriate immune reactions.
  • Inflammation Control: A harmonious gut microbiome helps regulate inflammation. Imbalances can lead to chronic inflammation, which can cause or worsen autoimmune conditions and metabolic disorders.
  • Mood and Mental Health: The gut microbiome influences the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain. Emerging research suggests a connection between the microbiome’s composition and mental health.
  • Protection Against Pathogens: A diverse and healthy microbiome acts as a barrier, preventing the overgrowth of harmful pathogens by competing for resources and producing substances that inhibit their growth.
  • Metabolism and Weight Management: The gut microbiome can affect how the body stores and utilizes calories by influencing the metabolism and energy equilibrium between the calories consumed through food and drinks and the calories expended through exercise and metabolic processes. Imbalances in the gut microbiome can disrupt energy homeostasis, potentially contributing to conditions such as obesity.
  • Ensuring your long-term health and well-being requires a balanced and diverse gut microbiome. Factors such as diet, lifestyle, antibiotic use, and environmental exposures can influence the gut microbiome’s composition and functionality. Adopting habits that promote microbial diversity, such as consuming a varied and fiber-rich diet, can contribute to a resilient and thriving gut microbiome. [3 - 8]

The following dietary supplements can support your digestive health improvement endeavors:

  1. Psyllium Husk Powder
    Psyllium husk is a prebiotic that is rich in soluble fiber, which adds bulk to the stool and helps regulate bowel movements. It can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with constipation or irregularity. Surprisingly, psyllium husk can also help in cases of diarrhea. Its ability to absorb water and add bulk to the stool can contribute to more formed and manageable bowel movements. Additionally, beneficial colon bacteria ferment psyllium husk fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids that nourish the gut microbiome. [9 - 14]
  2. Fructo-Oligosaccharides
    Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are soluble dietary fibers and prebiotics that nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut. FOS supports a healthy balance of the gut microbiome by promoting the growth of these bacteria, contributing to improved digestion and nutrient absorption. Research shows that prebiotics like FOS promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which may positively influence the immune system, as a significant portion of it is in the gut. FOS also supports a healthy immune system due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. [15 - 20]
  3. Turkey Tail Mushroom Extract
    Turkey tail mushroom extract is rich in prebiotic polysaccharides that support the growth of beneficial bacteria and help maintain a balanced gut microbiota. It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps protect the intestinal lining and digestive tract. It also has immunomodulatory effects, which may indirectly contribute to gut health by supporting the body's defense mechanisms. [21 - 24]
  4. L-Glutamine
    L-glutamine is a crucial amino acid for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining and reducing intestinal permeability, as the cells lining the intestinal tract rely on it as a primary fuel source. It supports gut health by promoting the repair of the mucosal lining and assisting in the health of the digestive tract. [25 - 28]
  5. Curcumin
    Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric that gives it its anti-inflammatory properties. It may help soothe inflammation in the digestive tract and support overall gut health. It is a potent antioxidant that protects the gut against free radicals, oxidative stress, and oxidative damage. Research also shows that curcumin promotes a diverse composition of gut microbiota and supports intestinal barrier integrity. [29 - 35]
  6. Berberine
    Berberine is a plant alkaloid that promotes gut health by helping balance the gut microbiota and improving intestinal barrier function. It has antimicrobial properties that can inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Like curcumin, it’s an anti-inflammatory and positively influences the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota. [36 - 43]
  7. Oil of Oregano
    Oil of oregano contains carvacrol, an antimicrobial compound that helps combat harmful microorganisms to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Oil of oregano also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support overall gut well-being. Additionally, it may improve fat digestion by stimulating bile flow. [44 - 51]

A well-nurtured gut provides much more than a comfortable stomach; it’s a fundamental aspect of holistic health and vitality. A balanced and resilient gut contributes to nutrient absorption, supports immune function, regulates inflammation, and influences mental health. When you understand your gut health, you can make nutritional choices that cultivate a robust foundation for vitality. Supplements can offer valuable support in restoring balance in the gut or maintaining its integrity by replenishing essential microorganisms and promoting overall digestive well-being.

References and Research

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  2. https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/publications-archive/brain/gut-brain
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