By Michael A. Smith, MDHave you ever heard that you’re only as healthy as your gut? Well, it’s true. Think of it this way: If you can’t digest foods, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste, there’s no way you can be all that healthy.
As a matter of fact, the health of your gastrointestinal system is paramount to your health and wellness. But aside from avoiding additives, artificial colorings, and foods that don’t “agree” with your body, how else can you support your digestive system? Here are some essential nutrients for doing just that.
Support Your Gut Lining with GlutamineGlutamine is the most abundant, naturally occurring, non-essential amino acid in your body. It’s necessary for all of your most metabolically active cells, especially those inside the lining of the gut.
We can’t overstate the importance of glutamine for your intestines: It’s the chief source of energy for your gut cells, and it’s crucial for maintaining the structural integrity of your intestinal lining.
There are two primary ways that glutamine supports your gut. First, it helps with gut motility, helping food move through your digestive tract. This was specifically studied in people who had undergone stomach surgery. By helping move food through your system, glutamine reduces stress and damage to the cells that line your gut.1 Second, studies have demonstrated that glutamine improves blood flow in inflamed segments of the colon in patients who have ulcerative colitis.2
Powdered glutamine that’s dissolved in water offers a soothing effect on your intestines, and the slightly sweet taste is actually quite pleasant. Even a small dose, like 2–3 grams, can quickly calm "queasiness" from an irritated stomach.
A Zinc and L-Carnosine Combo for Digestive HealthZinc and L-carnosine work synergistically to support your delicate stomach tissue. Carnosine is a small protein found in long-lived cells like nerve cells (neurons) and muscle cells (myocytes).3
Carnosine offers great benefits for the cells that line your gut, especially when it’s combined with zinc. This zinc-carnosine combo was first developed in Japan, but it’s now widely used in the U.S. to help ease GI inflammation. This combination has even been shown to help with the inflammatory cytokine release associated with the H. pylori infection, which is the culprit behind peptic ulcer disease.4,5
Probiotics: Essential Healthy Gut BacteriaAccording to the World Health Organization, probiotics are defined as “live micro-organisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics are traditionally used to restore the balance of the intestinal microflora that become imbalanced from illness, stress, age, travelling or from the use of medications like antibiotics.
Most probiotic organisms belong to the lactobacillus and bifidobacteria genera. However, there are many genera, species, and strains of bacteria that inhabit the intestinal flora of the human GI tract at any given time.
Clinical studies have demonstrated that probiotics offer many health benefits, some of which extend beyond the health of your gut. Here’s a list of benefits adapted from the International Probiotics Association (IPA):
- Reduction in the occurrence and duration of rotavirus diarrhea.6
- Prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.7
- Alleviation of symptoms of lactose intolerance.8
- Alleviation of symptoms of food and skin allergies in children.9
- Reduction of recurrent urinary infections.10
- Make sure it’s pre-tested for lactic acid production.
- Make sure it contains the maximum colony forming units (CFU). This is a measure of strength.
- Make sure it either has a gel or comes naturally in a spore-form to protect the bacteria as they pass through your stomach.
In Summary...Taking measures to protect your gastrointestinal system and support its function is critical for your overall health and wellness. Remember, your gut is responsible for digesting foods, absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste — three essential processes that you simply can’t afford to neglect.
It’s true that you’re only as healthy as your gut — so please get on it!
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- Biochemistry (Mosc.). 2000 Jul;65(7):817-23.
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- BMC Infect Dis. 2010 Aug 25;10:253.
- J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2011 Jun;23(6):269-74.
- Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Mar;14(3):163-70.
- Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Jun;8(3):243-8.
- Curr Infect Dis Rep. 2000 Dec;2(6):518-522.
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