Get a Better Gut Feeling
According to a recent survey of 500 people, one in ten Britons suffer from heartburn, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea or abdominal pains almost every day. Here we look at just a few areas of digestive health and highlight how you can successfully use supplements in practice.
Peppermint has a long tradition of use as a digestive aid and is especially effective in calming the spasms that cause abdominal pain. The volatile oils contained in peppermint, particularly menthol, are the key active ingredients although the other constituents may also contribute to theplant’s therapeutic effects.
Artichoke is particularly helpful where people have long term problems trying to maintain bowel regularity i.e. where there is a stubborn problem that is ongoing for more than 1 to 2 weeks. Artichoke stimulates peristalsis in the lower gut that helps to “get things moving again’ and it can work well when taken in conjunction with fructo-oligosaccharides.
Researchers using artichoke extract on sufferers of dyspepsia brought on by impaired fat digestion, often referred to as fatty meal intolerance, have also shown positive results. A reduction in pain and/or discomfort in the lower chest or upper abdominal area after fatty meals was noted and accounted for by artichoke’s ability to stimulate the production of bile from the liver.
Digestive EnzymesDigestive enzymes are secreted into the digestive tract to break down food matter into its component nutrients. These can then be absorbed across the gut wall into the bloodstream. If this enzyme system does not work effectively, undigested food passing into the large intestine will be fermented by the resident bacteria, causing flatulence, bloating and diarrhoea. Improving the digestive process by supplementing with a broad spectrum of plant-sourced enzymes can be especially helpful to those with disordered indigestion, otherwise known as indigestion or dyspepsia. Turmeric Positive results have been shown by researchers in a recent trial using as little as 2 to 3 grams of turmeric extract daily to help prevent the frequent/looser motions and flatulence-type symptoms of irritable bowel. In a relatively short time, long-standing sufferers saw some remarkable effects on the symptoms that had plagued some of the volunteers for more than 10 years. Ginger Ginger is known to be a carminative, which means that it can help release excessive gases from the digestive system. Fructo-oligosaccharide Fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) is a special kind of pure soluble fibre which helps carry moisture through the digestive system. This helps to keep waste soft and bulky, thereby encouraging waste matter to move through the system faster and helping to ensure more regular movements. FOS also encourages the growth of beneficial or ‘friendly’ bacteria in the large bowel (colon). It has been shown that just 8g of FOS daily for 2 weeks leads to a 10-fold increase in beneficial bacteria in the gut. This is termed a prebiotic effect and it can offer health benefits to people who have unbalanced diets or disrupted bowel patterns. As the beneficial bacteria are encouraged, the harmful pathogenic bacteria and yeasts are suppressed, so fewer toxins are produced. Ácidophilus Probiotics (capsules containing beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum) help to keep in check the growth of gas-producing bacteria.
Prescribers Guide to Digestive HealthBowel Irregularity Views vary as to what constitutes irregularity but most now agree that anyone who passes hard stools and does so less than three times a week is considered to be irregular. The most common cause of this problem is a low intake of fibre. Whilst our Department of Health recommends 18 to 20g of fibre per day, we typically only eat 8 to 10g. An inadequate fluid intake is also a prime cause of irregularity – 3 pints of fluid a day is needed to supply sufficient water for the digestive system to keep waste matter soft and bulky. Any less than 3 pints is likely to lead to dry hard faeces that are difficult to pass. The third most common reason for irregularity is lack of exercise as our digestive system relies on us moving around and using our muscles, which helps waste matter to be expelled. Supplement Recommendations (Daily Dose) Fructo-oligosaccharides (FDS) *15 grams daily, in three divided doses of 5g spread throughout the day. Use FOS derrived naturally (from chicory root) and not extracted (usually from sugar beet) by the process that makes a synthetic form since it is the natural form that has been used in scientific studies of note. Artichoke *320mg extract, three times a day with meals Look for an artichoke extract standardised to contain 5% cynarin. Flatulence & Bloating Excess gases building up in the digestive tract and then being expelled through the rectum cause flatulence. And whilst it isn’t a major health threat, it can be extremely embarrassing. It is generally caused by chemical reactions that occur after eating certain food such as cabbage and cauliflower. These foods, which all contain complex carbohydrates, often arrive in the large intestine incompletely digested and are subsequently broken down by the bacteria. And it is this bacterial action that produces certain gases causing flatulence and often bloating as well. Ginger *One Ginger Capsule Should be equivalent to at least 14 grams of fresh ginger root. Turmeric *500mg root extract Use a turmeric that is standardised to contain 95% curcumins. Probiotics *10 billion live bacteria Use the beneficial Lactobacillus acidophilus La-5 and Bifidobacterium Bb12 strains of bacteria (the most popular strains used in clinical studies). Disordered Digestion Disordered digestion is a vague term used to describe a range of symptoms including bloating, nausea, wind and abdominal cramps that can occur following eating, and is commonly known as indigestion or dyspepsia. Chewing with the mouth open, talking while chewing, insufficient chewing of foods, excessively large meals (especially fatty foods) and eating just before bedtime, are just some of the causes of this complaint. Digestive Enzymes *1 capsule at the start of each meal (maximum 3 capsules per day) Use a broad spectrum of plant-sourced enzymes, which digest protein, fat and carbohydrate. The advantage of plant-sourced enzymes is that quality control is assured and contamination is significantly reduced compared with animal sources. Natural plant enzymes give high bioavailabillty and are readily acceptable to the digestive tract. Since enzyme activity is measured and expressed in Food Chemical Codex (FCC) units, a standard for plant enzymes which is a better description than weight in milligrams, look for a product that quotes FCCs. Artichoke
*320 to 640 mg artichoke extract, 1 hour before each main meal (assuming 3 meals per day)Look for an artichoke extract standardised to contain 5% cynarin. Fullness or heaviness after meals A feeling of fullness or heaviness after meals can sometimes occur even though an excessively large meal has not been consumed. Often a sensation of general discomfort as opposed to pain is also experienced. It is caused by the stomach’s natural movement slowing down, leaving food churning in the stomach for too long i.e. slow digestion. Artichoke
*320 to 640 mg artichoke extract, 1 hour before each main meal (assuming 3 meals per day)Look for an artichoke extract standardised to contain 5% cynarin. Digestive Enzymes *1 capsule at the start of each meal (maximum 3 capsules per day) Use a broad spectrum of plant-sourced enzymes, which digest protein, fat and carbohydrate. The advantage of plant-sourced enzymes is that quality control is assured and contamination is significantly reduced compared with animal sources, Natural plant enzymes give high bioavailability and are readily acceptable to the digestive tract. Since enzyme activity is measured and expressed in Food Chemical Codex (FCC) units, a standard for plant enzymes which is a better description than weight in milligrams, look for a product that quote FCCs. Gut Spasms Food is propelled through the digestive tract by a wavelike movement termed peristalsis. The alternate contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles push the food forward but sometimes this can be disrupted as in the case of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) -the contractions become uncoordinated and the muscles go Into spasm, often leading to abdominal pain. Peppermint Oil
*50mg pure natural peppermint oil, 3 times daily (after a meal)Urgency The disturbance of the peristaltic movement (just described under the section on gut spasms) can also often cause the contents of the intestines to be pushed along far too quickly resulting in the sudden feeling of ‘urgency’ and the passing of loose watery motions. There are also several other causes of loose motions including a bacterial or viral infection from contaminated food or water like in the case of ‘travellers tummy’. Likewise a course of antibiotics can result in this uncomfortable and inconvenient ailment as they destroy the intestines beneficial ‘friendly’ bacteria. Turmeric *500mg root extract Use a turmeric that is standardised to contain 95% curcumins. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) *5 grams
Use FOS derived naturally (from chicory root) and not extracted (usually from sugar beet) by the process that makes a synthetic form since it is the natural form that has been used in scientific studies of note.Probiotics *10 billion live bacteria Use the beneficial Lactobacillus acidophilus La-5 and Bifidobacterium Bb12 strains of bacteria (the most popular strains used in clinical studies). **A General Practitioner should always investigate undiagnosed symptoms**