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6 Insider Insights on Digestive Health

6 insider insights on digestive health

HW Insights from our internal ISSN Nutritionist Aaron Martin.

1.  Probiotics

Without question- one of the latest established trends in health and wellness is the suggestion to take in probiotics.  For those without a proper understanding of probiotics, most simply put, it is a form of beneficial bacteria.  These live microorganisms improve the intestinal microbiota balance.  Having enough “good” bacteria in the small intestines has been proven to support optimal digestive health, immunity and a reduction in inflammation.  Over the course of a week this means less bloating, more energy and better health in general. I believe the current research on probiotics is really just a brief snapshot into what this friendly bacteria can offer.  For example, recent research at the University of Tampa has also shown the probiotic strand Bacillus coagulans ? commercially sold under the brand Ganeden BC30 ® ?assists in sports recovery by decreasing blood kinase and soreness while improving strength. Other emerging benefits include improved amino acid absorption and lower inflammation.  Look for fermented dairy foods such as Greek Yogurt or Kefir. Also consider supplementing your formulations with shelf stable probiotic strands for optimal digestion.

2. Protein (Whey Protein)

Protein plays a role in optimal digestion and satiety in the diet.  High quality protein helps regulate appetite to prevent the large fluctuations in blood glucose associated more commonly with a higher carbohydrate diet.   In general, adding more protein opposed to carbohydrates in the diet will leave a person feeling less bloated.  This is often due to the more satisfying effects of protein which typically leads to smaller portion sizes.  Carbohydrates require 3 parts of water to 1 g of glucose to store in the muscle, thus more water is stored around the body ?and the gut? when large amounts are ingested.

Whey protein has been shown to turn on gene signaling pathways to increase claudin production which is a protein that regulates nutrients through epithelial cells in our digestive track.  Along with fiber, protein keeps satiety and optimal digestive speed, helping to maintain the integrity of our digestion.

3. Fiber

Adequate, not excessive, fiber in the diet is important to keeping the digestive track moving smoothly. Research has shown that fiber is also an important promoter of satiety and fullness. A Additional benefits include: reduction of blood triglycerides (aka soluble fiber), heart health, as well as central weight management functions such as slowing the rate of glucose entering the blood after meals.  Fiber comes in a wide host of forms and is easy to incorporate to formulations due to favorable sensory characteristics, as is very apparent in a wide range of foods now.  Resistant maltodextrin (under the name Fibersol-2) and inulin are two popular fibers due to its bland and slightly sweet flavor and favorable processing characteristics.  Chobani® has recently added inulin to their line of reduced calorie yogurts.  In large doses, fiber can have a big impact on the gut, try to stick to the 3-7 g range in fiber per serving. Fiber consumption over this range can have the reverse effect by causing digestive discomfort.  For people who are not accustomed to high fiber diets can be particularly sensitive especially in regards to inulin.  Although both are heat stable, research as shown Fibersol-2 to be easier on the gut than inulin.

4.  Digestive enzymes

Supplemental digestive enzymes are a mighty component that can be too often overlooked as an aid in digestive health. These enzymes can supplement what our body already produces or provide additional assistance to what is already found in some foods.  There are three basic categories:

  • Proteases- assists in the breakdown of protein.
  • Amylases- assists in the breakdown of carbohydrates.
  • Lipases- assists in the breakdown of fats.

Assisting in complete digestion of foods is essential for complete absorption of nutrients. Different populations will inherently absorb foods in a fashion that is unique to their body systems. . Environmental or physically caused stress, poor diet and aging all contribute to sub-par absorption of nutrients.   In this situation, one may experience bloating, fatigue and irregularity due to the lack of complete digestion.  Adding 100-200 mg of proteases, lipases or amylases to formulations can assist in nutrient absorption. For instance, a certain protease may need to be formulated to 10 mg/ 1 g of protein for a significant effect.  Adding 50 mg to a 20 g dose of protein won’t be enough to realize benefits.

5.  Ginger Extract

Some natural plant extracts can be powerful aids in achieving optimal digestive health.  Ginger root has been used for thousands of years and has proven to help sooth digestive problems by keeping food moving in the gut.  In fact it has been successful in eliminating a variety of gastrointestinal issues such as motion sickness and nausea.  Ginger has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory which makes it useful for reducing stress in the body and assisting in joint health and muscle recovery from exercise.  A little goes a long way. Due to its origin and composition, it would be a suitable inclusion into vegan protein blends or superfood greens.  Shoot for 200-400 mg of ginger extract in formulations.

6. L-Glutamine

Standard L-Glutamine may not be thought of a digestive aid, however, our gut’s micro flora will feed off a large amount of glutamine and has been shown to be important in maintaining integrity in the small intestines.  When our gut’s micro flora are healthy, improved nutrient absorption is achieved along with greater protection from environmental pollutants greater immunity.   Shoot for 2-5 grams per serving when formulating.

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