Gut health explained: Unraveling the power of foods and supplements for optimal digestive wellness

Like helpful visitors who help with household chores, probiotics quietly help maintain a healthy digestive system, protecting your whole body.

According to a survey conducted by the American Gastroenterological Association in 2022, around 40% of Americans have refrained from participating in certain activities due to digestive issues [1]. Approximately 70 million people frequently suffer from gastrointestinal disorders that disrupt their daily lives. Despite this, many people hesitate to seek medical attention.

Foods are broken down in the digestive system to be absorbed through bacteria living in the stomach. Nicole Johnson, a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee based in Cedar Rapids, told The Gazette that the heart of symptoms like general stomach discomfort and malaise can be traced to what a person is or is not putting in their body [2]. According to her, 93 percent of Americans lack fiber, vital to a healthy digestive system.

Fiber intake should range between 25 and 38 grams per day for adults, but most people only get 12 grams [3]. The bacteria living in our gut are friendly, and fiber is considered a prebiotic food that feeds them. A prebiotic is an ingredient in food that benefits the host by selectively stimulating one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thereby improving host health [4].

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There are several staple sources of probiotics, including fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso soup, kimchi and sauerkraut. While yogurt is a common choice for healthy eating, it’s important to note that not all yogurts are alike [5].

Fiber needs to be increased slowly, and water needs to be consumed more often. It will also help. Increasingly, marketing and labeling emphasize “added fiber”. A label like this does not always indicate a healthy product.

Dietary supplements can help fill gaps in a person’s diet or address digestive issues. The use of deglycerized licorice, or DGL, may relieve ulcer symptoms or general gastric discomfort, which is a common over-the-counter dietary supplement [6].

Ginger and peppermint may also offer specific benefits, such as settling your stomach and reducing inflammation [7]. Fennel aids in digestion and soothes the stomach, while glutamine minimizes irritation in the intestines.

Before beginning a regimen with these supplements, you should speak with a physician. The best way to maintain good gut health is to make healthy dietary choices rather than relying on quick fixes or temporary solutions.

Supplements are just that: supplements. Nutrients should not be derived solely from them.

It’s always better to get nutrients from food rather than pills. The way you feel overall can give you an indication of whether a change is needed.

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[1] https://gastro.org/press-releases/new-survey-finds-forty-percent-of-americans-daily-lives-are-disrupted-by-digestive-troubles/
[2] https://www.thegazette.com/special-sections/making-sense-of-gut-health-foods-and-supplements/
[3] https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463098/
[5] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295714
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7348626/
[7] https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/natural-upset-stomach-remedies

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The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.