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Once believed to be a simple organ for food digestion, our guts are slowly being revealed through medical research as having a much more complex and vital role in our overall health than was ever understood before. We now know that in addition to food digestion, our guts are also responsible for 70% of our immune systems. But things like stress, a diet high in processed and refined foods, too much sugar and exposure to certain medications like antibiotics can all take a toll on our gut health. And symptoms of an unhealthy gut can range from everything from skin issues, sugar cravings and bad breath to bloating, gas, diarrhea, and even worse, food allergies and/or sensitivities, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and suppressed immunity. Poor gut health can even affect our state of mind causing moodiness, anxiety and depression.
Eating a clean diet that is low in sugar, high in fiber, and rich in whole and naturally fermented foods can do wonders for your gut health. But there are many incredible “gut boosting” foods, vitamins, and herbs that can help your gut get healthy when you feel like you need a little help. You can find all of these herbs and supplements inexpensively from Nature’s Way at our favorite online health and wellness store iHerb.com.
How healthy is your gut really? Keep reading to see which of these herbs and supplements you think your gut may benefit from. We recommend you check with your doctor before starting any new supplement.
Did you know each of us is walking around with approximately 160 different types of living bacteria in our digestive tract? (1) Freaked out a little? Don’t be. This internal ecosystem of bacteria, known as our “gut microbiome”, is not only beneficial but it’s necessary for optimal health. These microscopic good guys not only boost the immune system, but also improve symptoms of depression, fight fat, and attack unwelcome invaders. These little friends even help us break food down and synthesize important nutrients like vitamin K and B vitamins. So if you often find yourself with frequent digestive troubles and feeling bloated, gassy and tired a probiotic may be just what you need. Other symptoms of a gut in trouble can include weight gain, frequent infections, skin issues like eczema, foggy thinking, migraines, and food allergies or sensitivities.
If you don’t eat a healthy amount of probiotic rich foods, have a poor diet, or you’ve taken medications like antibiotics that can wipe these “good” guys from your digestive system, it’s time to start building them back up again. Begin by incorporating fermented foods in your daily diet like greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha. You can make your own naturally fermented foods or purchase them at grocery or health food stores. They’re found in the refrigerated section and should say something like ‘naturally fermented,’ “live food” or “contains live cultures” on the label.
It’s also recommended to incorporate a daily dose of probiotics via supplement form. They’re easy to take and I usually like to keep a variety on daily rotation as each strain can provide its own benefits. Probiotics in supplement form are especially great to bring along when traveling to help protect you against exposure to food and water sources that may not be as clean as you’re used to. If you’ve ever experienced food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea while away then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Look for formulas with a variety of strains to get maximum benefits. These Primadophilus Reuteri Pearls from Nature’s Way are one of my favorites. They’re designed to survive stomach acid and make it to your intestines in tact where they can flourish and do their job. Pronounced roy’-tur-eye this unique lactobacillus strain is naturally found in human breast milk and is one of the first defenses a nursing mother passes to her child. When taken as a supplement reuteri colonizes inside the intestine and provides healthy benefits like healthy digestion and immune support. Plus, these little pearls are tiny and super easy to swallow. If you’re in need of more intense probiotic, Nature’s Way Primadophilus Fortify Daily Probiotic delivers over 50 billion live probiotics in each serving and supplies over 8 beneficial strains to get your digestive tract on the right track.
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Primadophilus Reuteri Pearls
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Primadophilus, Fortify Daily Probiotic
Most of us associate zinc with its ability to kick our immune systems into action. It helps fight off infections and can also improve thyroid function, speed wound healing and is involved in just about every biological process in our body. But sadly, a 2015 study found that about 25% of the world population is deficient in this key mineral. What’s even worse is that low zinc can change our gut microbiome for the worse, making our guts more susceptible to bad microorganisms and ultimately depressing our immune systems. (3)
But what role does it play in the gut? Zinc is important factor in the production of digestive enzymes. But a recent study found that even a very mild zinc deficiency can slow the digestive system and hinder the production of these important digestive enzymes. And digestive disorders like crohn’s disease and IBS can make it difficult for our bodies to absorb the right amount of zinc we need. (4)
Vegans and vegetarians are especially susceptible to low zinc and symptoms include diarrhea, poor wound healing, weight loss, foggy thinking, hair loss, skin conditions, frequent illness and loss of appetite. Oysters are the richest food source of zinc (1 oyster is 83% of your daily zinc needs) but other foods like lobster, crab, beef, lamb, and pumpkin seeds are other great ways to get your daily needed amount.
If you get sick frequently and think you may need a zinc supplement we recommend Zinc Glycinate Chelate a highly bioavailable form of zinc. (5)
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Zinc Chelate
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has been linked to a strong immune system. But researchers are now starting to uncover a connection between vitamin D and gut health. Research has shown that Irritable Bowel Diseases (IBD), an inflammatory condition of the intestines, is more common in people who live in colder climates who have lower vitamin D levels due to their minimal exposure to sun. The belief is that vitamin D can calm inflammation within the body. Sun exposure is the best way to get your vitamin D, and in lower amounts through foods like eggs, liver, and oily wild-caught fatty fish like salmon or mackerel. If you rarely go out in direct sunlight, have a darker skin tone, live in a cold weather climate or you always wear sunscreen, it may be a good idea to take a daily vitamin D supplement. In fact, it’s highly recommended. Before starting, be sure to have your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor to determine how much you might need.
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Vitamin D3 2,000 IU
This isn’t the sweet stuff we roast over a campfire. Marshmallow is a plant that has been used as a folk remedy for healing a variety of ailments including digestive complaints for centuries. Marshmallow is high in mucilage, which is a thick glue like substance that coats your digestive tract and eases inflammation in your gut so it can repair itself. It has also been reported to help to soothe ulcers, diarrhea, and constipation while strengthening the integrity of your digestive system. (6)
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Marshmallow Root
While dandelions might be considered a weed to those who are meticulous about their lawns, the bitter leaves and roots of those pretty little yellow flowers are full of health boosting properties. Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like A, C, K, vitamin E, small amounts of B vitamins along with iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. While these nutrients nourish our body, dandelion root is a rich source of prebiotics. These natural fibers feed the good bacteria in our systems encouraging them to flourish. Dandelion is also a mild laxative that can promote digestion, stimulate appetite and increase the release of stomach acid and bile to aid indigestion.
To get more dandelion root in your diet, you can try dandelion root coffee. This herbal coffee alternative supports digestion and is naturally caffeine free so you can enjoy it any time of day. It can even be prepared like a typical coffee. A dandelion root supplement is always a quick and easy way to get the benefits without having to worry about taste. Be sure to avoid dandelion if you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, or daisies.
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Dandelion Root
Ginger is a true superfood that has been used to heal and soothe the digestive system for centuries. And if you love Asian food, you know it’s pretty tasty too. Ginger contains a powerful active component called gingerol along with beneficial enzymes which help to improve healthy digestion while reducing nausea and inflammation. Ginger also has powerful antimicrobial properties that can help fight and keep the bad bacteria in our guts at bay. It has even shown to be effective against antibiotic-resistant strains and can help reduce the severity and length of the common cold. (7)
To get the benefits of ginger, try cooking with the fresh root or adding it fresh to your smoothies and salad dressings. Fresh ginger also makes a spicy and warming addition to chicken soup and can even be enjoyed as a tea. Simply add some fresh ginger to a cup of boiling water and let steep. You can sweeten with honey if you like. If you’re not crazy about the taste of ginger, but still want to enjoy the benefits ginger, you can take it in its powdered form and it will be just as effective.
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Ginger Root
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is best known for providing soothing skin relief to sunburns, poison ivy and bug bites. But aloe vera can be a great aid to the digestive system helping to boost digestion, improve immunity, balance ph levels and promote nutrient absorption. (8) (9) Aloe can also help to reduce swelling, and irritation internally just as it does externally. It even can help relieve heartburn, reduce inflammation and balance electrolytes while providing prebiotics that nourish the good bacteria in our guts.
The cool sticky gel found on the inside of aloe’s pointy succulent leaves is where the magic is and contains over 70 different vitamins, trace minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. It also provides enzymes like amylase to help break down carbohydrates, starches, and sugars, and lipase to help the digestion of fat. Aloe has also been shown to be effective in treating both constipation and diarrhea. So if you’re having trouble staying regular or you’re more regular than you would like, aloe is just the thing you need.
You can sometimes find aloe vera leaves at your local grocery stores or produce markets. Cut a 2 inch slice from a single leaf, scrape the gel from the inside and blend it with a cup of water for a soothing and refreshing beverage. If you want the benefits of aloe vera but can’t seem to find fresh leaves you can always buy aloe vera leaf juice bottled and drink that instead.
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Aloe Vera Leaf Juice
Traditionally referred to as “Indian saffron” because of its vibrant golden color, turmeric is a power food loaded with essential minerals, including magnesium, potassium and calcium. It’s also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6 and zinc, and vitamin C. Turmeric is not only a potent anti-inflammatory rich in antioxidants, but it can also aid the digestive system by stimulating the gallbladder to release bile and help the body to break down foods, improving the absorption of fats and nutrients. Turmeric’s most potent antioxidant, curcumin, has been shown in studies to calm the digestive system, helping to relieve gas, bloating and symptoms of IBS like stomach cramps, diarrhea and constipation.
Turmeric can be found fresh in your produce section or more commonly dried at your local market in the spice aisle. It is a staple ingredient in curries with a peppery taste, but can be added to soups, stews and smoothies as well. You can also find turmeric in supplement form to get the benefits daily. Turmeric in high doses can have on effect on blood sugar and can thin the blood. Avoid if you have diabetes or are on blood thinning medication.
Recommended Product: Nature’s Way Turmeric
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