Between the holiday office parties, potlucks and family gatherings, this time of year usually alters our normal diets. At Cornucopia, we’re all for a balanced lifestyle and enjoying the festivities – however we’re also well aware that steering off your eating norm can cause some serious digestive blunders. For our next #SupplementSunday we’re discussing some of the best products to help with just that.
The importance of making sure your digestion is at its best goes way beyond curing some bloating and upset (even though those aren’t fun either!). Without proper digestion you risk improper nutrient absorption, a buildup of toxins or excess hormones (potentially leading to hormone imbalances) and a weakened immune system, of which 70% can be found in your gut. Poor digestion can be a reason for acne, less energy, brain fog, coming down with a cold quicker and much more.
If you wish to stay on top of your game throughout all the holiday activities, maintaining your digestive health should be a top priority on your list. Covering a large array of complications, we’re sure one of these products will be a great addition to keep you feeling your best all season long!
Probiotics (+ prebiotics )
If you feel like everywhere you turn someone is telling you to take a probiotic, you’re not alone! The popularity of these supplements have increased greatly in the last decade as research shows their ample benefits of helping digestion, the immune system, mental health and more. Probiotics are bacteria that aid the function and maintenance of your microbiome – the collective name for the trillions of bacteria found in your gut. Supplementing with probiotics can help replenish and maintain a proper ratio of good to bad bacteria (yes, they aren’t all equal). Including food with naturally occurring probiotics, such as fermented foods, is a great option too, but most people don’t eat enough of these.
When purchasing a probiotic supplement: Look at the variety of strains – different strains help different issues from digestion, infections, hormones etc. – so, if treating a specific problem it pays to guarantee you’re taking the correct one(s). Also take note of the CFUs (colony forming units) – depending on your reasoning you may require a stronger, higher count. Brand quality is also important – but luckily all the ones we carry at Cornucopia are reputable! Lastly, you may also come across prebiotics in your search for probiotics. These organisms feed the probiotics, providing them with fuel to grow and flourish in your microbiome. While some supplements contain both, prebiotics are also found in a wide variety of fibrous foods such as bananas, whole grains, garlic, apple cider vinegar, jicama, and jerusalem artichokes (which are in season right now!)
Enzymes are catalysts to reactions, in this case the process of digestion and breakdown of food you consume. Your body already produces its own enzymes, but supplementing with them can food more easily digestible.This results in better nutrient absorption, reduced gas, bloating and more. Similar to the wide variety of probiotics, there’s different enzymes for different foods. For example, lactase to digest lactose (the secret behind most “lactose-free” dairy products) or alpha-galactosidase for the breakdown of legumes, which many people experience flatulence from.
However, if you don’t already know what specific foods cause you the most discomfort, we recommend starting with a supplement that contains a wide spectrum of enzymes, to cover all macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates).
One of the essential amino acids, L-Glutamine differs from the supplements mentioned so far by tackling the physical organs involved in digestion. L-Glutamine has anti-inflammatory properties, can help repair the gut and intestinal lining, and is specifically helpful for those suffering from leaky gut.
Stress can deplete levels of this amino acid, alongside altering digestion in general, and make the body more susceptible to complications such as leaky gut. An average dose is 2-5 grams of l-glutamine daily.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)
This supplement shows to be extremely beneficial in treating individuals with heartburn, gastritis and peptic or stomach ulcers.
It can also help maintain healthy digestion in general by maintaining the mucosal lining of the stomach, plus aid digestive issues caused by stress due to supporting adrenal health as well.
We all know that aloe vera can soothe a sunburn, so just imagine what it can do to internal inflammation. Drinking aloe vera juice shows to soothe, relax, and reduce inflammation in the gut. It can also help heal damaged intestinal lining, relieve constipation, reduce acid reflux and help the body excrete toxins.
You can experience the benefits of aloe by adding raw chunks to a smoothie, drinking the juice plain, or in combination with other digestion-aiding ingredients.
A variety of herbs can be extremely beneficial in aiding different digestive woes.
Ginger soothes nausea and vomiting by regulating peristalsis; the pumping motion of the GI tract responsible for moving food through the gut. Slippery elm can decrease inflammation in the gut by providing protection from abrasion, and can aid many inflammatory issues such as IBD, IBS, acid reflux and Crohn’s disease. Fennel seeds stimulate digestion and are commonly known for reducing gas. Peppermint oil can reduce pain and bloating experienced from issues such as IBS as well as generally calm the digestive system. (PLUS all Oregon’s Wild Harvest herbs are on sale this month, so it’s the perfect time to start incorporating some!)
No, not the same charcoal used on your grill. This activated, chemical-free form is excellent at riding the body of toxins and poisons.
Regarding digestion, activated charcoal binds to and absorbs gas-producing substances to decrease the feelings of gas or bloating. It can also be used a gentle detoxifier as it literally attaches to and moves toxins from the body; it can also help prevent hangovers.
Most americans don’t consume enough fiber in their diets, and we all know fiber is important for proper digestion. There’s many products on the market today that advertise as high fiber, but most of these contain artificial ingredients and fillers.
Psyllium husk is a great all-natural option to add into your regimen. It also shows to aid heart health, lower cholesterol levels and is a prebiotic! It works by swelling up when combined with water, adding mass to stimulate digestion and move things along. It is important to drink plenty of water when supplementing with this, though, to help it move through your digestion system properly.
Diet and Lifestyle tips:
Digestion in particular is a health topic where diet and lifestyle are primary factors in maintaining proper function. As for dietary tips we suggest: including apple cider vinegar or hot lemon water in the morning to stimulate digestion, try to keep both fiber and water intake up, eat fermented foods when possible, don’t drink while you eat (can dilute natural enzymes), and eating slowly/chewing properly. Other than that, try to keep stress at bay, pay attention to your body with how certain foods make it feel, and try to find the root cause of any digestive issue.