In Part 1 of this series, we examined the science behind digestion, giving particular attention to digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCl), the gut microbiome, and gut permeability. Here in Part 2, we’ll explore practical strategies, including proper diet and advanced nutrition products, for maintaining and/or strengthening the digestion.
My general strategy for improving digestion has three objectives:
Improving the quality of the gut microbiome, requires a three-pronged strategy, inclusive of dietary improvement, targeted supplementation, and lifestyle adjustments.
Regarding diet, first and foremost, we need to eliminate sugar from the diet or reduce it as much as possible. Sugar has been shown in studies to negatively alter the gut microbiome.1 Incidentally, artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, can also negatively alter gut bacteria, thereby promoting weight gain and, eventually, obesity.2
So which foods actually benefit the gut microbiome? Briefly put, the gut microbiome thrives when we consume a wide range of vegetables, fruits, non-gluten grains, meat, fish, and other natural foods. Microbiome diversity has declined among modern, urban people not only because we adopted highly processed industrial foods, but also because we stopped eating so diversely. Our hunter-gather ancestors rarely ate the same foods daily. Their foraging, nomadic lifestyles ensured they were always encountering new foods, thus promoting remarkable microbial diversity.
We can’t eat exactly as they did, but we can nevertheless embrace the many foods available to us, paying particular attention to vegetables and other fiber-rich foods. The individual microbes that comprise our gut microbiome need food, of course, but they can’t eat just anything. Their food is fiber, or more precisely, microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs).
The two sources of MACs are soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, both of which are found in plant foods, particularly vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, non-gluten cereals, and legumes. According to a 2016 study published in Nature, «over several generations, a low-MAC diet results in a progressive loss of diversity, which is not recoverable after the reintroduction of dietary MACs. To restore the microbiota to its original state requires the administration of missing taxa in combination with dietary MAC consumption».3
What does «the administration of missing taxa» refer to? As babies, our microbiomes are initially colonized with the help of our mothers. The two most effective methods of ensuring peak colonization are vaginal birth (as opposed to cesarean) and breastfeeding (as opposed to formula).4, 5 Babies that miss out on these two critical experiences will likely have many missing taxa (species) of beneficial microorganisms.
They will likely not obtain these missing taxa even if they grow up eating a wide variety of healthy foods. One way they can obtain them, however, is through probiotic and prebiotic nutritional formulas. At the end of this article, I will describe the nutritional formulas that I use, which are pertinent to digestion.
An impaired or weakened gut microbiome can promote bacterial overgrowth, but it’s not the only mechanism that does so. As HCl decreases, stomach pH increases, thereby creating an environment whereby bacteria are better able to proliferate.6 A gastric pH of <4 is generally considered to be an effective barrier to microbial overgrowth.7 However, many pathogens have evolved multiple acid resistance mechanisms, thereby increasing their chances of survival during gastric transit.8
What causes low HCl? For most people, there is no single cause, but rather a combination of contributing factors, including:
A healthy diet is the number one strategy for improving and maintaining robust digestion. Sometimes, however, diet alone isn’t sufficient. The following is a description of cutting-edge nutraceutical products that I use in my practice, each of which is useful for improving digestion, whether alone or in synergistic combinations with other products.
This formula combines betaine hydrochloride (HCl) along with a comprehensive, synergistic blend of enzymes, each of which are vital for the digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Betaine hydrochloride (HCl) is an excellent source of hydrochloric acid. Betaine HCl helps to support proper stomach acidity, as adequate HCl is necessary to begin the breakdown of proteins, and to trigger the secretion of enzymes that help digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
Bitter herbs are medicinal herbs that benefit the gastrointestinal system. They have a long history of use, particularly as pre-meal cocktails (aperitifs and digestifs), used to stimulate the appetite and digestion. However, bitter herbs act far beyond the digestive system, impacting the liver, kidneys, skin, lymphatic, circulatory, and immune systems as well. Bitter taste receptors have been shown to trigger a wide variety of biological processes, including the regulation of blood sugar and the activation of the immune system in response to infections.12
Dr. Shade’s Bitters No. 9 is a proprietary bitters combination of dandelion, milk thistle, solidago (goldenrod), gentian, burdock, and essential oils of sweet orange, myrrh, juniper, and clove, delivered in a phospholipid encapsulation system. Herbs such as dandelion, milk thistle, goldenrod, and burdock are each known for having aspects of bitterness, but they also have potential benefits beyond digestion. Dandelion, for example, has a history of traditional use for digestive complaints, and supports healthy liver and gallbladder function. Milk thistle supports normal liver function and detoxification. Classically, goldenrod is used to support the health of the urinary tract, while burdock supports healthy blood chemistry with antioxidant and blood sugar balancing effects.
This synergistic formula offers comprehensive support for optimal gastrointestinal health and function. It provides therapeutic levels of nutrients that support gastrointestinal mucosal repair while helping to fight inflammation. Moreover, it also includes ingredients that promote intestinal regularity.
The active ingredients in GI-Revive include:
This formula is a high dose, dairy-free probiotic supplement that uses the most advanced patented delivery and shelf stability technology available to ensure maximum potency and viability. Probiotic Supreme uses Probiosphere, a technology designed to protect fragile probiotic organisms from harsh stomach acid and deliver the highest number of live organisms to the intestinal tract.
This formula is an exciting combination of digestive support compounds designed to minimize the adverse effects of occasional consumption of gluten, dairy, soy, and egg proteins in individuals who are sensitive to them, as well as to curb the detrimental effects of consuming excessive amounts of starchy foods and sucrose. ProtectZyme contains two active ingredients, Glutalytic and Synetrim CQ, both of which are patented compounds with substantiated structural/functional claims.
Glutalytic: this compound is a blend of four proteolytic enzymes, including aspergillopepsin (from Aspergillus niger), alkaline protease (from Bacillus subtilis), peptidase (from Aspergillus oryzae), and DPPIV. It achieves nearly complete degradation of gluten in the stomach and upper GI tract, thus potentially reducing the symptoms associated with gluten exposure in sensitive individuals.
Synetrim CQ: this ingredient is a concentrated extract of the stems and leaves of Cissus quadrangularis, a perennial plant of the grape family, also known as veldt grape or devil’s backbone. It is the only Cissus quadrangularis (CQ) extract patented for weight loss and improved metabolic functions. It exerts its weight loss effects primarily via the inhibition of specific digestive enzymes, namely, alpha-amylase, alpha-glucosidase, and pancreatic lipase. By inhibiting starch breakdown into glucose and the cleavage of sucrose into glucose and fructose, CQ may reduce the glycemic and insulinogenic impact of starch and sucrose-containing foods.
This product is a novel nutraceutical designed to enhance general immune function and help promote a healthy digestive system. Colostrum is an exceptional nutritional substance produced by mothers for their newborns that offers natural support and nourishment for the immune system. For centuries many cultures have used colostrum for natural health and wellness, as it provides a perfect combination of many critical immune-supportive nutrients.
Tegricel Colostrum is manufactured using the latest technology in order to produce pure, potent colostrum that can support optimum immune function and intestinal health. This technology enables quality colostrum to be created with precision, resulting in a consistent and verifiable combination of immune and growth factors including immunoglobulins, aminoacids and other important nutrients. Tegricel Colostrum comes from healthy, nutritionally supplemented cattle raised in the United States on USDA and FDA certified dairy farms. These cattle are carefully fed a scientifically designed diet that contains the proper balance of legumes and grasses, along with important minerals to ensure consistently high potency colostrum.