The digestive health sector can be an entrée to increased sales if you get the offer right and understand what’s troubling the tummies of today’s consumers, says Matt Chittock
With its firm emphasis on the gut, bowels and business end of the body, digestive health isn’t the easiest subject for some health store customers to talk about. But we need to find ways to speak about it since research by the Henry Potter Advisory Committee suggests that digestive discomfort is becoming a serious issue for more and more people.
The research shows nearly a fifth (17%) of Brits believe their digestive health is poor. The most common symptoms are excessive wind (72.2%), bloating (47.5%) and an uncomfortable stomach (36.8%). The study reveals that men and women are equally affected – although women suffer more from bloating than men (54% vs. 32.3%) as well as consti-pation (35.2% vs. 14.6%).
This state of affairs is reflected in health stores as customers are increasingly asking for advice and the latest digestion-easing natural products. “The most common digestive complaints are bloating, flatulence, consti-pation, diarrhoea, people who have been diagnosed with IBS, undigested food in stools or stools that float,” says Lorna Driver-Davies, nutritional therapist at The Nutri Centre.
“Some will report feeling as though they don’t digest a specific food well. For example, feeling bloated after eating lentils or feeling nauseous or tired after eating fatty foods.
“People also visit for general gut health support – even if they are currently not experiencing any symptoms of discomfort – after having a course of antibiotics or medication. It’s common for people to seek help in recover-ing from food poisoning, as often the gut can be sensitive for some time afterwards.” Such symptoms can mask serious problems like bowel cancer, so it’s vital customers get a medical diagnosis to rule out anything potentially life-threatening. But once they’ve been given the all-clear there’s lots of scope for health stores to help.
The first step is to learn to eat properly. If a snatched sandwich scarfed while hunched over a computer is a daily occurrence, then it’s time to retrain your body to eat better.
“If people eat on the run then they’re fighting against all those stress hormones that make digestion difficult,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville.
“It’s all about taking the time to eat and chewing food properly. When you chew, you’re breaking the food down to make digestion much more efficient. The more you chew the more you release saliva too, which contains useful digestive enzymes.”
Glenville also advises not to drink with food: “Even a glass of water will dilute the digestive enzymes and make digestion more difficult.” One of the most heavily publicised approaches to digestive health over the last decade has been probiotics. Thanks to fantastic PR around the idea of ‘good bacteria’ the category is now one of the most important on health store shelves. “The No 1 digestive support supplement that everyone could benefit from would be a probiotic,” says Sharon Morey, nutritionist at Quest Vitamins. “This could be simply a maintenance dose taken long-term to keep the friendly gut flora in balance or a higher potency shorter term burst to restore the balance after illness or a course of antibiotics.”
Morey maintains that the balance of gut flora is integral to both good digestion and immune function – and that probiotics provide strains of friendly bacteria that help to populate the gut to ensure pathogenic bacteria don’t get the upper hand.
“They can also help reduce the discomfort of digestive disorders such as IBS by offering symptomatic relief,” she says.
“The No 1 digestive support supplement that everybody could benefit from would be a probiotic”
Meanwhile, complementary medicine expert Dr David Dowson says that choosing a probiotic isn’t just about counting the number of bacteria – the number of species present in each product counts too.
“A strong emphasis from the manufacturers of pro-biotics is on the number of bacteria contained, and the customer is led to believe that this is of primary import-ance,” he says. “But the dormant, though live bacteria in a probiotic, when in the right environment of damp-ness and warmth in the intestine, will double in number every eight hours. So a million bacteria will become eight million in 24 hours, and 64 million in just two days.
“More important is the number of species. A good probiotic will contain the eight or so types of bacteria which make up the majority of the population.”
Dowson also says that a high quality probiotic should also feature a prebiotic. This is the chemical which acts as a carrier, transporting the necessary bacteria to where they’re most needed.
Positive herbal approaches are also all-important for tackling digestive issues. And Glenville says that it’s a category in which it pays to go for the tried and tested products. “I like using quite traditional approaches like ginger, marshmallow and chamomile,” she says. “They help stop the bloating and will also work across quite a few different problems.” Interestingly, she says that for some people coffee can be good for aiding constipation. However, she also warns that it can irritate the bowel too.
For a more natural solution Glenville recom-mends flaxseeds which have been soaked in water to provide a good dose of soluble and insoluble fibre. Lorna Driver-Davies advises trying aloe vera and slippery elm as a way to soothe irritated stomachs: “Aloe vera has always been helpful for soothing and calming an irritated gut. It is rich is polysaccharides which work on protecting the plant itself and so offer us immune protection and, in particular, an increase in healing.”
She adds: “Slippery elm contains something called mucilage. It coats and soothes the stomach and intestines. Slippery elm also causes reflux stimulation of nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract leading to increased mucus secretion. In time, the increased mucus production may protect the gastro-intestinal tract against ulcers and excess acidity.” Another colon-positive contender, she suggests, is papaya extract – a simple natural way to regulate digestion through enzymes.
Happily, Driver-Davies says that awareness of digestive issues among the public has never been higher. And this means lives are being saved as customers lose the embarrassment surrounding the subject and stop seeing bloating or constipation as a normal part of everyday life. “Traditionally people may not have wanted to discuss digestive issues as they can be uncomfortable or embarrass-ing,” she says. “What I see now is that people don’t see an issue attached to asking for help. More information is available to the public on what constitutes healthy digestion, which helps to reduce the amount of people who consider uncomfortable symptoms to be ‘normal’.”
The Nutri Centre therapist Lorna Driver-Davies gives us her top ten tips for making life easier to digest
1. Increase fibre-rich foods in the form of more vegetables (but don’t overdo the fruit as your liver will have to process more fructose in the body). Also include more beans, lentils and grains.
2. Eat fruit separately from other foods as it gets digested quickly, so if you do eat it with other food (like protein) this can slow down the digestion of the fruit, and some research has shown the fruit may then start to ferment which in some cases causes gas and bloating.
3. Don’t eat on the move. Sit down and focus on eating, nothing else. Limit your talking as well!
4. Don’t eat when you are stressed or upset. Wait until you feel recovered.
5. Allow time to chew each mouthful thoroughly.
6. Regular exercise and drinking water regularly helps to keep bowel movements healthy – especially important for those who are prone to constipation or dry stools.
7. Don’t over-drink during meals as this dilutes gastric juices. Drink separately from eating.
8. Don’t over-alkalize your diet as this may reduce stomach acid levels over the long-term. Keep the diet balanced and don’t swing to any extreme.
9. A balance of cooked and raw food may help to supply enzymes, although some people digest lightly-cooked food better than raw food. See how you feel! 10. Avoid over-cooking black pepper and chilli (or cayenne pepper) as once over-cooked, these normally anti-inflammatory foods become pro-inflammatory.
The right ingredients
This nutrient has proved to be especially useful for healing cells of the gastrointestinal tract. By boosting the energy of these cells and stimulating their regeneration, glutamine also aids the growth of new tissue, helping to strengthen the gut lining. It also plays a role in the health of the mouth, esophagus, pancreas and liver, which all impact digestion, ensuring the whole digestive process runs more smoothly.
Artichoke leaf extract can help relieve symptoms of indiges-tion, and lessen digestive system problems such as nausea, vomiting, wind and abdominal pain. Studies have shown it is very effective as a treatment for IBS, helping to relieve symptoms significantly. It can also increase bile flow, helping to break down the fats in food and assisting in the digestion process. By promot-ing an increase in bile, artichoke extract also provides the secondary benefits of helping the body to better absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, E and K.
A recent study suggests that blueberries may be associated with both improved gut and immune health. The research reveals that consuming a wild blueberry powder drink is associated with significant increases in Bifidobacterium longum subsp. Infantis. This could be considered a great health benefit because of the strain’s immunomodulatory abilities and the fact that it has been shown to beneficially influence some gastrointestinal disorders, say the researchers.
Chamomile has been widely used for many years to treat digestive problems such as stomach upset, particularly when connected with stress. The herb may relieve intestinal wind, diarrhoea, indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and motion sickness. Several studies have indicated chamomile is an effective and gentle digestive aid, revealing both fast-acting and prolonged anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic effects, reducing muscle contractions and pain, and soothing inflammation of the mucus membranes.
Another old favourite, ginger has a long history of use as a herbal medicine in Asian, Indian and Arabic traditions, dating back to around 2000BC. Ginger contains potent compounds that have been shown to have very positive effects on the digestive tract. It assists in the digestion of fatty foods and proteins, improves appetite and is widely regarded as an excellent natural digestive aid, relieving wind and bloat-ing, and improving bowel movement.
A clear passage
Lepicol – from science- based healthcare company Protexin – is a three-in- one formulation to help keep bowels healthy. It contains a high quality fibre source in the form of psyllium husks along with five probiotic strains and the prebiotic fibre inulin.
Cleanse your body
Potter’s Cleansing Herb Tablets feature senna, aloe, cascara sagrada, dandelion and fennel to provide symptomatic relief of occasional constipation and feelings of bloatedness.
The one for tums
Quest’s new TumBiotix is a specialist probiotic which helps support the balance of micro flora in the gut while promoting natural bowel habits through a powerful mix of L acidophilus and L plantarum.
In the mix
As a proprietary blend of herbs and seeds, D’Mix is the only food supplement to integrate chewing in the human diet. The brand claims it has benefited people with a wide variety of digestive problems rang-ing from severe food allergies and acid reflux to leaky gut syndrome.
Going for gold
Chamomile is a shoo-in to soothe the gut as well as the mind. As usual, Pukka has packed maximum goodness into its take on the digestive classic, with 100% organically-grown credentials.
Beat the bloat
Health Plus’ Digest Plus features the enzymes amylase, protease, cellulase, lactase and lipase, alongside peppermint oil to ease the digestive system. Great for beating the post-holiday bloat this Xmas.
Health file listings
The Christmas party season can often mean increased parties and alcohol consumption. Alcohol can cause an imbalance of our delicate gut flora and damage to the gut lining1 (where the beneficial bacteria lie). Probiotics have been shown to rebalance this gut flora, support the health of the gut lining2 and our gut immune system – which we need to be working tip top to help fight off those winter bugs! Uncomfortable symptoms of bloating can often ruin a big festive meal out. Taking a probiotic before the meal could help your production of important digestive enzymes to break down the food more effectively. It is often pathogen bacteria and yeast that are believed to produce more gas and bloating than beneficial strains. Multi-strain probiotics like Bio-Kult could help to reduce the gas-producing pathogenic bacteria to help you maintain a flat stomach this festive season.
For more information visit www.bio-kult.com or call 01460 243 230
Lepicol – 3 in 1 high fibre formula for Christmas comfort. Lepicol is a multi-fibre source product containing gentle psyllium husk which contributes to maintaining normal bowel transit, as well as inulin which is a prebiotic fibre source. Together, these two ingredients can help ensure your recommended daily intake of fibre. The third key ingredient of Lepicol is 5 probiotic strains that are naturally present in a healthy person’s digestive system. Lepicol is suitable for: Alongside antibiotics, Travelling, Vegetarians, Children, When pregnant
Digeston® Plus Advanced support for Digestive Well-being! HealthAid Digeston® Plus is a unique blend of purely vegan digestive enzymes combined with fruit extracts such as pineapple and papaya that are well known for their naturally occurring digestive enzymes to enable the breakdown of food. The formula is boosted with a superior blend of 600 million viable bacterial strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to help replenish the body’s good bacteria. The formulation also contains chloride in the form of calcium chloride that is proven to contribute to healthy digestion through the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Digeston® Plus retails at £9.99 for 30 tablets. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk.
Just Chew on the next big thing in Digestive Wellness. As featured in national newspapers, magazines and radio, it is the first ever product to focus on the importance of chewing to improve digestion, with natural state botanicals to support food absorption and elimination. Train your digestive system back into healthy functioning. A proprietary Ayurvedic-inspired food supplement, it enhances all supplements, probiotics and enzymes and has no contraindications. Results seen within one month. D’mix: your perfect digestive partner. High level of repeat business, POS materials, in-store demos and training. Order now from CLF, Tree of Life, Natural Dispensary or Conscious Food. For more info visit www.consciousfood.co.uk or call 0207 720 7099. RRP £19.99
GOOD Hemp’s shelled hemp seeds; GOOD SEED are an easy way to get the goodness of hemp into your diet. They are available in four natural flavours: Original, Sweet Cinnamon, Asian Spices and Italian Herbs. Hemp seeds are a great source of easily digestible protein and contain all 10 essential amino acids. GOOD SEED also contains a perfect ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids which is the only plant source that does so. The seeds can be eaten on their own as a snack or used in curries, pasta, soups ad salads or sprinkled on cereal, yoghurt or ice cream. RRP: £3.89 Available from: Suma, Tree of Life, CLF, The Health Store, Marigold, Queenswood.
Espinheira Santa (Maytenus ilicifolia) is native to southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Its leaves and berries resemble those of the European holly. Leaf infusions have a long history of use for the treatment of gastric ulcers, dyspepsia and other gastric problems. A 1991 study demonstrated that an ordinary hot water extract helps to regulate hydrochloric acid production. Traditionally the leaves are collected during the autumn when the concentration of tannins is higher and the plant is not flowering or fruiting. The tea has a pleasant taste, and offers a safe and simple remedy for the treatment of minor digestive complaints.
Why have second best when you can have the best? From the #1- Selling Probiotic Brand in the USA, Jarrow Formulas, Jarro-Dophilus contains clinically documented strands of probiotics – 10 Strains in 3 Genera and a minimum total of 50 billion cultures per serving guaranteed! Strands are L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. helveticus R0052, L. casei Lc-11, L. paracasei Lpc-37, L. plantarum Lp-115, L. salivarius Ls-33, B. lactis Bl-04, B. breve Bb-03, and B. longum BB536. Each capsule is coated with gel-matrix gut-transit protection to ensure the cultures make through the stomach into the intestine, where they need to be! The capsules are suitable for vegetarians and one bottle contains two month’s supply for £39.99.
TumBiotix is a specialist probiotic combination of L.acidophilus and L.plantarum for the management of digestive health. Probiotics may help to support the balance of gut microflora and promote normal bowel habits. It is estimated that 10-20% of the population suffer from IBS symptoms. A clinical study using a combination of L.plantarum and L.acidophilus found that 55.6% of IBS patients experienced a reduction in their symptoms. In contrast only 8% of the patient group given placebo experienced a similar reduction. Tumbiotix is part of a complete range of targeted probiotic solutions. Please contact us for more information on stocking this range.
There is a long-standing history of use for digestifs. 100% Organic Digestive Elixir is produced in the UK and certified by the Soil Association. Full ingredients list: fresh organic Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) Root, fresh organic Meadowsweet (Spiraea ulmaria), organic Fennel (Foenicum vulgare) Seed, fresh organic Peppermint (Mentha piperita), fresh organic Angelica (Angelica archangelica) Root, organic Gentian (Gentiana lutea) Root and organic honey in a base of organic alcohol. Viridian is an award-winning company with more than 180 nutritional products. With experienced sales, marketing and technical expertise, Viridian is dedicated to the future development and security of the health food store.
Overindulged this Christmas? Natures Aid DigestEeze® (Milk Thistle) is a Traditional Herbal Medicine (THR), to relieve the symptoms associated with over indulgence of food and drink such as indigestion and upset stomach based on traditional use only. Each Natures Aid Milk Thistle tablet contains 137.5-165mg of standardised extract from Milk Thistle fruits (Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertner), corresponding to 82.5mg of silymarin, calculated as silibinin. Natures Aid DigestEeze® is suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans 60 tablets RSP £9.95. For further information on DigestEeze® or the Natures Aid Traditional Herbal Medicines range call Natures Aid on 01772 686231.
Udo’s Choice Super 5 Microbiotic Lozenges contain five bacterial strains with a guaranteed two billion viable bacteria* in each unique natural raspberry flavoured lozenge. Taken after meals, these lozenges are an ideal way for all the family to obtain ‘friendly’ lacto and bifido bacteria. With a unique raspberry flavour, not only are they healthy but they taste delicious too! *at time of manufacturer
Lifestream Biogenic Aloe Vera Juice offers all the important properties of the freshly cut ‘inner gel’ of Aloe barbadensi, considered superior to ‘filtered whole leaf’ and flavoured versions of competitors. Lifestream has expertise extending over 30 years and pioneered the promotion of Aloe Vera juice for digestive health. Consumers seeking the inner health benefits of a high quality certified organic Aloe Vera juice, along with a mild fresh taste, will also be reassured by Lifestream’s guarantee that this product is free from herbicides, pesticides, sugar and sweeteners. Availability: 500ml (RRP £7.95), 1.25ltr (RRP £15.95) and 2ltr (RRP £24.95).