Rosie Greenaway takes notes from two digestive health experts about how listening to your body, learning its language and reading the signs is key for optimum gut health
Whether or not languages were your forte at school, it pays off in later life if you learn to listen to and understand your gut – and we’re not talking about intuition. The health of the digestive system, as we’ll hear from two experts, can be improved by simply listening to your body, observing its changes and tuning in to what it’s telling you it needs.
Let’s start with clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer, who gives us some context around the wider importance of a thriving microbiome.
“If the digestive system is not working properly, nothing else will. This is especially important during these COVID times as so much of the immune system sits within the digestive system, so it’s absolutely critical right now,” she explains.
“What is going on in the world is hugely stressful,” adds Sawyer – and therein lies the issue, because if gut health is ‘the core of our overall wellness’ and tense tummies lead to problems with digestion and absorption, then our whole system becomes impacted.
“Stress is a massive factor in digestive problems. Not only does it cause nutrient deficiencies – particularly vitamin C, B6, magnesium – but also during the stress response, blood flow is diverted away from the vital organs, and that in itself will cause digestive problems. As a nutritionist, it’s the most common complaint people consult me for.” And with new Nature’s Way research showing that only 28% of people ‘attempt to manage their stress levels’, that leaves most people succumbing to its undesirable effects.
Not only is the microbiome ‘absolutely vital’ for overall digestive wellness, accord-
ing to Sawyer, but it’s ‘very individual’ to each of us, and it starts the moment we’re born. “The gastrointestinal tract is sterile at birth. Interestingly, babies who are delivered vaginally have a very different gut flora to those that are delivered by a caesarean section. The baby picks up some of the mother’s gut microbiome as it travels through the birth canal,” she explains, adding that we then go on to produce our own unique microbiome.
If COVID wasn’t reason enough for cancelled social engagements, Nature’s Way’s research shows that 65% of people have had to take a rain check due to digestive problems. And it’s not something people always feel comfortable confessing to – cue a long list of elaborate excuses for bailing on plans with friends, and even in some cases, work.
The findings show that of over 3,000 study participants, 61% suffer from digestive complaints and 65% ‘have had some disruption to their life’, reports Sawyer.
“If the digestive system is not working properly, nothing else will. This is especially important
during these COVID times as so much of the immune system sits within the digestive system”
The numbers also point to a potential cause for two-thirds of those surveyed: lack of dietary fibre. “Only 33% ensure they have sufficient fibre in their diet. We recommended 30g of fibre a day … that takes some work if we’re not thinking about it.”
It’s not just what you put into your body that counts, but what you do with your body too. Enter Dr Nitasha Buldeo, integrated medical practitioner, who is here to address lockdown’s impact on the gut. Buldeo’s experience of treating patients in a COVID world is that people fall into one of two camps during lockdown: active and inactive. “What I’ve seen is that it’s split in two. I’ve had lots of people come in saying ‘I feel so much healthier, I take a walk every lunchtime – the time that I would use sitting in traffic I’m now preparing meals’. But there’s the other half that says: ‘I’m not going out as much’.
“What happened is our good habits and our bad habits became more pronounced. Digestion will always be impacted if we’re sedentary. It’s so simple: if you are isolating and you don’t have a garden, just five minutes of jumping up and down can actually get our bowels going. We don’t need a lot of space to move, we just need to make an effort to move at least every 30 minutes.”
With COVID persisting, and a clear link between the digestive and immune systems, Buldeo decided October was the time to bring her 20 years’ experience of facilitating wellbeing retreats to the fore and begin running ‘gut reset’ programmes. “No matter how healthy our diets are, if digestion is not efficient, if our gut microbiome is unhealthy, then you’re really not going to get the full benefit of any other healthy lifestyle choice – even exercise is not as effective if your gut microbiome is out.”
The weekend involved a three-day ‘complete gut cleanse’ based on the Ayurvedic cleansing process – usually 21 days. First comes preparation, including yoga to loosen the bowels and increase peristalsis; then the cleanse, which involves drinking saline to cleanse the gut ‘from mouth to anus’; and finally the reintroduction phase, when the consumption of healthy gut-promoting foods is gently reinstated. Buldeo says the process removes ‘everything in the gut’ – faecal matter, fats, pollutants and some bacteria. “The aim of the cleanse was to drink the water until you passed clear water.” While the retreat took place virtually, the preparation of said saline was, of course, conducted under strict guidance, to precise measurements. “It’s two ingredients: Himalayan salt and water, mixed in a very specific way. It’s easy to teach participants how to do it.”
Could everybody benefit from a cleanse like this and how often should it be repeated? This is where listening to your body comes into its own. Buldeo says it differs from person to person and that determining your Ayurvedic dosha helps understand how frequently the gut needs to reset. “For earthy kapha types, who would probably have found the cleanse the first time around a little more challenging, we recommend that they do it at least every quarter. If you’re pitta, you’re probably going to do it just once a year. After you’ve had this cleanse … you actually start to see when you need it again, you notice changes with your digestion.”
While the subject may not be particularly palatable, Buldeo points to another way to ‘look and learn’ from your body, to understand where you are on your journey to optimal digestive health: check your stool. If you’re not chewing your food thoroughly, it will show. “One of the big problems with our current lifestyle is we do not take the time to break down our food by chewing enough to enable our bodies to digest. I run a healthcare practice and very often we request stool samples … so often the pathology report will come back with undigested particles in the stool. It’s almost 80-90% of the time, which means that we’re just not chewing enough to break down our food. And there’s no way that the stomach acids are going to dissolve particles small enough for us to actually absorb.”
Digestive dysbiosis – or imbalance – can be averted in several ways, according to Sawyer. Avoiding high sugar intake is a good start, and ensuring we eat enough fibre is imperative. Then there are probiotics. It’s no secret how helpful they can be for troubled tummies, but what’s the difference bet-ween various strains? “Some strains have been found to help more with constipation, some help more with skin – there’s such diversity to it. What we tend to find [is] people will take different probiotics at different phases of their life, depending on what’s going on.”
How you consume a probiotic may be led by your particular needs too; for those who tire of (or struggle with) capsules, Nature’s Way has developed gelatine-free Primadophilus Fortify Friendly Bacteria Soft Jells – a gummy probiotic containing the Bacillus coagulans strain, which is spore-forming. “They are very hardy, they’re heat-stable and they help to get those bacteria into the large intestine where they’re absolutely essential for doing that work. It’s a very unusual format, a very easy way of taking a probiotic,” says Sawyer.
Should consumers be faithful to the same strain month after month, or should they mix up their probiotic plan as they would their gym routine, so the gut doesn’t get complacent? Buldeo again: “We know the gut microbiome is highly individualized. We each have an optimal gut microbiome, so when it comes to probiotics I suggest trying a few to start with, then finding the one that works for you … you will feel a difference because [digestion] has a huge impact on energy levels. It’s almost impossible to tell what’s going to be the perfect mix for you, so the only advice I can give is play around until you find that
perfect mix for you … and you understand the bacteria that your gut thrives on. Everything related to wellbeing is about listening to your body. It’s about paying attention to what’s working for you; if you see positive results, then use it.”
PHYTOCID is a natural digestive support, containing a unique blend of concentrated “Phyto-Actives” of Turmeric and Ginger.
Turmeric is known to increase bile flows and relieving from indigestion symptoms such as fullness or flatulence and Ginger, has shown to have gastroprotective effects as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Developed using AlchemLife’s proprietary PhytoAdvance™ technology. This Technology is an end-to-end, “farm to pharmacy” method of plant extraction inspired by ancient understandings of traditional medicine.
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FSC Acidophilus & Prebiotics
Acidophilus & Prebiotics are beneficial, health supporting bacteria found in the digestive tract. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), naturally occurring carbohydrates, support the growth of bifidobacterium.
As with all FSC’s products, Acidophilus & Prebiotics is made in the UK with the finest ingredients and based on widely recognised scientific evidence of their health qualities.
Suitable for Vegetarians and available in 60 and 120 capsule glass bottles. Swallow one to two capsules daily with food.
Our immune system can be compromised during the winter months and whilst health problems are active all year round, your customers may be more vulnerable to them in winter. Our digestive systems are our first line of defence against harmful microbes and toxins entering into the body, as well as being the place where we absorb the nutrients to keep us alive and functioning. If you consider that over 70% of your immune system is located in the gut, it comes as no surprise that a healthy gut tends to lead to overall health.
One way to help your customers to continue feeling tip top naturally this winter, is with regular consumption of a live bacteria supplement. Bio-Kult Advanced is a scientifically developed, multi-strain formulation containing 14 live bacterial cultures, proven to survive the high acidity of the stomach and complement the existing gut flora naturally present in a healthy person’s digestive system. Bio-Kult Boosted contains the same great 14 strains, but at 4 times the power, with the addition of vitamin B12 which contributes to the normal function of the immune system.
Why not suggest our top winter tips to your customers alongside their daily dose of Bio-Kult:
Avoid unnecessary use of central heating and air heaters in cars which upset the balance of the nasal microbiome.
Eat a handful of berries every day, providing high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Consume fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut which could help to balance the gut flora to support the gut and immune system.
Mindfully maintain a general feeling of wellness and contentment. Think positively and start a gratitude journal.
Naturally the winter is a time for hibernation so enjoy quiet nights in front of the fire and capture your best night sleep between 10pm and 6am.
DailyProbio™ – Optimum Gut Support
Restoring a healthy bacterial balance in the gut can help to calm digestive issues such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and constipation, and aid the absorption of nutrients from the diet. HealthAid DailyProbio is a unique and recommended for daily use formulation containing a superior blend of 10 billion live cultures, using 20 different most researched acid and bile resistant strains to ensure that the bacteria are not destroyed by the stomach juices before they reach the intestines. DailyProbio is also fortified with the prebiotic Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), to help stimulate the proliferation and survival of ‘friendly’ bacteria.
DailyProbio™ retails at £13.99 for 30 vegetarian capsules. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk.
Lamberts® Acidophilus Extra 10 Providing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium 10 billion live bacteria per capsule
Lamberts® was one of the first companies to produce live bacteria capsules in the UK (over 30 years ago) and we’ve developed expertise in this area. To ensure proven targeted release for acid-sensitive ingredients like live bacteria, we have:
• Specifically used delayed release capsules. These innovative capsules target release after an extended time period, protecting the live bacteria from degradation in the stomach.
• A special desiccant built into the tube wall of the pot.
• Refrigerated storage conditions until despatch.
• Vegetarian capsules made of plant-based cellulose with a 3 times lower moisture content than typical gelatin-based ones.
EatEnjoy Balance, EatEnjoy Glutalytic, EatEnjoy Dairy
Eat and enjoy the foods you love
Designed to help people enjoy the foods they love, EatEnjoy is an innovative range of enzyme supplements that help support digestion and regularity. EatEnjoy Balance features a unique blend of 13 different enzymes and the probiotic Bacillus subtilis – good bacteria found in the human intestinal tract that facilitates the digestion of complex foods. EatEnjoy Glutalytic contains a combination of digestive enzymes that help break down difficult to digest proteins within gluten, in order to help alleviate symptoms for those suffering from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. EatEnjoy Dairy includes a lactase enzyme to improve digestion in individuals who have difficulty digesting lactose in dairy products. Order directly from Tree of Life and The Health Store.
BioAcidophilus is a high potency blend of the LAB4 complex of live bacteria that can be taken every day.
CLINICALLY EFFECTIVE- Contains 20 billion per daily intake of the clinically researched LAB4 strains of live bacteria per capsule – two specific proprietary strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus along with Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis
HIGH POTENCY CAPSULE- 20 billion per daily intake for everyday use, and suitable alongside antibiotics
GUARANTEED POTENCY- at the end of shelf life. They are stable in storage and in the gut, so you’re guaranteed to get what you need.
It is also free of unnecessary ingredients and allergens, dairy free (which many live bacteria products are not) and vegan-friendly.
The affect of yeast? Many of us live with yeast in our body, without ever thinking about it. Researchers have showed that high concentrations of yeast suppressing plant extracts have a positive influence. Dida™ combines ingredients to help you feel good. Taking Dida™ is a long-term solution to help control yeast, bloating, sugar cravings, and upset stomach.
Dida™ is the tablet you need to reduce fermentation and formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. The unique bioactive nutrient, herbal and spice oil recipe contained in each tablet contributes to the maintenance and function of your gastrointestinal tract and its mucous membrane lining.
Fortify® Friendly Bacteria: Soft Jells
Fortify® Friendly Bacteria: Soft Jells containing Bacillus coagulans – 6 billion live cultures per daily dose.
Bacillus coagulans a spore-forming probiotic which means it’s able to pass through the stomach acid to reach the digestive tract where it can do its work.
Probiotics help restore and maintain the beneficial gut bacteria that are essential for the smooth working of the digestive tract.
• Friendly bacteria in a deliciously fruity berry chewable format
• Made with only natural flavours
• Suitable for adults and children from 6 years
• Suitable for vegans
• No need for refrigeration
• RRP £24.99 for 60 gummies – one month’s supply
NutraCleanse Herbal Tea
NutraCleanse® by NutraTea® is a unique herbal remedy tea that has been expertly blended by pharmacists and nutritionists to help maintain balance and comfort within the digestive system. The comprehensive herbal blend contains 100% active botanicals that have been sustainably sourced including Fennel, Coriander and Burdock Root to help with flatulence, belly spasms and support digestion. Each natural tea bag contains no flavourings, oils or excipients enabling for it to be reused throughout the day, offering a tasty, convenient way to help digest toxins and support detoxification.
A poorly functioning gut can have an enormous impact on health and wellbeing. DigestPro is an innovative formulation that combines digestive enzymes including protease, lipase and lactase, the amino acid glutamine and probiotics. Digestive enzymes help break down food so that nutrients can be easily absorbed. Glutamine, directly feeds intestinal mucosa, reducing gastro-intestinal permeability. The beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, help to restore and rebalance intestinal health, break down food and aid with the absorption of nutrients.
Silicea Gastrointestinal gel
Exciting new studies on the original Silicea Gastrointestinal gel has led to the authorised claim for the treatment of IBS symptoms. Importantly, Silicea is produced without the need for preservatives which can be often aggravate digestive problems in sensitive people. Available in a 200ml bottle or handy sachet pack which is ideal for travelling. Silicea recently teamed up with the largest IBS charity theibsnetwork.org which offers good advice and support to IBS sufferers, each sale donates £0.20 to continue their good work.
The award-winning PrescriptBiotics™ from Good Health Naturally delivers a unique “Bio-Identical” SBO Probiotics Consortia™ comprising 8x beneficial SBOs proven to help renew the gut and create a healthy balance amongst gut bacteria for stronger digestion and immune health. Research indicates that supporting the gut microbiome with a good probiotic product can enhance the innate immune system and regulate pathogen-induced inflammation, protecting against infections such as colds and flus. PrescriptBiotics™ is free from dairy, making it 100% vegan and vegetarian-friendly.