Below the belt

As evidence builds that good gut health is crucial to overall good health, Kate Miller looks at how the health food sector is helping consumers to digest the message

The last time I wrote about digestive health for NPN, the major focus was on probiotics and fermented foods. 15 years ago probiotics, much to many in the industry’s dismay, was all about the ‘battle of the little bottles’ while the discussion around fermented foods focused on whether the British public could be persuaded to develop a taste for sauerkraut.

Today, while these digestive aids are still very much at the forefront of digestive health research, the world of probiotics has been through the legislative mill, while the British public is still finding the fermented food section hard to swallow.

According to nutritional therapist Julie Silver, digestive health issues seem to be both a problem generally and a growing concern, a trend, she puts down to the consumption of more processed foods as well as “pollution, electromagnetic stress and busier work schedules”.

This growth in gastrointestinal problems helps to explain the huge amount of research into this area. Earlier this month probiotic supplementation was linked to an improvement in MS symptoms while other research has pointed to its preventing AAD in children receiving antibiotic therapy, reducing the risk of developing C difficile infection when given with antibiotics, and protecting premature babies (source: NHS).

Studies have also linked probiotic and fermented foods with mental wellbeing and resiliency against anxiety and depression.

Further findings on the role of gut bacteria in health may come from the British Gut Project at King’s College London which aims, by analyzing the gut bacteria of 2,000 people, to map the species of bacteria existing in the gut of the British population. The results will then be compared to other countries to see which has the healthiest diets and why. The results of this project could be interesting for many reasons, not least because of the huge percentage of the population which experience gastrointestinal (GI) problems. According to Mintel’s 2016 Gastrointestinal Remedies report, 86% of all adults have had some form of GI issue in the 12 months to May 2016. Of these, quite a high proportion report that they look for alternatives to over-the-counter remedies for help.

However, while probiotics can be presented in more palatable forms, the problem for foods such as sauerkraut, kombachu and kimchi is that they are an acquired taste.

The future of fermentation
CEO of Bio-tiful, Natasha Bowes, says she doesn’t see this as a problem: “I’m confident that the growth of fermented foods is going to continue to take the sector by storm, and the UK will become much more aware of their many health benefits and how they can naturally support digestion.” She says that awareness of gut-related illnesses such as IBS and Crohn’s has led to a general resurgence of fermented and cultured foods, renowned for their high probiotic content. “Our gut is home to billions of good bacteria so it is essential to keep it topped up. Kefir, for example, is the most probiotic of all natural foods, and if you’re lactose intolerant or want to ensure that your digestive system is resilient to the effects of stress, illness or antibiotics, the natural gut-friendly bacteria in it, combined with the vitamins and minerals, help to rebalance the gut flora in your stomach.”

Osteopath and nutritionist Marcus Webb says that persuading the British public to eat fermented food may prove challenging: “Some people simply dislike fermented foods, rather like Marmite; you love it, you hate it.” He also says that not all people do well on a high fermented food diet: “It can cause considerable wind and bloating. Over time this can ease up but for some this does not happen quickly enough! “

But it’s the price of some of the products which worries nutritional therapist Lorna Driver-Davies: “I saw a retailer selling sauerkraut for £14 a jar. Someone on low incomes may think that it’s something that is out of their reach.” She says she either makes her own or buys Biona Sauerkraut.

Webb says that the future of probiotics may be somewhat out of our hands and in those who will ultimately classify them as a “dietary supplement or a functional food, a novel food or even a medicine”. He also says that the delivery mechanism could be improved on in most cases: “The need for enteric coating is key to getting enough bugs through the harsh gastric environment and into the lower gut where they can thrive.” Enteric-coated probiotics, says Webb, would not have to be so densely packed with billions of ‘bugs’ because the survival rate would be far more efficient. “It would also be interesting for manufacturers to state the CFU’s at the expiry date rather than use the manufacture date as the starting point for the label claim. I am aware that the viability of most probiotics drops off with time, some more than others, but knowing the worse case CFU would be helpful.”

He also predicts a more personalized probiotic formulation service. “At the moment we are happy to take generic blends of ‘healthy’ bugs in the knowledge that most people will take some benefit from boosting these levels, but our real knowledge is in its infancy when it comes to the colonic ecosystem. In the battle of the bugs we may be looking at individualizing probiotic formulas in the future simply because our microbiome is almost as specific for us as individuals as our genetic code is. It’s still early days but very exciting ones if you are in that field of research at the moment.”

Bowes says the hope for the future lies with the younger generation and its awareneness about the importance of digestive health. “This has been helped largely by increased media attention and the many reports from high profile nutritionists. The amount of literature on digestive health is growing, which means people are becoming savvier.“

All this leads to a growing opportunity for retailers but, says Silver, only if they proactively educate themselves and their customers: “If they can ask their customers more questions about the state of their digestion and educate them to let them know that digestion is key to improving their general health and also that it affects mental health.”

Web encourages retailers to look for enteric-coated probiotics wherever possible. “Stocking a good variety of enzyme products is always a wise move, especially the newer plant-based enzymes that contain cellulose/fibre-splitting ingredients such as cellulase, alpha-galactosides and hemicellulase.”

Bowes says modern-day consumers want to make more ‘informed’ decisions about what they buy and from where, so health food retailers need to ensure they are clued up on what the market has to offer. “We as producers should try to make this as easy as possible – from strong design to clear, honest messaging. This is precisely what we strived to achieve with our re-branding exercise at the beginning of the year. Both producers and retailers should realize that today’s consumer lives a very fast-paced life and is constantly striving for efficiency, therefore it is imperative to capture their attention immediately, both with clear design and messaging”.


Signs of GI problems including gut flora imbalance
• Bloating, belching, flatulence following a meal
• Burning sensation following a meal
• Feeling over-full following a meal
• Tiredness
• No intestinal gas
• Indigestion
• Diarrhoea
• Chronic bad breath
• Constipation
• Itchiness in the bottom or vaginal areas
• Period ceasing
• Weakened fingernails
• Skin irritations
• Breast enlargement in men
• Thrush
• Respiratory problems
• Anaemia
• Undigested food in stools
• Severe bruising
• Bladder infections
• Greasy stools
• Unusually coloured stools
• Hormonal problems


The Global picture
Digestive health has long been recognized as an opportunity  by mainstream manufacturers, however EU legislative woes have caused a shift in emphasis to softer messaging.

According to a report published by market analyst Innova Market Insights, this has seen a move away from probiotic claims to the indirect use of health benefits such as ‘with live cultures’; the emphasis now being on the ‘happy tummies/feeling good from the inside’ benefits of good digestive health. This has extended to other areas including fibre from oats, seeds, etc, and is also seeing a benefit in renewed interest in sales of fermented foods such as sourdough and fermented drinks.

The message seems to be hitting home, as around the world consumers have been increasing fibre consumption, with China, US, Brazil and Australia among the key markets.


Hot Stocks

Digestive bar
Eat Natural’s Better Inside bar is part of the maker’s Bars with Benefits range and claims to be the first ever ‘digestive health’ bar. The snack combines chicory root, dried apricots, Brazil nuts and coconut flakes which are coated in yoghurt to aid digestive traction and to promote gut health. The bar is gluten- and wheat-free.

Calming botanicals
Formulated specifically to support your digestive health, NHP’s Digestive Health Supplement, from Dr Marilyn Glenville, contains a carefully selected and balanced  range of botanicals to promote healthy digestion and normal bowel movement. Along with peppermint oil, marshmallow and slippery elm it also contains ginger, chamomile, artichoke, fennel, turmeric and liquorice.

Creating a stir
Daily Cultures from Stir Drinks seek to combine tea with taste-free, heat-resistant bacteria, with every serving containing over one billion ‘friendly’ bacteria. The range includes Breakfast Tea, Green Tea and Peppermint Tea. The company says that its patented Ganeden BC30 probiotic is up to ten times more effective than some dairy cultures.

Sustained energy
Bio-Gluco Control from Pharma Nord aims to slow the absorption of glucose from the digestive tract through the combination of the Chilean maqui berry extract Delphinol and Pharma Nord’s organic chromium yeast ChromoPrecise. Pharma Nord says that the product helps reduce cravings for sugary snacks and carbs, increasing times between feeling hungry, and helps to achieve a more sustained energy supply.

Rescue Gel for tummies
Enterosgel from Enteromed is designed to prevent and ease painful digestive complaints such as indigestion, heartburn, reflux, bloating, excess wind or upset stomachs. The gel is adsorbent and includes the active ingredient organosilicon compound polymethylsiloxane polyhydrate (methylsilicic acid hydrogel) which helps to remove bacterial toxins from the gut within 12 hours.


Digestive Health Products


HealthAid Ltd
Tel: 020 84263400
E-mail: [email protected]

ColiProbio™ Optimal health Digestive Health – HealthAid® Coliprobio combines the nine most researched live probiotics strains easily accessible for people who need a stronger support for intestinal & digestive health. The Probiotic Blend in Coliprobio is a combination of lactic acid-producing bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, Streptococcus and Bifidobacterium. Owing to their bactericidal and antiproliferative effects against pathogens, they primarily help regulate intestinal functions. Secondly, they also have a stimulating effect on immunity. The formula includes the powerful strains L.Rhamnosus and Plantarum well studied to help reduce the severity of complaints such as diarrhoea, cramping, and bloating usually associated with deep flora imbalance. Coliprobio has the added benefits of FOS acting as a prebiotic to help the proliferation of good gut bacteria. ColiProbio™ retails at £19.99 for 30 capsules. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit



Lifeplan Products Ltd
Tel: 01455 556281
E-mail: [email protected]

WindAway is uniquely steam activated charcoal; no chemicals are involved in the process as with other activated charcoal products. If you suffer from flatulence generally or due to IBS or an upset tummy you can trust WindAway to help you too. WindAway is derived from coconut shells and each capsule provides 334g of activated charcoal in a vegetarian capsule shell. Registered with the Vegan Society.  Wave goodbye to wind with WindAway
For more information contact [email protected] or call 01455 556281.



New Nordic
Tel: 0800 3891255
E-mail:  [email protected]

Do you know people who are affected by 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. Dida is a long-term solution to help control yeast, bloating, sugar cravings, and upset stomach. Dida is the tablet needed 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.


renew-lifeUltimate Colon Care

Renew Life
Tel: 0800 7076671
E-mail:  [email protected]

Ultimate Flora Colon Care is a powerful 80 billion once a day probiotic. Formulated with 10 specific strains for bowel conditions such as IBS, chronic constipation, acute diarrhoea, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Diverticulitis, intestinal permeability, and abdominal discomfort. Contains specific probiotic strains proven to help reduce inflammation, intestinal permeability and sensitivities. It contains 32 billion Lactobacilli and 48 billion Bifidobacteria to offer complete support to the entire intestinal tract following illness, imbalance or antibiotics. Our unique enteric coating delivery system ensures 100% probiotic delivery. Suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Dairy, soy and additive free.


the-natural-health-practiceAdvanced Probiotic Support

Natural Health Practice
Tel: Tel: 01892 507598
E-mail:  [email protected]

Friendly digestive bacteria – Not all probiotics are the same. Advanced Probiotic Support is a high strength, high quality source of beneficial bacterial for balancing digestive health and supporting the immune system. The daily dose of Advanced Probiotic Support delivers 12 billion bifidobacteria strains and 10 billion lactobacillus acidophilus. With added prebiotics to feed and aid the probiotics, gamma oryzanol to soothe digestive discomfort and glutamine to aid normal digestive function. No need for refrigeration. For more information, contact [email protected] or 01892 507598.


pukkaPukka Triphala Plus

Pukka Herbs
Tel: 0117 9640944
E-mail:  [email protected]

Triphala is the traditional Ayurvedic herbal blend of amla, haritaki and bibhitaki.  This combination soothes the bowel providing protection from mucous membranes of the digestive tract encouraging cell renewal and repair.  Alongside other essential digestive herbs such as rhubarb, psyllium husk and fennel, this blend is formulated to support sluggish bowels, occasional constipation and poor digestion.  A gentle cleanser for the bowels by stimulating and lubricating the colon without causing habituation.


kinetic2Jarrow Jarrodophilus 50 Billion Probiotics

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725825
E-mail: [email protected]

Each capsule of Jarrow’s Jarrodophilus EPS contains 50 billion organisms per capsule of 10 different strains from 3 different genera, including the Lactobacillus group; a group of lactic acid producing, friendly bacteria that promote healthy levels of candida albicans. There are many advantages to choosing Jarro-dophilus, including – stability at room temperature (making them ideal for travel); the capsules are coated with a gel matrix to protect the probiotics through their transit through the gut, so that they might end up where they are supposed to be – in the intestine; vegetarian product; no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no egg, no fish/shellfish, no peanuts/tree nuts. Each tub holds two months supply.


kineticAmazing Grass Raw Reserve

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725825
E-mail:  [email protected]

Amazing Grass Raw Reserve is a blend of AFA’s (E3Live – fresh blue green algae), spirulina, chlorella, and sea vegetables from the coast of Maine, like kelp and sea lettuce, combined with nutrient-dense cereal grasses, with the addition of 25 billion probiotics per serving at time of consumption, a digestive enzyme complex blend, organic maca, burdock root, ginger, aloe vera, cayenne, organic flax and chia seed. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and phyto-nutrients, all of which assist the body in maintaining healthy organ function, detoxification and immunity. Organic, raw, vegan, GMO- and gluten- free. Available in Original and Berry flavours.


lambertsLamberts® Probioguard®

Lamberts Healthcare Ltd
Tel: : 01892 554313
E-mail:  [email protected]

For those travelling, or following a course of antibiotics – Probioguard® contains four carefully selected strains of friendly bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp bulgaricus, which have been widely used in clinical studies. These species of bacteria are specially selected for use when travelling, as local cuisine can expose the gut to new challenges where different bacteria strains may be present and this can unsettle digestion. Probioguard® is suitable for:  • People considering travelling abroad  • People who have used a course of antibiotics  • People with regular bloating problems or on-going digestive disturbances. Our special pot contains an innovative inbuilt desiccant to ‘lock up’ any moisture.


cultechAdult Acidophilus & Bifidus – 25 Billion

ProVen Probiotics
Tel: 01639 825107
E-mail:  [email protected]

ProVen Probiotics’ Adult Acidophilus and Bifidus 25 Billion, contains Lab4, the most comprehensively studied group of friendly bacteria produced in the UK, proven to colonise the human intestine, to support the digestive tract during and following antibiotics and to reduce symptoms in IBS sufferers. The studies conducted with top universities and medical schools in Cambridge, Sheffield, Southampton and Cardiff have confirmed that ProVen Adult Acidophilus and Bifidus 25 Billion provides real benefits in supporting digestive and immune health. Gluten and dairy free and suitable for vegetarians, a pack comprises 30 capsules, each containing 12.5 billion friendly Lab4 bacteria.