The digestive category is becoming key for health stores, with customers’ increasing willingness to swallow the natural pro-gut message, says Matt Chittock
The UK is fast becoming a nation falling out of love with its guts as all across the country people complain of digestive issues ranging from occasional bloating to full-
“Digestive complaints are among the top reasons why people consult their doctors,” says Kelly Rose, nutritional therapist at Higher Nature.
“The statistics on digestive health issues are staggering. Common complaints include constipation which may affect up to 34% of adults. IBS is another common issue with between 10-20% of people in the UK affected at any one time. This figure may be deemed conservative as many people with the condition do not consult their doctor.
“With the incidence of digestive problems being so common, people are often looking for more natural alternative ways to relieve their issues. A high percentage of customers walking through the door of a health store may be looking for relief of their digestive symptoms.”
So what are those troubled customers choosing when they come into a health store? Luckily there are a host of solutions readily available on the shelves which retailers can point them to. In particular, probiotics have long been considered a key product for the category – mainly because of the research that backs up their use.
“When gut bacteria become imbalanced – known as dysbiosis – this causes fermentation, inflammation and then possibly intestinal permeability,” explains nutritional therapist Joanna Scott-Lutyens.
“This can lead to intolerances, allergies and general reactions to food and the gut not functioning properly which in turn can lead to bloating and other IBS symptoms. Probiotics are therefore important in helping a person regain a healthy bacterial balance.”
But probiotics isn’t a
one-size-fits-all product area. Scott-Lutyens says that clinical evidence shows that strain specificity is key to making the right choice for a customer, since different strains of bacteria have different roles to play.
“For example when deciding as to which probiotic to use for IBS, it is important to ascertain which type of IBS a person is suffering from; IBS-D, IBS-C, IBS-A or general bloating,” she says.
“Then one should look at the specific types (or strains) of probiotics which are best researched to perform the task at hand. Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM – a strain found in OptiBac Probiotics For Every Day Extra Strength, and the most researched strain of acidophilus in the world – has been shown to alleviate bloating, abdominal pain and cramping; typical symptoms of IBS.
“On the other hand the strain Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 – the subject of the largest clinical study on probiotics to date – has been shown in numerous clinical trials to alleviate constipation. This particular strain is in OptiBac Probiotics Bifidobacteria & Fibre which is packaged in a sachet format with added prebiotics, and aimed specifically at those with this symptom.”
Aside from probiotics, there’s also a tried and tested treasure trove of approaches in the natural medicine cabinet. For instance, Jenny Hall, nutritional technician at Viridian Nutrition, says that peppermint oil (chewed or drunk in a tea) aids timely digestion. In fact, studies show that 0.2ml of delayed release peppermint oil thrice daily can help reduce symptoms.
Halls adds that caraway and ginger have also historically been employed to help dyspepsia, nausea and digestive discomfort.
“Poor gastric secretions may not create the correct pH environment for digestive enzyme activation and subsequently produce poorly or undigested foods that may contribute to bloating, flatulence and discomfort,” she says, adding: “Digestive enzymes taken with meals provide the enzymes necessary for the normal digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.”
In the mood
One modern approach to dealing with digestive problems is to move the focus away from the stomach and towards the mind. Stress (combined with eating fast food on-the-move) can be a catalyst for all manner of digestive issues.
“Nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, rhodiola and lemon balm may all be useful during times of stress,” says Rose. In addition, passionflower, magnesium, magnolia bark and theanine may be helpful for dealing with anxiety.
“An area gaining a lot of attention is the link between mood and inflammation. It has been found that levels of inflammatory markers are high in cases of low mood. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and recent studies show it may be useful for balancing mood patterns.
As this trend continues, many people are starting to understand that better digestion starts with less processed food and more mindful eating.
“Could it be we are suffering the consequences of mass production and the concept of fast, cheap food?” asks Hall.
“Eliminating processed foods from the diet and replacing them with wholefoods can improve nutrient density and provide foods that our bodies recognize as nourishing,” she says.
Interestingly, two of the year’s big health food trends – fermented foods and bone broth – both have benefits for digestion.
Fermented foods (such as current foodie favourite sauerkraut) feed the ‘friendly bacteria’ beloved of yogurt manufacturers, and bone broth incorporates gelatine which helps hold digestive juices, as well as lots of super-healthy protein.
In tandem, the ‘clean food’ movement (as evidenced on Instagram) also shows how more nutritious diets have gained momentum – on social media at least.
Yet, although the right natural unprocessed foods might be great for you, what is just as
important as what you put on your plate in the first place is how this food is actually consumed.
“Eating in a calm and relaxed state encourages proper digestion,” says Hall. “But all too often it is a ceremony that has been lost to the humdrum of modern living, with no time for mindful practices surrounding the preparation and consumption of food. Calming the mind, giving thanks for the food you are about to eat and relishing the aroma of cooking prepares the physiological processes for optimal digestion.”
Beating IBS – Tips from The Nutricentre on how to battle IBS:
1. Find your trigger
There are often trigger foods involved with IBS symptoms. Typical trigger foods include: cows’ milk products, wheat, gluten, very spicy foods and chocolate.
2. Plan proper digestion
This means chewing properly, at least 30 times each mouthful. Never eat when you are stressed, emotional or in a rush.
3. Eat at the table
Avoid eating in front of the TV so you are not distracted and your body can focus on digesting food. We excrete less digestive enzymes when we watch TV, and we typically eat 20% more than when sat at a table.
4. Digest properly
Try using a digestive enzyme to help break your food down effectively. Take a broad spectrum digestive enzyme formula such as Viridian’s Digestive Aid or BioCare’s Digestaid at the start of every meal. IBS can be related to poor digestive enzyme secretion.
Avoid drinking fluids with meals. This only dilutes the hydrochloric acid thus making digestion less effective. Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before or after a meal instead to ensure that you are properly hydrated and able to produce hydrochloric acid.
A unique blend of Aloe Vera whole leaf and unfiltered Aloe Vera inner gel combined with peppermint, digestive enzymes and a blend of botanicals recognised for their soothing properties. Aloe Pura 100% Stabilised Aloe Vera Juice is formulated with the minimum of processing to allow the plant’s natural components to remain unaltered and provide high levels of natural activity, as is expected in a quality Aloe Vera Juice- maximum strength- as nature intended.
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
Lepicol is a multi-fibre source product containing 5 live bacterial strains, inulin (a prebiotic fibre source) and gentle psyllium husk which contributes to maintaining normal bowel transit. In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, Lepicol was shown to be an effective solution for people with chronic constipation. The group given Lepicol experienced significantly more bowel movements in just one week, compared to the placebo group, as well as having a ten-fold reduction in laxative use.
Terranova Digestive Enzyme Complex is a powerfully active and intensely synergistic formulation of digestive enzymes and herbal extracts designed to help support the digestive system and aid food absorption. Contains Fennel Seed and Ginger which have a soothing effect on the digestive tract, chlorophyll-rich Green Barley Grass for bacterial balance and fibre, Stabilised Rice Bran, Artichoke Leaf, Cardamom Seed, and Gentian Root along with 12 digestive enzymes. All Terranova products contain no fillers, binders or other excipients and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Each capsule of Jarrow’s Jarrodophilus contains 50 billion organisms per capsule of 10 different strains from 3 different genera. 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. The product is vegetarian, and contains no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no egg, no fish/shellfish, no peanuts/tree nuts. Each tub holds two months supply, at under £40!
Can Dida™ help you fight that bloating feeling? You could be 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. The extracts are digested and create an environment in the intestines where yeast does not thrive. Dida™ is a natural product from Scandinavia. It combines yeast suppressing and anti-septic ingredients to help you feel good. Taking Dida™ is a long-term solution to help control yeast, bloating, sugar cravings, and upset stomach. Dida™ from New Nordic is available in a 90’s pack. Take three tablets daily with a glass of water for 30 days.
Tel: 01327 878050
KiwiZyme™ provides Digesten™, a unique kiwi fruit extract from New Zealand. Combined with Aloe vera inner leaf and FOS prebiotic. An easy to take, once-daily use. Viridian Nutrition is an award-winning company with more than 200 nutritional products. With experienced sales, marketing and technical expertise, Viridian is dedicated to the security and future development of the specialist health food store.
Tel: 01327 878050
An expert formulation comprising good gut bacteria (commonly known as probiotics) with added ‘prebiotics’. The unique Prebiotic FS2-60 offers full-spectrum prebiotic oligosaccharide and plant-derived inulin. FS2-60 is not digested but is utilised by the friendly flora to increase colonisation of Lactobacilli and the Bifidobacteria whilst reducing the foothold of unfriendly species. The Synbiotic Daily range from Viridian Nutrition is available in Powder and Capsule presentations and in two strengths – 1.5 billion viable good bacteria count per capsule and High Strength 20 billion per capsule. Dairy-free.
For every day EXTRA Strength is a premium probiotic supplement containing 20 billion live microorganisms per daily dose, with 5 probiotic strains including the extensively studied L. acidophilus NCFM® – the most well researched L. acidophilus strain in the world. L. acidophilus NCFM® has over 75 publications in peer reviewed journals, in various areas including immunity, allergies, lactose digestion, diarrhoea and IBS. This probiotic is aimed at those who are seeking an advanced probiotic for every day use. Recommend one of the most well-researched probiotics on the market to your customers.