Readers’ digest

Consumers that trust their guts are flocking to find out more about natural approaches to digestive health, says Matt Chittock.

Are you sitting uncomfortably? For a growing number of people in the UK, digestive health issues like indigestion, constipation, heartburn and bloating mean they’re most certainly not. Recent research reveals that around 40 per cent of people suffer from at least one of these problems. And the cause is often put down to the hectic modern lifestyles we lead with stress and poor diet cited as a big cause.

“The digestive health category is now, and I think always has been, a very important sector for the health retailer,” explains Martin Betts at Health Plus.

“Working on the premise that you are not only what you eat, but more importantly what you absorb and digest, intestinal health has always been key to good health.”

The first aspect of digestive issues to address is often diet. Earlier this year research emerged that 68 per cent of people in the UK routinely brought the same foods (including ingredients for staples like spaghetti bolognese and chicken tikka masala) each week. This led scientists to comment that the typical British diet is often predominantly ‘beige’.

Betts says that these kinds of foods are not only bland, they don’t do the body any favours either.

“Because of the way our diets are changing to include much more processed food and higher sugar intakes, many people don’t realise the harm they are doing to their internal systems, leading to increases in Candidiasis, constipation, or indeed the opposite – loose stools,” he says.

“A sub-category of the digestive health sector is fibre,” he continues.

“As a nation we now have a much lower intake of fibre, or roughage as we used to know it, with most people in the UK not getting the recommended 18g a day.”

Experts point out that there are two types of fibre – soluble (which dissolves in water and is found in oats and vegetables) and insoluble fibre (which, as the name suggests, doesn’t dissolve in water and is found in nuts, fruits and beans). Luckily it doesn’t matter what type you consume as long as you get enough.

Interestingly, various studies have shown that a high quantity of fibre – from both food and supplements – has benefits for heart disease as well as digestive health. Whole grains are important too. The British Dietetic Association says that a diet rich in wholegrains may help maintain a healthy weight and a healthy digestive tract by helping maintain regular bowel movements and promoting growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.

Herbal helpers

There are plenty of tried-and-tested herbs in the natural products roster that practitioners have used for centuries to treat digestive health problems. For instance, the use of peppermint dates back to ancient Greece. Today it’s often used in delay release capsules to relieve problems like IBS. For mild problems a cup of herbal peppermint tea can be just as effective as a tablet.

Chamomile is also a popular stomach-soother. Sometimes called ‘mother of gut’ – studies on dried chamomile have flagged up both anti-spasm and anti-anxiety effects. This makes it perfect for treating more difficult digestive issues.Spices can be effective too – in products such as Health Plus’ Tumeric Plus.

“Our newest digestive innovation has been the introduction of our Turmeric Plus, which has become a real success in health food stores and overseas,” says Betts.

“It combines Turmeric Extract – which is high in Curcumin – with Turmeric powder, Bromelain, warming Ginger Root – (which settles the stomach), and Black Pepper – to maintain a high absorption rate.”

Conscious healing

Manufacturers are always trying to find innovative takes on age-old problems – and Conscious Foods has stepped up to the mark with its Digestive Mix, which also harnesses the power of herbs.

“The tradition of chewing colour-coated fennel seeds to aid digestion after an Indian meal has always fascinated me,” says Kristina Locke from Conscious Food.

“At the same time, as a practitioner, I was particularly struck by the increasing number of people who suffer from digestive complaints.  I wanted to create a more effective, natural version of the colour-coated fennel seeds, based on Ayurvedic heritage and using the best quality digestive herbs and seeds available.”

What came out of this inspiration is a product Locke describes as “a revolutionary approach to digestive healthcare”. As she points out, the action of chewing food properly is all-important – and using the product means focusing heavily on the healing properties of mastication.

“The ingredients have been specially selected for us by our panel of experts in India, which includes medical herbalists, Ayurvedic doctors and nutritionists,” she says.

“Each ingredient in the Digestive Mix has a specific function, but when combined in this proprietary, synergistic way, their effect is far greater.  The fact that we only use the highest quality organic ingredients, ensures their potency.”
Conscious Foods also plans to bring heritage millet grain to the UK, since the grain is particularly kind to  consumers’ stomaches.

“Alkalising products are very gentle on the digestive system and millet is one of the only alkalising grains available,” says Locke.

Profiling probiotics

Complementary medicine expert Dr David Dowson explores research into probiotics – a key natural approach for digestive health issues

What are the main digestive health problems consumers face? How can probiotics be used to treat them?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has become much more prevalent in recent years. Five years ago it was thought to affect about 20 per cent of the UK population, whereas a recent study shows that this figure is now 40 per cent.

This marked increase is probably due to lifestyle, with stress being a major factor. Stress affects the acidity of the bowel as stomach acid production increases, and this alters the level of natural essential bacteria in the intestine. So a dysbiosis results – which is a change in the balance of the various natural bacteria.

There are about 400 different species of bacteria in the human intestine, but less than ten types of bacteria make up over 90 per cent of the gut organisms.

Food intolerance is a common result of dysbiosis, but is often overlooked and diagnosed as IBS. If the food intolerance is recognised, and the implicated food avoided (as well as using probiotics) not only will the underlying causative dysbiosis be corrected, but the food intolerance will gradually reduce. It seems likely that more serious bowel disorders, like inflammatory bowel disease (such as colitis and Crohn’s disease) may be exacerbated by, and in turn exacerbate, a dysbiosis. So a downward spiral develops if the bowel bacteria are not corrected.

How do probiotics work on the body?
The normal bacteria in the gut work predominantly in two ways. First they maintain the acidity level precisely at that which optimises the effectiveness of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, so ensuring the most efficient absorption of essential nutrients. And secondly the bacteria themselves produce enzymes for digestion.

Do you think that consumers’ understanding of probiotics has improved over the last couple of years?
There seems little doubt that the awareness of probiotics has increased, largely due to the promotion of foods containing probiotic bacteria, but at the same time the knowledge of probiotics is flawed by such publicity.

Sadly probiotics, by legislation, have to be considered as food supplements rather than medicine. This has led to confusion between foods and what in reality is a medication.

A strong emphasis from the manufacturers of probiotics is on the number of bacteria contained, and the customer is led to believe that it is of primary importance. But the dormant, though live bacteria in a probiotic, when in the right environment of dampness 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 (if that number are needed).

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. So advertisements for probiotic yogurts are increasing awareness, but probably not understanding.

A high quality probiotic preparation would also contain a pre-biotic. This is a chemical which acts as a carrier, taking the necessary bugs to where they see are needed.

The usual one is fructose-oligo-saccharide, so a probiotic with this and the necessary range bacteria species would theoretically be the most beneficial.

About Dr Dowson
Dr David Dowson was a GP for over ten years and has been in complementary private practice for the last twenty-four. He specialises in environmental medicine, including nutritional medicine, and has done research into nutritional deficiencies and the effects of gut abnormalities on general health. He is retired but is still registered as a GP and runs the Ann Hill Research Trust – a national charity dedicated to researching and promoting complementary medicine.

Digestive Health Listings

Savant-2Udo’s Choice Age-Specific Probiotics

Savant Distribution Ltd.
Tel: 08450 60 60 70
E-mail: [email protected]
Protect the whole family this winter with Udo’s Choice age-specific blends of probiotics. Probiotic requirements change as we age; adults need different strains, in much larger quantities than children need for optimum health. This is why Udo’s Choice offers four age-specific formulas, each specifically designed using an appropriate mix and quantity of probiotic strains. From Infant’s powder to Junior, Adult’s and Adult’s 50+ capsules, Udo’s Choice has a probiotic for every member of the family.


Probiotics International Ltd (Protexin)
Tel: 01460 243230
Christmas Constipation – It is all too easy to overindulgence on rich foods over the festive season. It is important to try and maintain the right amount of fibre in your diet to help keep your bowels working regularly. Fibre is a key part of our dietary intake to ensure we maintain a healthy bowel. Not eating enough fibre can lead to digestive problems such as constipation and other chronic digestive disorders. Lepicol is a three in one combination of soluble plant fibre known as Psyllium Husks, Inulin (Prebiotics) and Probiotic Cultures. These ingredients make up a formulation which is effective but gentle in action and suitable for everyday use in helping to maintain a healthy bowel and gently helps waste material to move through your bowels without straining or unwanted urgency. for more information.

Dr-Organic-1Aloe Pura Colon Cleanse

Optima, J Shed, Kings Road, Swansea, SA1 8PL
Tel: 01792 646475
Fax: 01792 646490
E-mail: [email protected]
Colon Cleanse utilises the unique characteristics of Aloe Vera, with a new botanical mix:

• Liquorice
• Dandelion
• Flax fibre
• L-glutamine
• Apple Pectin

Detoxifying and regulating, Aloe Vera helps boost the immune system by introducing Antioxidants to the body. Aloe Vera has anti inflammatory properties which can help with painful, aching joints. Also helps detoxify the body and promotes healthy, regular bowel movements.

Dr-Organic-2Aloe Pura Digestive Aid Tablets

Optima Consumer Health, J Shed, Kings Road, Swansea, SA1 8PL
Tel: 01792 646475
Fax: 01792 646490
E-mail: [email protected]
XS Acid contains concentrated certified Aloe Vera with:

• Peppermint Oil
• Digestive Enzymes
• Fennel
• Chamomile
• Pineapple

All the above are known for their soothing and digestive properties.  Available in 30, 60 or 90 tablet packs.

Conscious-FoodDigestive Mix

Conscious Food Ltd. Unit 3B, Clapham North Business Centre, 26-32 Voltaire Road, London, SW4 6DH
Tel: 020 7720 7099
E-mail: [email protected]
Digestive Mix is a natural, safe blend of superior quality herbs and seeds that acts as a training aid to encourage proper chewing for improved digestive function and vitamin absorption. Simply take half a teaspoon three times a day after food to kick-start the digestive process. Chew at least 20-30 times to break down the active ingredients and mobilise digestive juices and enzymes. As well as helping to relieve acid indigestion and bloating, Digestive Mix can also help reduce symptoms of IBS, Chrohn’s disease and food intolerances. Look great and feel better every day with Digestive Mix.


HealthAid Ltd, HealthAid House, Marlborough Hill, Harrow, Middlesex, HA1 1UD
Tel: 020 8426 3400
Fax: 020 8426 3434
E-mail: [email protected]
Gut Support – The key to good digestive health and overall well-being is the maintenance of a healthy bacterial balance in the gut. Poor diet, stress, alcohol and antibiotics can wreak havoc in the gastrointestinal tract by destroying good bacteria and allowing undesirable bacteria to multiply. ImmuProbio distinctive formulation contains a superior blend of 50 billion viable bacterial strains, fortified with a prebiotic (FOS), which helps to replenish the body’s good bacteria, promote a healthy intestinal flora and help to improve digestive and overall health.  ImmuProbio retails at £26.99 or 30 Vegetarian capsules. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit

ViridianViridian’s High Potency Digestive Aid Veg Caps

Viridian Nutrition Ltd, 31 Alvis Way, Royal Oak, Daventry, Northants NN11 8PG
Tel: 01327 878050
Fax: 01327 878335
E-mail: [email protected]
High Potency Digestive Aid capsules is the best-selling digestion supplement from Viridian Nutrition providing a vegan combination of betaine hydrochloride, enzymes and botanical extracts. This product is regularly advertised in national newspapers and is one of a range of supplements dedicated to healthy maintenance of the digestive system including Organic Digestive Elixir, Bromelain 500mg capsules, Tri-blend Probiotic capsules and powder, 40+ Synbiotic capsules, Children’s Synbiotic powder and Complete Fibre Complex capsules. The 180-strong award-winning range of nutritional supplements from Viridian Nutrition is dedicated Purity, Charity & Environment and to the future development and security of the specialist health food store.

Health-PlusHealth Plus Digestive Health range

Simon Bandy
Tel: 01323 872277
Fax: 01323 872278
E-mail: [email protected]
Health Plus have a wide selection of products in the Digestive Health category, covering Pre- and Pro-biotics, digestive enzymes, fibres and cleansers. There’s our brand new Mega Multi Probiotic ( a 20 billion strength, multi strain pro-biotic ), Betaine HCL + Pepsin, FOS Powder and more. All are available from stock in single units, with no minimum order and excellent customer service. Health Plus have been serving over 200 quality products to the retailer and practitioner market for over 20 years now.  If you haven’t tried us yet, now’s the ideal time!

Savant-1Udo’s Choice Ultimate Digestive Enzyme Blend

Udo’s Choice
Tel: 08450 606070
E-mail: [email protected]
Udo’s Choice Ultimate Digestive Enzyme Blend is a vegetarian blend of 10 plant based enzymes that have been especially created to replenish your enzyme reserves. This high strength formula offers full, effective digestion and improved nutrient absorption allowing you to enjoy food once again. Unlike many other enzyme products, Udo’s Choice Digestive Enzymes work in a wide pH range, allowing them to function throughout the entire digestive tract to assist the breakdown of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, soluble fibre, starch, milk sugar and complex sugars.

KineticTerranova – Digestive Enzyme Complex

Kinetic Enterprises
Tel: 0845 0725 825
Fax: 0845 0725 826
E-mail: [email protected]
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. £6.24 TRADE / £12.50 RRP 50Caps.  £10.87 TRADE / £21.75  RRP 100Caps.

SolgarBotanical Digestive Complex

Solgar Vitamin & Herb
Tel: 01442 890355
E-mail: [email protected]
It takes guts to be healthy. Nature provides an abundance of botanical compounds, which have properties that support digestive wellness. Studies have highlighted the synergistic benefits of using many of these herbs and spices. Chamomile, fennel seed, lemon balm, peppermint and yarrow have a long history of use for calming the gastrointestinal tract and relieving intestinal spasms. Research has also repeatedly confirmed these benefits. Dandelion and gentian root contain various bitter principles, known to stimulate digestion and support liver health. A combination of these gentle herbs may help to alleviate annoying and uncomfortable symptoms of poor digestion, such as excess gas, bloating and intestinal cramping.

NatupharmaGinger with Turmeric – 60 tablets

Natupharma UK Limited
Tel: 07951 414616
E-mail: [email protected]
Ginger and Curcuma – natural antioxidants. The product is composed of dried and powdered roots from Ginger and Curcuma. 60 tablets / 30 days’ supply. RSP £9.95 or just 33p per day. Two tablets contain: Ginger Root (dried) 500 mg, Curcuma root (dried) 500 mg.