LifeTime WeightLoss Logo


« Ginger Nut Cookie | Main | Why Your Weight Loss Problem is a Gut Health Problem »
Friday
Nov182016

Top 3 Supplements that Support Gut Health

Indigestion, poor energy, bloating, stubborn weight loss, skin problems, poor immunity, inconsistent bowel patterns, mental fog, low mood…sounds like a typical week, right?

Wrong. Just because many of these ailments are common, does NOT mean they are normal.

Our entire body suffers when our digestive system is not operating as designed, and it can be extremely difficult to optimize gastrointestinal (GI) well-being if you don’t have a comprehensive plan for doing so. A good GI health protocol should help you set a good foundation for the three main areas of the GI tract, and it should make use of a smart nutrition strategy, a targeted supplement approach and specific lifestyle adjustments to promote better gut health.

Because we coach so many individuals with signs and symptoms of disrupted gut health, we recently developed a program and supplement system designed to support your efforts to reset your digestive health. The GUT.FIX℠ supplement kit includes our top 3 recommended supplements for restoring digestive integrity and gut health. Plus it also comes with access to our comprehensive 30-day GUT.FIX nutrition program.

Here are the reasons why these specific supplements made it into our kit.

Digestive Enzymes

Enzymes are biological molecules that speed up or facilitate chemical reactions within the body. There’s an entire class of enzymes our bodies make that are responsible for breaking down our food into the smallest possible components (proteins à amino acids, carbohydrates à glucose, fatty acids à free fatty acids) and freeing up vitamins and minerals for absorption. Without sufficient enzyme activity, the food we eat literally cannot nourish us.

It’s been observed that as we age, our own production of digestive enzymes declines rather significantly[i], which can seriously alter how your body breaks down food and absorbs nutrients or otherwise disrupts our wellbeing. What’s causing these declines? Many believe that chronic stress, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and poor eating habits all may contribute to diminished digestive capacity as we age.

I’ve worked with many clients who make excellent quality food choices, but still suffer from digestive distress, whether it’s gas, bloating, indigestion, belching, etc. Other clients seem to be completely free of these upper GI ailments but suffer from abnormal or inconsistent bowel patterns. Sometimes they suffer from alternating constipation or diarrhea, urgency, or if they dare to admit…undigested food particles in their stools.

As graphic as this sounds, if someone’s poop isn’t a “3” or “4” on the Bristol Stool Scale, there’s something about their digestion that could/should/needs to be improved.  

The easiest strategy to implement for any of these cases is to introduce supplemental digestive enzymes at any and all meals (since it seems so hard for many people to chew their food more thoroughly these days). Digestive enzyme supplementation for digestive disorders is well-documented and widely accepted by health practitioners[ii] and it can offer some surprisingly quick relief for many of the aforementioned instances.

Supplemental digestive enzymes are a relatively low-risk strategy to help improve the digestive capacity of your gastrointestinal system because they are literally just exogenous (external) sources of the enzymes your body should be manufacturing already. The thing is, if you don’t have adequate enzyme activity, you can’t properly digest, absorb, and utilize the proteins you eat to make enzymes in the first place.

The best type of enzyme product to take for general use are referred to as “broad-spectrum” digestive enzymes. The Life Time Digestive Enzyme Complex is considered “broad spectrum” because it contains enzyme support that will promote the breakdown of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fibers. Often, supplementing with digestive enzymes can be a temporary strategy (a couple of months) as the improved digestion and absorption can lead to improvements to your own internal digestive enzyme production.

Key takeaway regarding digestive enzymes: there’s a good chance supplementing with extra enzymes (even temporarily) will improve nutrient absorption and may alleviate symptoms related to indigestion.

Note: digestive enzyme supplements like Digestive Enzyme Complex are not recommended for those with ulcers or for those who take medication that may irritate the lining of the stomach, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

L-Glutamine

L-glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid. This means that under certain conditions, our body cannot make enough of this important amino acid to maintain normal (or optimal) biological health. It’s also supposed to be one of the most abundant amino acids in our body. But just as our modern lifestyles can diminish digestive enzyme production/function, our L-glutamine status can end up being sub-par as well.

It’s well known that some serious catabolic health conditions (severe burns, certain cancers, AIDS for example) dramatically increase our needs for L-glutamine (and other nutrients). In these clinical scenarios, L-glutamine supplementation significantly improves the prognosis of critically ill patients by nourishing the physiologic intestinal barrier and by reducing the frequency of infections[iii]. It does so through a number of important mechanisms involved in the regulation of gene expression, new cell growth and development, protein turnover (repair), anti-oxidative properties and by promoting immune health [iv].

In other words, even when the whole body seems to be breaking down, extra L-glutamine is effective at nourishing the very delicate cells lining our intestines and improving whole body health.

Perhaps not so well known is that our L-glutamine requirements also increase in several not-so-critical instances that our members may face every day: strenuous exercise, marginal immune system function and disrupted digestive barrier integrity.

That last one is probably more common than we think – damaged intestinal villi, which are also called enterocytes, can result from our modern dietary choices, food sensitivities, alcohol consumption, medications, toxin exposure, or general lifestyle habits that contribute to the breakdown of our bodies.

Whether you work hard at the gym or work hard to relax by having a few cocktails at night, the lining of your digestive system may be encountering some damage you’re not currently accounting for. Fortunately, adding L-glutamine to your routine helps cut down the tissue damage, which is often referred to gastrointestinal permeability, or “leaky gut” [v],[vi]. It’s even been shown to improve exercise performance and strength[vii].

I know that supporting the health of your intestinal lining doesn’t sound all that exciting, but something that is exciting for many of my clients is weight loss. If your gut lining is “leaky” it may be a direct cause for belly fat gain according to one study[viii]. At least one other study showed that oral glutamine supplementation alters gut microbiota of obese and overweight adults in ways that support weight loss[ix].

In a short period of time, the L-glutamine seemed to influence the balance of bacteria to favor bacteroidetes type rather than firmicutes type, which as it turns out affects how our bodies extract calories from our food (or not).

Key takeaway regarding L-Glutamine: if you have compromised intestinal health, poor immune function, and/or prolonged soreness after exercise, it’s probably a good idea to take some additional L-Glutamine.

Probiotics

Question: What’s different about overweight or obese people compared to lean people?

Answer: Probably a lot, starting with the types of bacteria living in their guts. Lean people tend to have more bacteroides and fewer firmicutes, while overweight and obese subjects are the opposite.

Why does this matter? There are hundreds and thousands of bacteria that symbiotically live primarily in our large intestine. While we’re still learning about many complexities and intricacies of our intestinal flora, (a.k.a. microbiome) we already know for certain that these bacteria do not just sit idle in our insides. The bacteria in our colon are so important for our health that our gut is now being referred to as our “second brain”.

A “second brain” that may have a great deal of influence over our weight control, according to the latest research consensus[x].

A healthy array of the right types of microorganisms in your gut does several helpful things including: manufacturing certain vitamins, using indigestible fibers to make short-chain fatty acids the body uses for energy, stimulates the body’s immune system and regulates the integrity of the gut lining itself [xi],[xii],[xiii].

It’s also known that over 90% of the serotonin (the “feel good” neurotransmitter found in our brain) is manufactured by the bacteria in our colon[xiv]. There’s that “second brain” thing again. Our brain and digestive system operate a complex, direct, two-way communication system that literally affects every other metabolic system in our body.

Disarray of your intestinal flora, or dysbiosis, is associated with significantly higher risk of developing a number of chronic diseases[xv],[xvi].

Probiotic supplements are live microorganisms that can be taken orally, and in certain amounts can offer health benefits to the “host” (you). Outside of some experimental fecal transplants, regularly eating some fermented foods and taking a broad spectrum probiotic supplement are the best strategies to help promote a more optimal balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your colon.

Life Time’s MultiPro 30B probiotic is a blend of six different bacterial strains that deliver over 30 Billion “colony-forming units” of bacteria per capsule.

Bonus: GABA & 5-HTP

It’s often observed that people with compromised digestive health (leaky gut) often suffer from some form of psychological condition (such as depression, anxiety or over-active brain activity often related to demanding lifestyles).

These conditions are characterized by diminished activity of two very important neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid, (GABA) whose production in our body is dependent on having healthy bacterial biodiversity in our gut.

Serotonin is supposed to balance out the effects of excitatory neurotransmitters (namely dopamine) and GABA is known to put the brain into a state of calm, clear, relaxation known as “alpha wave state”. In fact, people for whom standard antidepressants do not work for have the lowest GABA levels[xvii], as do those with drug or alcohol dependency[xviii].

The vast majority of anti-depressants prescribed today are aimed at increasing serotonin activity in the brain. The majority of anti-anxiety medications work by increasing GABA receptor sites in the brain. Both of these strategies are attempts to make up for low amounts or insufficient activity of these two very important, calming, “feel-good” neurotransmitters.

Either way you look at it, if you have neurotransmitter imbalances or gut issues, there’s a good chance that you may benefit from trying to supplement GABA and/or serotonin production for a period of time. Life Time formulated its PM Restore sleep supplement with the most effective form of GABA (PharmaGABA®) and a precursor to serotonin (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) that’s been shown to increase serotonin production[xix].

Whether you have a gut feeling your digestive system needs a re-boot or a thought in your brain that your mood, affect or mental resilience needs some support, you may be a great candidate for our comprehensive GUT.FIX℠ program. We recommend following the entire GUT.FIX℠ plan. But as you read above, simply introducing some targeted supplements to support your gut’s function can offer a great deal of help.

Don’t let imbalanced gut health sabotage progress toward your goals. We have a team of Registered Dietitians available that are passionate about improving gut health and metabolism if you are ready to take an inside-out approach to weight loss. If you have questions about gut health and how it might be impacting you, reach out to us at GUT.FIX@lifetimefitness.com.

In health, Paul Kriegler, Registered Dietitian, Life Time - Nutrition Program Development Manager.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 


[i] from Wright, 2001 p.20

[ii] http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/13/4/307.pdf

[iii] http://journals.lww.com/ccmjournal/Abstract/2005/05000/Intestinal_permeability_and_systemic_infections_in.35.aspx

[iv] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00726-014-1773-4

[v] http://jap.physiology.org/content/jap/116/2/183.full.pdf

[vi] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286315002065

[vii] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Derek_Kimmerly/publication/274093740_The_Influence_of_Oral_L-Glutamine_Supplementation_on_Muscle_Strength_Recovery_and_Soreness_Following_Unilateral_Knee_Extension_Eccentric_Exercise/links/56547b8308aefe619b19ea19.pdf

[viii] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2011.251/full

[ix] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900715000350

[x] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27149163

[xi] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9406136

[xii] http://ajpcell.physiology.org/content/ajpcell/307/11/C979.full.pdf

[xiii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25066177

[xiv] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867415002482

[xv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315779/pdf/MEHD-26-26191.pdf

[xvi] http://gradworks.umi.com/15/89/1589314.html

[xvii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19058788

[xviii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23522493

[xix] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695216/pdf/ndt-5-227.pdf

PrintView Printer Friendly Version