Our digestion is the first to suffer in our modern life. Increased stress, the rise of sedentary lifestyles and obesity and access to a range of spices, fats and most importantly alcohol – has made our digestive systems a haven for ailments and illnesses. These health issues can have a real impact on our daily life – from the discomfort of acid reflux through the worry of operations to correct ulcers or bowel blockages.
Therefore, taking care of our digestion should be high up on our list of priorities. There are simple ways of maintaining a healthy gut; ways of maintaining your health without compromising too much the things that you enjoy in life. Here are 10 supplements that you could take to help you in improving your digestion in a natural way.
Number 1: Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle is a member of the daisy family and is most often used for liver complaints – its active ingredient – a bioflavonoid called silymarin – helps with liver function. This means that the flow of bile through the body is eased and therefore your digestion will naturally be improved. Some clinicians also recommend the use of Milk Thistle after a heavy night out, as it reduces the effects of indigestion and nausea. Another use of the supplement is for reducing bloating and the feelings of an uncomfortable stomach that come from eating a big meal – though eating a slightly smaller meal might be a more sensible option.
Ironically, for some, recorded side effects also include an increase in nausea and diarrhoea – so taking a small test dosage is probably wise at first. You take the dose generally through a capsule and the recommended amount is between 190mg and 260mg.
Number 2: Potassium Gluconate
People who suffer from diseases of the gut such as Crohn’s disease often lack potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte in our blood and other body fluids that carries an electric charge. You need electrolytes in your body and most get these from the diet. However, if you suffer from stomach issues or digestions issues, then you are likely to lack potassium in your body. If you have had diarrhoea or vomiting for a long period of time you should definitely take potassium.
Hypokalaemia, or low potassium, can cause heart problems, muscle weakness, fatigue and cramps. So, if you struggle from problems with your stomach – then potassium gluconate should be part of your supplement regimen.
Number 3: Bovine Colostrum
The first thing you need to know is that if you are an athlete or professional sports person then Bovine Colostrum is a banned substance by the International Olympic Committee. This is because it can burn fat, build lean muscle, increase stamina and vitality. Therefore, it can artificially improve athletic performance.
The second thing you need to know is that colostrum is the milk that should be given to babies. So, when women have babies they excrete human colostrum. Therefore, you are essentially taking the colostrum meant for calves. Now, like me, you are wondering why this isn’t just called milk, as we drink cow’s milk every day and this surely intended for baby cows? However, this milk, soon after a calf’s birth, is high in proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals – but most importantly – anti-bodies that fight disease causing agents such as bacteria and viruses.
Bovine colostrum is therefore a powerful healing agent and is used in supplement form to improve a general sense of well-being. However, it can also be used in the rectum to treat colitis – or inflammation of the colon, which can cause problems with the processing of food.
The colostrum collected from cows that have been vaccinated have also got antibodies that fight diarrheal disease. The FDA has given Bovine Colostrum from vaccinated cows the status of an orphan drug, due to its ability to improve the symptoms of diarrhoea. This is particularly effective with infectious diarrhoea. When taken by the mouth Bovine Colostrum is safe. To take it any other way, such as in the rectum, should be managed by a medical specialist.
Number 4: Ginger
Ginger is a useful spice. It helps with the heart and it has been linked to improved sexual performance. The spice literally warms the blood and therefore allows it to flow much better. It is absolutely loaded with nutrients and bio-active compounds that help the body and the mind. Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger is the part of the spice that is responsible for making it a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Ginger is particularly helpful with nausea. It has long been a remedy used by sailors to combat sea sickness and it is thought to be an effective treatment for morning sickness. A review of 12 studies, which surveyed in total 1278 pregnant women, found that ginger significantly reduced morning sickness. If you have nausea after surgery or after treatment such as chemotherapy, then ginger will often help with these symptoms.
The suggested dosage is 1 – 1.5 grams of ginger to help with nausea.
Number 5: DGL Licorice
Leaky gut, now there is an attractive name for a condition. Rarely do medics offer names for conditions that are quite so descriptively accurate. Doctors claim this is a cause of a lot of long-term conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Those who advocate for this theory believe that toxins and other substances leak into the blood steam through a porous bowel. Scientists actually call this increased intestinal permeability. Your intestines, especially the lower intestine, is meant to be porous, as it is where most of the nutrients enter the blood steam – it is just that the bowel leaks substances that shouldn’t be transported through the bowel wall.
Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) has been used in different forms through centuries in many different cultures – history rather than science can be the best test of the effectiveness of a supplement. It helps with not only leaky gut but other issues related to digestion. The consequent relief from fatigue after taking licorice DGL is thought to be a result of the easing of leaky gut in sufferers.
The use of DGL Licorice has been effective with people with heartburn, peptic ulcer disease or gastritis. After taking licorice, 82 patients with a peptic ulcer were healed. However, once removed from the licorice the ulcer returned. Therefore, taking a regular dosage of 380 – 400mg a day is recommended for long-term if you are at risk of ulcers. However, advice from medics is that if you take DGL licorice regularly then you should have your blood pressure checked regularly, as a precautionary measure.
Number 6: L-Glutamine
Another supplement that helps with leaky gut is L-Glutamine. It was first used in the gym by fitness fanatics wanting to preserve muscle tissue. As an amino acid, it helps protein get to the muscle and repair after workouts. L-glutamine is abundant in the body, making up about 35% of amino acid nitrogen in the blood. It is an essential amino acid because the body uses it in large amounts – and not just in the repair of muscles – but the repair of the gastrointestinal tract. It can help heal ulcers, leaky gut; it can improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome and balance bowel movement – in short it is the crucial element that can help your digestive system in its entirety.
As it generally improves gastro-intestinal health, it can be taken as a supplement as a preventative method. You can stall the negative effects of our modern diet and our modern stresses by regularly taking the supplement. However, if you are already suffering from an ulcer, or diarrhoea or leaky gut, then L-glutamine has been thought to have a massive impact.
Number 7: L-Carnitine
L-carnitine is another amino acid which acts as a building block with protein in the body. Taking the supplement with omega-3 fish oil has been used for a long time to help with weight loss. It can also provide you with more energy – as elevating the amount of carnitine stored in your muscles will see improves in work capacity, athletic performance, speed of recovery and oxidative stress that can cause long term health problems.
It is in this last area, recovery from oxidative stresses, that reduces the effects of liver dysfunction and therefore helps the body to better deal with bile. It also helps the body heal kidney dysfunction by encouraging the production of red blood cells. There is also some anecdotal evidence to suggest that the supplement can help with fatigue and as many account for fatigue as a result of leaky gut syndrome. However, there is insufficient evidence to make the connection.
Number 8: Berberine HCL
Berberine Hydrochloride is one of those miracle supplements that they claim can do everything. Berberine is a yellow-coloured alkaloid compound found in many plants including barberry, goldenseal, ocean grape and tree turmeric. It is an antibacterial, an anti-inflammatory and it is said to have immune enhancing properties. The obvious benefits for digestion relate to the reduction of the impact of bacterial illnesses and the effect on inflammation on the intestine that can cause pain. It is best used as an anti-microbial, in other words, as a killer of bugs that will work unpleasantly in the stomach and intestine.
However, doctors are more excited by the other possibilities of Berberine HCL – which is the possibility that it can increase serotonin for depression, it can suppress tumour growth in cancer and it can acts as an anti-viral against flu. Quite an impressive supplement and one on the radar of the FDA.
Number 9: Velvet Bean
This is a legume that grows in tropical area, especially Africa, India and West Indies. In Central America the bean is roasted into coffee and some indigenous people in Guatemala cook it as a vegetable. However, it is a very effective diuretic – and can be used as a treatment for dysentery and diarrhoea, as well as many many other diseases. The seeds of the velvet bean are high in protein, carbs, lipids, fiber and minerals – in other words – this is a supplement that would cover many health benefits. It is also thought to promote release of serotonin – so is traditionally used as a tonic for nervous disorders. As many nervous disorders manifest themselves in an upset stomach, this maybe another reason why it is promoted as a cure for digestive problems.
This velvet bean is showing much promise in Parkinson’s Disease too – so, the FDA are taking a lot of notice of this wonderful supplement!
Number 10: Ginseng Root
Ginseng Root is more commonly known as an aphrodisiac and herbal Viagra. However, using Ginseng as a tea has been seen to have many benefits for the stomach. It can reduce obesity and improve digestive disorders – and also boosts immunity levels. It contains a naturally occurring chemical called ginsenosides, which help the digestive tract and also act as an anti-carcinogenic. Many countries, such as India, China and Japan, cultivate ginseng because of its rich health benefits and for the fact that its nutritious as well as its curative properties. Doctors warn that continued use can cause sleeplessness, so it is best to drink this in the morning and to take periods of time off using the supplement.
There are some amazing supplements in the world designed to help with digestion. Many of these supplements are completely natural and are helpful in the natural healing processes of the body. This is not to say overuse of supplements is without risk and any divergent treatment from that suggested by a medic should be checked with your doctor first. However, the more important point is that many of these supplements are preventative and can be used to avoid such ailments as peptic ulcers and the impact of inflammation of the digestive system. Improving your lifestyle is important and there is some sense in eating well and exercising to help your body. However, some of these supplements can also help if you choose to have a big night out at times – and wish to avoid the consequences.