Certain nutrients help support your digestive tract and digestive functioning
There are many nutrients involved in proper digestion and digestive functioning, and two of the most common imbalances or deficiencies that I often see in clinic, and one vitamin that is often overlooked, are explored below.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that confer beneficial actions on their host - that’s you! As a result, taking probiotic supplements may improve digestive health. Healthy probiotic bacteria assist in digestion by helping you to make some enzymes in the small intestine, and critically in the large intestine, break down fibre for energy for your intestinal cell walls.
Having enough of these probiotics can therefore reduce uncomfortable bloating and gas when eating fibre-rich foods. Indeed, some studies, with particular probiotic strains, have shown that they can help alleviate pain in IBS.
Some probiotics may also improve symptoms of constipation and diarrhoea. Probiotics can also help reduce any side-effects of antibiotic usage and help break down milk products.
Probiotics can also enhance your immune system.
As there are many different types of probiotic products, it is always advisable to seek advice, in order to obtain the best probiotics that have been peer-reviewed and trialed, especially if you have digestive problems or are taking them for a particular reason.
Add probiotics to your diet
Eating probiotics is one of the best ways to treat stomach and digestive problems.
You can do this by eating certain yoghurts rich in probiotics. This may help keep your body healthy, manage IBS symptoms, and promote nutrient absorption.
Probiotics are also found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso, as well as yoghurts that have live and active cultures.
Zinc is a mineral that is critical for a healthy gut, and a deficiency can lead to various gastrointestinal problems disorders.
Supplementing with zinc has been shown to be beneficial in treating diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disorders, intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) and other digestive issues. However, it is important to know if you are deficient first, otherwise you could take too much (or not enough, which means it won’t really help you that much).
Good sources of zinc include shellfish, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin A is best known for its role in eye function and vision. However, it plays a vital role in many other functions in your body.
For example, vitamin A helps maintain surface tissues such as your skin, intestines, lungs, bladder, and inner ear. As a result of its function in the maintenance and renewal of mucosal membranes, it is critical for proper gut functioning.
As about 70-80% of your immune cell is located in your gastrointestinal tract, how well your immune system works may be dependent on adequate stores of this vital nutrient.
Vitamin A occurs naturally in the foods you eat and can also be consumed through supplements. However, it is a fat-soluble nutrient, so if you are on a low-fat diet or do not eat enough carotene-rich vegetables and/or animal sources of proteins you could become deficient in this vital nutrient.
Good sources of orange and/or yellow coloured vegetable and eggs, oily fish, and some meats.
How do I know if I have enough of these vital nutrients?
There are two ways to assess whether you are obtaining enough of these vital digestive nutrients in your diet. The first is via a dietary evaluation from a registered and experienced nutritionist. However, the best and most reliable way is to test for these vital nutrients, especially if you are experiencing any distressing gastrointestinal symptoms and to correct any deficiencies through diet and supplementation, if required.