In the latest issue of Simply Gluten Free Magazine, Dr.Alexander Shikhman shares some great information about the top 10 healthy gut supplements. If you are like me, you are probably familiar with some of these but don’t really understand what they actually do for your digestive health. This will definitely be an eye opener for you; it definitely was for me. So, I decided to paraphrase it for all of you.
- Probiotics: live microorganisms that will improve our microbial balance and suppress pathogenic microorganisms in our intestines (sometimes referred to as our microbiom). We can get them directly from live fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, buttermilk, GF soy sauce, kimchi and yogurts or we can get them though supplements. If we go the supplement route, we need to understand how they are measured..which is by CFU’s or colony forming units. For gut maintenance use 20-25 million CFU’s daily. During antibiotic treatment we should increase that dose to 100 billion CFU’s daily. If you have Candida (chronic yeast infection), colitis or leaky gut; you should take 100-500 billion CFU’s daily. (I buy True Nature Probiotic at Costco and it is in a blue box and is gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free)
- Prebiotics: non-digestible food ingredients (carbohydrate based) and they stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in our intestinal tract. They are not live microorganisms; actually they are heat resistant fiber like substances! Basically, they increase production of short-chain fatty acids by stimulated bacteria that will feed normal gut microbiota; they provide energy supply to the cells that form the intestinal lining. They are found naturally in foods like leeks, onions garlic, asparagus, artichokes and gluten-free brewer’s yeast. They also facilitate absorption of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D and stimulate mucosal immune responses, reduce inflammation, prevent colon cancer and normalize our bowel movements! (Who knew? Yup, I gotta get some of these.) But wait, there is more…they should include mannan-oligisaccharides (MOS) and galacto-olifosaccharides (GOS). Daily dose varies between 1,000 to 5,000 milligrams.
- Digestive Enzymes: proteins that break down large food molecules into smaller fragments in order to aide in their absorption by our bodies. They are found naturally in our saliva, stomach and pancreatic juices and in secretions in the small and large intestines. However, how well we produce these proteins is really age dependent. As we age, our production of these enzymes gets sluggish so as we age we will require external digestive enzymes in the form of micronutrients which are available from animal or plant based sources. Most people don’t know this part: If you eat a high protein diet, you should use an enzyme with a high protease concentration. For high fat diets; you should consume one with a high lipase concentration. The amount should be proportional to the meal that you are consuming.
- Betaine HCL: naturally occurring and found in lots of foods such as beets and spinach. Betaine HCL acts as a gastric juice acidifier (it lowers our gastric pH). It activates gastric protein that degrades enzymes and will stimulate the entire digestive process. Production of this acid declines as we age and makes it difficult to digest protein rich foods. It is recommended for those on high protein diets and is take before meals in amount of 400 to 600 milligrams per meal. (cannot be taken together with anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Magnesium: controls gastric acid production, gastric emptying, intestinal motility and bile secretion along with our digestive enzyme production. Deficiency symptoms might include constipation, bloating, indigestion and muscle cramps. It is found in unrefined grains, seeds, cocoa, nuts, almonds and green leafy veggies. We only absorb about 2/3 of what we consume! Dosage would be 250 to 500mg per day.
- Bioflavanoids: stimulate bile production, improve circulation in intestines, optimize mucosal immune response, inhibit histamine, suppress yeast overgrowth, enhance toxin elimination as well as prevent inflammation. They are usually citrus or quercetin with dosage of 500 mg to 2 grams.
- Turmeric: comes from curcumin and it stimulates the gall bladder to make bile and breakdown large fat globs and improves digestion. It also reduces inflammation in our digestive tracts and is often used to treat colitis. Daily dose can range from 1 to 5 grams. (I don’t have a gall bladder, not sure if this would help me)
- Glutamine: acts like a fuel and is an important source of nitrogen for the lining of our small intestine and is key in maintaining our mucosal cell integrity and the function of our gut barrier. It stabilizes intestinal permeability and is used for prevention of leaky gut syndrome. Dosage is 500 mg to 10 g, depending on current gut health.
- Butyrate: (Butyric Acid) is a short chain fatty acid whose salts are know as butyrates which are produced by fermentation of dietary fibers in the GI tract. They control intestinal and colon permeability and aid in controlling inflammation. This deficiency is often associated with leaky gut syndrome. Daily requirements vary based on health of the diet and health of the digestive system. Dosages can range from several hundred to several thousand milligrams. (magnesium and calcium salts are more slowly absorbed than the sodium and potassium forms. Sodium and potassium are taken during the day when the gut cycle is much more active…calcium and magnesium salts are taken at night.
- Triphala: acts like a digestive cleanser that promotes contractions that will move the food through the digestive tract and will aid in bowel functions. It will also improve circulation and liver function, normalizes stress response and improve adrenal function as well as reduce our cholesterol. It also has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and cancer preventing characteristics. Consumption is 500-1000 mg before each meal and 1000-2000 mg before bed.
As always, contact your physician before starting any supplement; I know I will be talking to my physician about this. For more information about Dr. Alexander Shikhman (Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology) and founder of The Institute for Specialized Medicine and Gluten-Free Remedies. All of his supplements are certified GF to 5ppm by the Celiac Support Association (CSA).