Did you know that 20 million Americans suffer from chronic digestive diseases? Millions of people suffer from conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions that affect digestive diseases. Even those who don’t suffer from chronic diseases experience symptoms of digestive distress. In fact, 72% of Americans regularly experience one or more symptoms of digestive distress! Why is this, and is there any way to help?
How the Digestive System Works
The reason why people experience so many digestive problems often comes down to the bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that live in the digestive system. All of these things make up the gut microbiome which is a very delicate system that can be affected by many things. The gut microbiome is first acquired at birth, and the choices that people make throughout their life can affect the health of it. The gut can be made unhealthy with lots of sugar, antibiotics, or a lack of movement. These lifestyle habits may lead to the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut which can lead to higher BMI and subsequent higher risk of metabolic diseases. This bacteria also grows faster than the good bacteria the gut needs to stay healthy.
Ways to Shape Up Your Gut Health
It is important to keep your gut in top shape because of how large of a role it plays in your overall body. 70-80% of immune cells are located in the gut, with the lower digestive tract which contains 100 billion cells per gram. Along with immune responses, the digestive system is also responsible for much of the body’s stress and hormone responses. 95% of serotonin, a major mood-influencing hormone, is produced in the small intestine. If the organisms that make up the gut microbiome are disturbed by things like poor diet or exercise, inflammation can occur which affects the immune health of the entire body.
If inflammation is occurring in the gut due to poor lifestyle habits, there is a chance it can be reversed. Increasing the amount of exercise daily, eating nutrient dense foods, and stopping medication use that affects the digestive system could help ease symptoms of digestive distress. Of course, this can be a difficult feat, so there is an easier way: probiotic supplements.
The Role of Probiotics
There are many different types of digestive supplements, the most popular being probiotics. Probiotics work by colonizing the digestive tract and facilitating the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. They also produce anti-inflammatory compounds which can directly heal inflammation in the gut and help remove the unhealthy bacteria that is causing discomfort. While probiotics are generally seen as safe, they can be risky for people who are immunocompromised. Not to worry, there are other supplements that can help those who cannot take probiotics.
Immunobiotics are a great alternative to probiotics for people with immune problems. These supplements do not colonize the body, but they do help to trigger immune responses within the body. This is considered to be safer than probiotics for those with health problems, and they still provide all the great benefits that other supplements provide for the digestive system.
There has been significant research done on digestive supplements such as probiotics that prove they are helpful for treating certain diseases. Probiotics have been proven to reduce rotavirus and necrotizing enterocolitis in infants, clostridium difficile infections, and other diseases that can be caused by antibiotic use. Health claims have been made that probiotics can be used to treat things like respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and obesity, but these claims have yet to be proven. Even still, the research that has been done on probiotics prove they are still helpful in reducing symptoms of certain digestive diseases as well as symptoms of overall digestive distress.
If you are someone who experiences consistent upset stomach, gas, bloating, or heartburn you may benefit from the use of probiotic supplements. You can also find probiotics in fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese, and kimchi. If you think a probiotic may be the right choice for you, make sure to talk to your doctor first before taking any supplements or changing your diet in any drastic way. You can also learn more about why probiotics are so necessary for maintaining a healthy gut in the infographic below: