Digestive Health: Do You Know What The Top Natural Supplements Are?


When we think of digestion, we think of that long tube that runs from one end of the body to the other. It’s all pretty simple—put food in, digest what you need, and eliminate what you don’t. Not so fast! The digestive process is actually quite complex with lots of moving parts and places where things can go wrong.

Consider that twisting and turning part of the tube known as the intestines. Contained within the intestines is an intricate ecosystem of good and bad bacteria that communicate with and influence many aspects of health including digestive health. And before food even gets to the intestines, it’s tossed, turned and churned with a mixture of enzymes and acids. The fact is, there’s a lot going on when it comes to digestive health.

close up of man holding his stomach

Eliminating digestive issues and maintaining optimal digestive function is critical to health!

What are the most common digestive issues?

Along the entire path of the digestive system issues can arise and diagnosed disorders need to be addressed. (1)

Here are some of the most common digestive issues:

  • Gallstones = solid particles that form in the gallbladder that cause pain
  • Gastritis = inflammation of the stomach lining most often caused by an infection (2)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) = affects the lower esophageal sphincter and causes heartburn or acid indigestion (3)
  • Gastroparesis = a disease where the stomach does not empty as it should causing heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and feeling full quickly (4)
  • Peptic ulcers = sores that develop inside the lining of the stomach or upper portion of the small intestines
  • Celiac disease = an autoimmune disease where gluten must be avoided
  • Diverticular disease = small bulges or sacs that form in the wall of the intestine causing pain, nausea, and other symptoms
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) = irritation of the large intestine causing cramping, bloating, and other symptoms
  • Inflammatory bowel disease = an umbrella term used to describe ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease which involve inflammation of the digestive tract

In addition to reducing the risk of numerous digestive health concerns that can occur, maintaining optimal digestive function is critical to health on many levels including the assimilation of nutrients, reducing food intolerance, reducing the formation of harmful toxins and irritants, and influencing immunity and inflammation. Fortunately, there are many natural supplements for digestive health.

Digestive health supplements

Enzymes

Successful digestion begins in the stomach when the food is digested by enzymes and acids. Without the proper enzymatic activity and acidic balance in the stomach, foods will not be broken down properly. That’s where natural dietary enzyme supplements come in handy.

The best enzyme supplements for digestion and health feature protease, amylase, lactase, lipase and other ingredients to help stimulate proper digestion. (5) Proteases help digest proteins, lipases help digest fats, amylases help digest carbohydrates and starches, and lactases help digest dairy. So you can see why this combination of dietary enzymes can be so important to the first phase of digestion.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is another digestive supplement worth considering. Because it has a calming effect, it is especially helpful with indigestion, gas, and IBS. (6) Keep in mind that peppermint oil may worsen symptoms of GERD so it should be avoided for that particular digestive issue.

ginger plant and extract

Ginger, a calming herb, has been shown to reduce nausea.

Ginger

Ginger is also a calming herb that can help with digestive health. It is most known to ease nausea and vomiting. In fact, a 2019 systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials published in Phytotherapy Research showed that ginger was effective at reducing nausea specifically in the acute phase of chemotherapy in people diagnosed with breast cancer. (7)

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)

DGL also has important digestive implications. According to the scientific literature, it’s especially helpful for those suffering from indigestion. (8) Several studies have shown that DGL can also help eradicate Helicobater pylori in patients with peptic ulcers. (9)

Psyllium

Psyllium is a fiber that has been shown to help with proper elimination. It is particularly helpful in cases of constipation. A 2019 study featured in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences showed that psyllium not only improved symptoms of constipation, it also positively influenced the bacterial balance in the intestines, which is a key clinical goal when it comes to digestive health. (10)

woman sitting on couch eating yogurt

Probiotics are the health-promoting bacteria in the intestines that help digest food, produce important vitamins and metabolic byproducts, and destroy disease-causing microorganisms.

Probiotics

Regarding the intestines, in particular, probiotics top the list of best supplements for digestive health. Probiotics are the health-promoting bacteria in the intestines that help digest food, produce important vitamins and metabolic byproducts, and destroy disease-causing microorganisms. Probiotics are critical in maintaining optimal microbial balance in the intestines.

According to the authors of a 2018 review published in the Nutrition Bulletin, “Research suggests that probiotics can be used in an evidence-based manner to address a range of different health concerns. For the healthy consumer, probiotics and fermented foods may provide a dietary approach to support health and better function of the gut microbiota.” (11)

The bottom line

Probiotics have now become a foundational supplement for digestive health, as well as overall wellness.

Supporting optimal digestion is critical. Enzymes, peppermint oil, ginger, DGL, psyllium, and probiotics are some of the most popular and effective natural supplements for digestive health.

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  1. Dumic I, Nordin T, Jecmenica M, et al. Gastrointestinal tract disorders in older age. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2019;2019.
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Gastritis. Accessed September 2019. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gastritis
  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition & Facts for GER & GERD. Accessed September 2019. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/definition-facts
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Gastroparesis. Accessed September 2019. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gastroparesis
  5. Quinten T, Philippart JM, De Beer T, et al. Can the supplementation of a digestive enzyme complex offer a solution for common digestive problems? Archives of Public Health. 2014;72(Suppl 1):P7.
  6. Alammar N, Wang L, Saberi B, et al. The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2019;19:21.
  7. Saneei A, Emamat H, Jarrahi F, Zarrati M. The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients: a systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials. Phytotherapy Research. 2019;33(8):1957-1965.
  8. Raveendra KR, Jayachandra, Srinivasa V, et al. An extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) alleviates symptoms of functional dyspepsia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012;2012.
  9. Momeni A, Rahimian G, Kiasi A, et al. Effect of licorice versus bismuth on eradication of Helicobacter pylori in patients with peptic ulcer disease. Pharmacognosy Research. 2014;6(4):341-344.
  10.  Jalanka J, Major G, Murray K, et al. The effect of psyllium husk on intestinal microbiota in constipated patients and healthy controls. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2019;20(2):433.
  11. Sanders ME, Merenstein D, Merrifield CA, Hutkins R. Probiotics for human use. Nutrition Bulletin. 2018;43(3):212-225.