Most of us can recognize the symptoms of an off-kilter digestive system: acid reflux, bloating, stomach pains, discomfort, constipation, excess gas, etc. But once they set in, do you know how to get back to neutral?
Two foods that have been getting the limelight lately to help? Kombucha and kimchi. But are these ‘gut healthy’ foods just enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, or are they here to stay?
Gut health is the equilibrium between efficient digestion, immune response, inflammation, and disease. And if one component is out of whack, it could throw the other three off-center. So take it from us – gut health isn’t just a fad.
One of the goals InsideTracker can help with is “Better Digestion.” This goal provides you with plenty of tips and tricks to help maximize digestion and optimize your gut health – all tailor-made for you. Here’s a quick summary to get you on track to feeling your best and banishing the bloat!
Biomarkers associated with digestion:
- Inflammation in the body, indicated by elevated hsCRP (high sensitivity C-Reactive Protein) and/or WBCs (White Blood Cells), heavily impacts our ability to break down and digest the food we eat.
- Vitamin b12 differentiates itself from most nutrients because it is the most complex to breakdown and absorb. Because of this, it is mostly broken down and prepared for absorption in the intestines by the stomach. Therefore, stomach inflammation can cause low blood b12 levels, even if your diet tracker app suggests otherwise.
- Elevated cortisol goes hand in hand with high levels of stress, which is known to cause GI (gastrointestinal) upset and discomfort.
But, we get it – when the bubbles and gurgles of acute GI distress hit, you'll need something more immediate than a biomarker test for relief. So here are some actionable tips for smooth sailing when it comes to your stomach.
For heartburn relief:
- Sleep with your head elevated – If the majority of your reflux occurs at night, try elevating your head. This can be achieved with multiple pillows, a wedge pillow, or by elevating the entire head side of your bed with risers. One study showed that subjects with nighttime head elevation experienced significantly fewer and shorter reflux episodes, fewer reflux symptoms, and faster acid clearing.1
- Maintain a healthy weight – Studies show that subjects with general or abdominal obesity found complete resolution of GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms by following a weight loss program.2 Be sure to ask your doctor about weight loss and any prerequisite steps before beginning a weight loss program.
- Stand up to stress – Increased stress levels, both personal and work-related, are directly associated with gastrointestinal upset like acid reflux, ulcers, and functional dyspepsia (the chronic feeling of upper GI discomfort).3
To banish stomach discomfort, bloating, and/or gas:
- Take ginger supplements - Study subjects reported relief of gas, bloating, fullness, and nausea after 14 days of ginger treatment.4 Take 1,200 mg of ginger root powder before meals to reap the benefits.
- Try an artichoke extract supplement - Though not the most common of supplements, daily consumption of a 320mg artichoke extract supplement before meals has been efficient in reducing pain, discomfort, or burning sensations after eating, burping, cramps, bloating, and/or nausea. Studies have reported anywhere from 40-70% improvement of symptoms.
- Consume probiotics & fermented foods - Taking a daily probiotic supplement will help to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, alleviate constipation, gas, bloating, and reduce intestinal inflammation.6,7,8 If you don’t want to take a supplement, try eating more fermented foods. Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi have all been shown to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.9
To ease constipation:
- Take a psyllium supplement - Psyllium is a water soluble, gel forming, non-fermented fiber supplement that soaks up water in your gut, making bowel movements easier, without creating excess gas. Supplementation of 15 grams/day reduced constipation frequency by 50% compared to other fiber supplements.10, 1
- Stay hydrated - Low fluid consumption and dehydration are precursors for constipation. Proper hydration, on the other hand, can lower constipation frequency.12 Aim to drink 1.5-2 liters of water per day to aid in digestion.13
- Eat more whole grains - Whole grains are high in 'resistant starch', which is an aptly named starch that resists digestion. It's only broken down in the large intestine, where it fuels the growth of beneficial bacteria that can keep things moving. Whole grains are also significantly higher in fiber content than their refined counterparts. In studies, those who consumed a diet including whole grains showed increases in stool weight and frequency, as well as a modest increase in beneficial gut bacteria.14,15
To alleviate IBS symptoms:
- Opt for peppermint oil supplements - try incorporating 450-750mg of oil capsules spread out over 2-3 doses daily for at least four weeks. Daily peppermint oil supplementation demonstrated relief from abdominal pain and discomfort associated with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).16
- Follow a low FODMAP diet - FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in many common foods such as grains, dairy, fruits, veggies. Some people don't break them down or absorb them properly, which can lead to GI upset. Following a low FODMAP diet can alleviate symptoms associated with IBS, including abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.17
- Meditate - Stress plays a big role in GI upset. Research reports that 8 weeks of meditation and mindfulness practice significantly reduces GI-related anxiety as well as the severity of IBS symptoms. Relief was maintained for at least 3 months after the intervention.18,19,20
Now that you're properly armed with the knowledge you need to fight against digestive issues, be sure to let us know what else we can help you with. After all, our goal is to help you reach your goal. We believe knowledge is power, so we're always here to provide you with the facts you need to fuel your overall health and performance.
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Some other blog posts we think you'll love:
-  Kaltenbach T, Crockett S, Gerson LB. “Are lifestyle measures effective in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease? An evidence-based approach.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 2006 May 8;166(9):965-71.
-  Corley DA, Kubo A. “Body mass index and gastroesophageal reflux disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2006 Nov;101(11):2619-28.
-  Konturek PC, Brzozowski T, Konturek SJ.”Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options.” Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2011 Dec;62(6):591-9.
-  Hu ML, Rayner CK, Wu KL, Chuah SK, Tai WC, Chou YP, Chiu YC, Chiu KW, Hu TH. “Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia.” World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2011 Jan 7;17(1):105-10.
-  Holtmann G, Adam B, Haag S, Collet W, Grünewald E, Windeck T. “Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: a six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial.” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2003 Dec;18(11-12):1099-105.
-  Kim SE, Choi SC, Park KS, Park MI, Shin JE, Lee TH, Jung KW, Koo HS, Myung SJ.”Change of Fecal Flora and Effectiveness of the Short-term VSL#3 Probiotic Treatment in Patients With Functional Constipation.” Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. 2015 Jan 1;21(1):111-20.
-  Nobaek S, Johansson ML, Molin G, Ahrné S, Jeppsson B. “Alteration of intestinal microflora is associated with reduction in abdominal bloating and pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.” The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2000 May;95(5):1231-8.
-  Dimidi E, Christodoulides S, Fragkos KC, Scott SM, Whelan K. “The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Oct;100(4):1075-84.
-  Alvaro E, Andrieux C, Rochet V, Rigottier-Gois L, Lepercq P, Sutren M, Galan P, Duval Y, Juste C, Doré J. “Composition and metabolism of the intestinal microbiota in consumers and non-consumers of yogurt.” British Journal of Nutrition. 2007 Jan;97(1):126-33.
-  Marlett JA, Kajs TM, Fischer MH. “An unfermented gel component of psyllium seed husk promotes laxation as a lubricant in humans.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000 Sep;72(3):784-9.
-  Bliss DZ, Savik K, Jung HJ, Whitebird R, Lowry A, Sheng X. “Dietary fiber supplementation for fecal incontinence: a randomized clinical trial.” 2014 Oct;37(5):367-78.
-  Arnaud MJ. “Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation?” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003 Dec;57 Suppl 2:S88-95.
-  Anti M, Pignataro G, Armuzzi A, Valenti A, Iascone E, Marmo R, Lamazza A, Pretaroli AR, Pace V, Leo P, Castelli A, Gasbarrini G. “Water supplementation enhances the effect of high-fiber diet on stool frequency and laxative consumption in adult patients with functional constipation.” Hepatogastroenterology. 1998 May-Jun;45(21):727-32.
-  Vanegas SM, Meydani M, Barnett JB, Goldin B, Kane A, Rasmussen H, Brown C, Vangay P, Knights D, Jonnalagadda S, Koecher K, Karl JP, Thomas M, Dolnikowski G, Li L, Saltzman E,, Wu D, Meydani SN. “Substituting whole grains for refined grains in a 6-wk randomized trial has a modest effect on gut microbiota and immune and inflammatory markers of healthy adults.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Mar;105(3):635-650.
-  Cooper DN, Kable ME, Marco ML, De Leon A, Rust B, Baker JE, Horn W, Burnett D, Keim NL.”The Effects of Moderate Whole Grain Consumption on Fasting Glucose and Lipids, Gastrointestinal Symptoms, and Microbiota.” Nutrients. 2017 Feb 21;9(2). pii: E173.
-  Merat S, Khalili S, Mostajabi P, Ghorbani A, Ansari R, Malekzadeh R. “The effect of enteric-coated, delayed-release peppermint oil on irritable bowel syndrome.” Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2010 May;55(5):1385-90.
-  de Roest RH, Dobbs BR, Chapman BA, Batman B, O'Brien LA, Leeper JA, Hebblethwaite CR, Gearry RB. “The low FODMAP diet improves gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective study.” The International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2013 Sep;67(9):895-903.
-  Gaylord SA1, Palsson OS, Garland EL, Faurot KR, Coble RS, Mann JD, Frey W, Leniek K, Whitehead WE. “Mindfulness training reduces the severity of irritable bowel syndrome in women: results of a randomized controlled trial.” The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2011 Sep;106(9):1678-88.
-  Ljótsson B, Falk L, Vesterlund AW, Hedman E, Lindfors P, Rück C, Hursti T, Andréewitch S, Jansson L, Lindefors N, Andersson G. “Internet-delivered exposure and mindfulness based therapy for irritable bowel syndrome--a randomized controlled trial.” Behaviour Research and Therapy. 2010 Jun;48(6):531-9.
-  Kearney DJ,, McDermott K, Martinez M, Simpson TL. “Association of participation in a mindfulness programme with bowel symptoms, gastrointestinal symptom-specific anxiety and quality of life.”Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2011 Aug;34(3):363-73.