More and more researchers are learning about the importance of gut health in our overall health and wellness. The health of our gut has been linked to both our physical and psychological health, our energy, how well we digest and absorb nutrients from food, our immune system, our stress levels, and even our emotional state and whether or not we experience emotions like anxiety and depression. How can the gut have such a major influence over us? The answer lies in what is called the “gut microbiome.”
The Gut Microbiome
Your “gut microbiome” is made up of the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in your intestinal tract. These microorganisms, mainly consisting of bacteria, are involved in functions critical to your health and wellbeing. These bacteria live in your digestive system and they play a key role in digesting food you eat, helping with absorbing and synthesizing nutrients, regulating your metabolism, body weight and immune system, as well as helping support brain function.
Your gut began to populate with bacteria very early in life. In fact, some research suggests that this begins while we are still in the womb. When you’re born, there are many factors that influence the types of bacteria that will live and flourish in your gut – the genetics and health of your parents, whether you are delivered vaginally or by caesarean, and if you’re breast or bottle-fed. As you grow, there continue to be many diverse things that can shape the bacteria that live in your gut. Some of these things are difficult to change, like genetics, stressful events or illness, but some are factors that we can modify or control, such as our lifestyle behaviors and diet.
Your gut communicates directly with your brain, and in its own sense, it is practically a brain unto itself. The human gut is lined with more than 100 million nerve cells. Perhaps this is why it is often referred to as the “second brain.” These nerve cells send signals to the brain, as well as release hormones into the bloodstream that, over the course of about 10 minutes, tell us how hungry we are, or that we shouldn't have eaten that second serving of food.
The bacteria in your gut have a major influence on these nerve cells and play a key role in the functioning of your digestive system, as well as in your mental health and mood. Interestingly, gut bacteria also produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological processes as well as mental processes such as learning, memory and mood. For example, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body's supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and GI activity.
What is a ‘Healthy Gut’?
Many people seek for the “right diet.” They look for that one diet that is the perfect diet for humans. Yet, human beings are so unique, and there are so many factors that influence our diet—such as genetics, activity, age, lifestyle, microbiome, etc.—that there is no one perfect diet for everyone. In the same way, there is no perfect definition of gut health that suits everybody, as everyone’s gut is incredibly different from one another.
We all live in different environments, with different combinations of habits and surroundings, follow different diets and lifestyles, have different levels of stress, and have different mental and emotional experiences that influence us. Because of this, each of us has a gut microbiome that is unique to us. Your microbiome is like a bacterial fingerprint that is specific to you and you alone.
For this reason, and also because there is so much about our gut microbiome that we have yet to fully understand, it’s difficult to say exactly what makes up a healthy gut microbiome. Generally speaking, however, a healthy gut itself has a barrier that is effective at keeping the contents of the gut, such as its community of bacteria, undigested food particles and toxins, from escaping into the bloodstream. A healthy gut has several other important jobs, including helping to fight off infection, as well as performing all of its usual digestive and regulatory functions, like absorbing and synthesizing nutrients that are essential to keeping your body running at its best.
Simply put, gut health isn’t so simple. However, the general attributes of a healthy gut involve a healthy intestinal barrier (gut lining), a diverse community of microorganisms with the presence of significantly more beneficial bacteria than harmful bacteria, low levels of toxins and inflammation, and no issues with regular digestive functions.
What Causes Poor Gut Health?
You may have gathered from the information above that the gut microbiome is highly sensitive. It is a living community of bacteria that is constantly changing. Important factors like diet, lifestyle, and stress levels play a major role in the state of your gut. Just as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and managing stress can improve gut health, there are many factors that can worsen gut health as well.
Some of the biggest causes of poor gut health include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Processed foods
- Lack of prebiotics in the diet
- Not eating a diverse range of foods
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Not getting enough sleep
- Too much stress
- Parasitic infections
- Candida overgrowth
You may have noticed that a lot of the causes of poor gut health are things that the majority of people do every day. Cigarettes and alcohol are common substances used recreationally, antibiotics are commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals, processed foods are eaten in abundance, stress and poor sleep quality are regular occurrences for many, and a lack of physical exercise is certainly common.
Along with this trend in lifestyle and dietary habits, there is a dramatic increase in various digestive disorders in the United States and other western countries. Diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Leaky Gut, Crohn’s, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Candidiasis, and others are on the rise.
It is so important that we take good care of our gut health—especially if you follow or have followed any of the things in the list above.
Best Supplements for Gut Health
We know that healthy gut bacteria flourish when you eat a diet rich in whole foods—namely, lots of diverse vegetables and not a lot of processed foods and refined sugars. Consider taking the best gut health supplements to help keep your gut microbiome at the top of its game. They help fill in the gaps in your diet, support your good gut bacteria and even strengthen your gut lining.
As gut health is essential for metabolism, some of these supplements are also the best supplements for gut health and weight loss. Any good weight loss program should focus on improving gut health along with monitoring calories and exercise. Below, we are going to discuss some of the best supplements for gut health.
Clinical Grade Probiotics
Probiotics are a certain type of friendly bacteria that provide numerous health benefits when eaten. They are often found in yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as in dietary supplements. Although people often think of bacteria and other microorganisms as harmful “germs,” many are actually very beneficial to the body. Some bacteria help digest food, destroy disease-causing cells, or produce vitamins. Many of the microorganisms in probiotic products are the same as or similar to microorganisms that naturally live in our bodies.
Probiotics may contain a variety of microorganisms. The most common are bacteria that belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Other bacteria may also be used as probiotics, and so may yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii. Different types of probiotics may have different effects. For example, if a specific kind of Lactobacillus helps prevent an illness, that doesn’t necessarily mean that another kind of Lactobacillus or any of the Bifidobacterium probiotics would do the same thing. Therefore, choosing the right type—or types—of probiotics is essential.
Our Zuma Nutrition Multi-Strain Probiotic can help you restore gut health and regain optimal balance in your gut microbiome. Our formula features 30 billion CFUs and eight unique strains that promote the right ratio of gut bacteria in the microbiome.
Probiotics are among the best gut health supplements because introducing beneficial bacteria to your gut helps you restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome—something that researchers are continually discovering is essential for gut health. Healthy bacteria also play an important role in producing essential vitamins and nutrients, as well as in the overall digestive process. They help to improve their digestive health and may also relieve common digestive issues like bloating, gas, and indigestion. Not to mention, they also can help to regulate mood and improve immune system function.
Prebiotics are indigestible carbs (mostly from fiber) that feed probiotics. In other words, they are foods that we cannot digest, but our gut bacteria can. When we eat these foods, they go to our lower digestive tract, where they act like food to help the healthy bacteria grow.
Both prebiotics and probiotics are important for our gut health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, prebiotics are food for these beneficial bacteria.
Prebiotic foods are typically too tough and difficult to digest for humans. They do not break down in the stomach, but instead travel through to the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria and yeast, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that the gut bacteria then consume.
These SCFAs have the miraculous tendency to feed only helpful bacteria, while inhibiting potentially harmful or unwanted microorganisms. This is due to the lower pH level that occurs in the colon as a result of the fermentation process, which is harmful to pathogens like bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and helps the beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
Prebiotics have a powerful effect on the gut microbiome and how it affects the body, with or without the addition of probiotic supplements or fermented foods. The many benefits that probiotics provide the body are supported and enhanced by the consumption of prebiotics. Check out our article “What Are Prebiotics? Foods for Your Gut Bacteria” to learn more.
There is a huge misconception that simply because we eat high quality foods that we are actually getting the proper nutritional benefit from those foods. It all depends on whether or not we can digest those foods. Unfortunately, digestion is often inhibited by poor eating habits, stress, improper food combining, chemicals in food, or from a deficiency of enzymes, thereby, preventing nutrients from being broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Thankfully, there are ways of improving digestion, and one of the most effective ways of doing this is to supplement with digestive enzymes that can enhance your body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients from food. With better nutrient absorption, your body can more effectively assimilate nutrients from food for tissue growth and repair, allowing you the health and nutrition needed to perform at your best.
With the support of additional digestive enzymes, the body is better equipped to break down food into nutrients, leading to better overall digestion, and less digestive issues like gas and bloating. When food is efficiently broken down through the digestive process, it allows these broken-down nutrients to be more readily absorbed in the small intestine. Thus, digestive enzymes also greatly improve our nutrient absorption from the food we eat.
Our Digestive Enzyme Formula provides a broad spectrum of digestive enzymes that help the body to recover from enzyme deficiency and help heal the gut holistically by improving the body's absorption of nutrients from food and supplements, while adding additional detoxification benefits.
Collagen has received a lot of hype in recent years, and many people are beginning to realize the importance of this protein for the health of skin and other body tissues. Collagen also plays a key role in gut health. It is the primary protein that makes up the gut lining, so by improving your collagen health, your improving the health and integrity of your intestinal wall—which is key to maintaining gut health.
While collagen has grown in popularity, most people don’t really know what collagen is, how it is made, or how they can maintain their collagen health. They assume that all collagen supplements are the same, or that the best collagen supplements come from animals, and this is just not the case.
The collagen molecule is the largest molecule in the body—often called the 'super molecule'—and its tightly wound 'triple helix' design is simply too big and too strong (stronger than steel by weight) to penetrate the surface of the skin, or to be broken down by digestive enzymes and absorbed into the bloodstream when ingested.
This makes it difficult for topical applications or collagen drinks and collagen powders containing plain animal 'collagen' to replenish collagen in the skin. The same is true for any collagen supplement you ingest (be it a collagen powder, collagen pill or collagen drink) that contains plain, whole molecule 'collagen.' The molecule is just too big to be absorbed and have any desired effect. The best way to build collagen is to take the precursors that allow the body to build its own collagen, as it always has.
The molecular building blocks of collagen in the body are Vitamin C, L-Proline and L-Lysine. Taking these three nutrients together, in the proper doses, produces the 18 amino acid chains that then go on to produce the hundreds of combinations to produce collagen. We combined these collagen support vitamins into plant based collagen daily packs (along with synergistic co enzyme b complex) that support your body’s own ability to create collagen. Rather than taking a finished collagen molecule, which is difficult for the body to process and is what most collagen supplements contain, you can take the right dosages of the specific collagen precursors that allow your body to generate its own collagen.
Another supplement that helps to build the gut lining is L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps repair injuries in the intestinal wall to keep it strong, and studies show it can improve nutrition absorption as well.
According to a study published by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, “In gut physiology, glutamine promotes enterocyte proliferation, regulates tight junction proteins, suppresses pro-inflammatory signaling pathways, and protects cells against apoptosis and cellular stresses during normal and pathologic conditions.”
The authors also note that:
“As glutamine stores are depleted during severe metabolic stress including trauma, sepsis, and inflammatory bowel diseases, glutamine supplementation has been examined in patients to improve their clinical outcomes.”
Essentially, naturally occurring glutamine in the body works to protect the intestine, so it makes sense that a supplement would also increase intestinal stability. When your intestinal lining is strong it can greatly decrease inflammation in the body. You can find L-glutamine as a powder or supplement. It’s also found in leafy greens, fermented foods, and in animal proteins like beef, chicken, fish and eggs.
One major cause of poor gut health is a parasitic infection. Parasites are incredibly common, and they can wreak havoc on your gut. Microscopic parasite eggs can make their way into our bodies in countless ways. The most common include eating sushi, unwashed vegetables, and petting a dog, cat, or other pet. Parasites are also highly contagious and can easily be spread to other family members through contact with skin, clothing, bedding, or food. It’s incredibly easy to become infected without even realizing it.
If you are looking to restore your gut health, you may want to consider doing a parasite detox cleanse. Our Parasite Detox Tonic was designed to help to kill the adult, larva and egg stages of over 100 different types of parasites, including amoebas, giardia, worms, and liver flukes. Our formula uses a therapeutic extraction process that is able to concentrate the active ingredients into a therapeutic liquid extract that is significantly more potent than regular tea powders or capsules.
Along with the detoxification of over 100 parasitic organisms, this potent formula may improve the symptoms caused by parasitic infections, resulting in better digestion, increased levels of energy and clarity, a stronger immune system and improved feelings of general well-being and happiness.
Fiber provides the lubrication the colon requires to function properly and helps to support natural and smooth elimination. Fiber falls into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber serves many functions, which include providing a conducive environment for friendly bacteria, slowing the absorption rate of sugars, lowering serum cholesterol levels, and binding to heavy metals dumped by the bloodstream into the colon. Examples of soluble fiber foods include apples, prunes, figs, raspberries, carrots, oat bran, kidney beans, lima beans or (supplemental) psyllium husks.
Insoluble fiber complements soluble fiber by increasing bulk in the waste, preventing impacted bowel pockets (diverticuli), reducing the length of time waste stays in the body and absorbing bile acid released during digestion. Examples of insoluble fiber are brown rice, quinoa, millet rice, whole wheat, raw spinach, Brussels sprouts and flaxseed.
Making sure you get enough fiber in your diet is essential to maintaining regularity in your digestion and elimination.
Take A Holistic Approach to Gut Health
The supplements mentioned in this article can make a tremendous difference in improving your gut health. However, they cannot replace the essential foundations that are necessary for a healthy gut. You cannot consume high amounts of toxins, eat processed foods, and skip exercises and hope that probiotics will fix your gut. You need to take a holistic approach if you truly wish to restore gut health.
Prioritize whole-food nutrition, eat plenty of fiber, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, find ways to manage stress, get plenty of sleep, and cut out the junk food and other toxic substances from your life. If you have that foundation, then adding these supplements to your life will make a significant improvement in restoring and maintaining your gut health.