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Digesting the Matter

digestive system
DaVinci Laboratories

A healthy diet paired with the right supplement plan will help to maintain overall digestive integrity.

Located between the esophagus and small intestine, the stomach has three responsibilities: storing food, breaking down the food with gastric juices, and then passing it along to the small intestine. The process seems simple, yet digestive issues are a common denominator for most people. According to the American Nutrition Association, close to 70 million Americans suffer from some type of stomach related issue: heart burn, acid reflux, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea and gastro esophageal reflex disorder (GERD). These digestive disorders provide frustration and discomfort, which can cripple an individual’s lifestyle.

Bringing these digestive disorders to the forefront, it’s important to understand that digestive health goes beyond the stomach—entailing the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is considered the “food processor” for the body. The GI tract encompasses the mouth to the anus: salivary glands, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, the small intestine, the large intestine and rectum. While the GI tract is the body’s “food processor,” it’s also crucial to note that the tract reacts to the food that’s being passed through, which can trigger the annoyances mentioned before. The blame-game for the disturbances is various factors. “If one is not eating enough fiber, not getting enough exercise, having excess alcohol intake, overindulging at meals, having a change in your routine or consuming too many dairy products, pregnancy, stress, aging or taking certain medications can also impact the digestive tract, but these are only a few culprits. Each individual is different and may react to various lifestyle factors,” said Dorothy Nugent, registered dietitian and licensed dietitian-nutritionist.

But before resulting in a positive or negative way, the GI tract first breaks down food through mechanical methods like chewing, followed by a swarm of multifaceted chemical processes, which ranges from the saliva to colon bacteria. And the food that’s being passed through will either be nutritious or poisonous to the body. These poisons can be food additives, pesticides, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and anything else that will warrant a negative GI response. Proving this, the journal Nature published a study where it was found that popular emulsifiers present in processed foods could change the gut’s bacteria makeup and cause intestinal inflammation. These emulsifiers are carboxymethycellulose and polysorbate-80. With that said, Nugent advised that it’s “very important” to adhere to a healthy, balanced diet, especially one that is free of processed foods.

The GI tract is also a sensory organ; the American Journal Physiology called it, “the largest vulnerable surface that faces the external environment.” Simply put, the gut has a mind of its own thanks to the enteric nervous system (ENS). This intrinsic nervous system is responsible for the GI tract’s physiological condition, “immune response, detecting nutrients, motility, microvascular circulation, intestinal barrier function and epithelial secretion of fluids, ions and bioactive peptides,” according to the Current Gastroenterol Reports. With its seamlessly multiple defense barriers, digestive issues can happen, and when it does, the ENS will respond in the forms of vomit, diarrhea, inflammation and pain.

The Fiber Fill

You are what you eat. It’s been said and proved through studies several times that consuming a diet rich in processed foods will not only induce weight gain but also GI-related issues. The reason: the GI tract is exposed to toxins and it’s working harder to identify those toxins and break them down. Also, most processed foods are made with simple sugars that can increase inflammation, inhibit the immune system and decrease a person’s overall mood. “De-junking” the diet of these items will simply create a happy GI system.

Bryant Shu, president of New York-based LIFE Nutrition recommended to “manage eating habits.” The strategy is simple: avoid processed foods, add fiber rich foods and consume lean protein and healthy fats. Even more so, Shu said, “A fiber-rich diet helps food move through the digestive tract and avoid problems.” For starters, fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and turns into a gel-like substance within the stomach; this new formation is responsible for slowing down the rate at which food moves from your stomach to the small intestine. It’s present in oatmeal, beans, lentils and fruit. Insoluble fiber does the complete opposite, passing straight through the GI tract to support regular bowl movements. Anything wheat, whole grain, legumes and vegetables will contain this form. Ultimately, both forms can neutralize inflammation in the intestinal microbe. A review published by Advances in Nutrition indicated that anti-inflammatory activity was seen in a fiber-rich diet, ultimately reducing colon damage and intestinal inflammation.

In addition to the it’s anti-inflammatory benefits, fiber also has a prebiotic connection because oligosaccharides act as soluble fiber. Prebiotics are defined as, “nondigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thus improving host health,” as said by the journal Nutrients. Based on that definition every prebiotic is a fiber but not every fiber is a prebiotic.

For a fiber to fall in the prebiotic category it must be absorbed by the upper GI and counterattack stomach acid, fermented by the intestine’s microflora and trigger the growth of intestinal bacteria. The most common prebiotics are inulin, fructooligossacharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS), and they’re found naturally in onions, garlic, milk, bananas, wheat, oats, artichokes, asparagus, leeks and chicory. By including these foods into a daily diet, prebiotics will modify the gut flora by increasing the original amount bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which are also known as the “good bacteria.” Increasing the “good bacteria” in the gut has been associated with alleviating symptoms of IBS and other chronic digestive issues. Verifying that, Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology found that prebiotics do alleviate IBS symptoms like flatulence and bloating.

The Pros of Probiotics

With prebiotics, there’s also probiotics, which are live bacteria that support the function of the intestine’s lining and act as a barrier against dangerous toxins. They ultimately work to reduce the number of “bad bacteria” in the gut, replace the body’s “good bacteria” and create equilibrium between the “good” versus the “bad.” And the “good bacteria” can be found naturally in the intestines; bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are the two most common.

Each strain has been seen to promote proper digestion, boost the immune system and block harmful bacteria. Interestingly enough, the GI tract contains 70 percent of the body’s immune system, making the intestinal immune system responsible for creating more antibodies than the rest of the body. However, a poor immune system can trigger chronic digestive issues. The Journal Neurogastroenterol Motility published a review that found two keys linking the body’s immune activation and IBS. The first key was discovered in patients who developed IBS symptoms and they had “an episode of acute infectious gastroenteritis.” Since their immune system was negatively impacted, inflammation was more apparent. The second key was that there was a “higher prevalence of IBS-like symptoms in patients with IBD in remission.” IBD is inflammatory bowel disease where the entire GI is inflamed, including colitis and Chron’s disease. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods—fermented milk, kefir, Greek yogurt, kim chi and sauerkraut—into a healthy balanced diet can help boost the gut’s immune integrity to ultimately prevent those issues mentioned.

As for general gut health, probiotics can help strengthen the overall digestive process. Specifically lactobacilli create lactic acid, which is a by-product of its fermentation process. This acid improves the release of digestive juices and enzymes from the stomach as well as increasing the absorption of nutrients. The other strain, bifidobacteria, is densely populated in the large intestine or colon. And it too produces lactic acid to breakdown carbohydrates, fat and protein during digestion so that nutrients are more readily absorbed. However, this strain of “good bacteria” decreases with age. Another benefit of probiotics is that they can ease excessive gas and bloating by balancing out the GI tract’s pH. An acidic environment is warranted so that “bad bacteria” can’t take hold.

To ensure these benefits from probiotics are achieved, sometimes the right supplementation plan is needed even when a healthy diet is adhered. LIFE Nutrition provides Advanced Probiotics 150 and Kids Probiotics. LIFE Nutrition uses only the purest quality sources in product formulas that are combined with the latest nutrition science. Every product complies with NSF cGMPs (current good manufacturing practices) to meet standards like purity and strength and all products are non-GMO (genetically modified organism), gluten free and contains no artificial flavors and synthetic preservatives. Advanced Probiotics 150 has at least 15 billion live cells at the time of use and it contains eight different strains that help restore natural balance in the GI tract. Prebiotics (fructo oligosacchrides) are also present in the product to help stimulate the growth of probiotics. Kids Probiotics contains six billion live cells at the time of use with six different strains to support kids’ natural defense system and reduce occasional digestive distress. It also contains the prebiotic, inulin, which helps with the growth of probiotics. The FEMS Immuno Med Microbiol published a study on seven different probiotic strains in which two of them are found in Advanced Probiotics 150. It was seen that these strains significantly supported the immune system.

Ease the Discomfort

Feeling bloated and having abdominal discomfort and constipation can debilitate a person’s day and can be embarrassing. That’s where Atrantil comes in to ease these symptoms without a prescription. Texas-based gastroenterologist, Dr. Kenneth Brown, developed KBS Research after seeing several patients frustrated with the lack of treatment methods for digestive problems. This ultimately allowed for the formation of Atrantil, a nutraceutical that has been more than 88 percent effective on patients who suffer from bloating, constipation and stomach discomfort.

Atrantil is not a probiotic or antibiotic; it’s unique molecular combination fights problem bacteria at its source. The product contains three natural ingredients: M. balsamea wild extract, quebracho extract and conker tree extract. M. balsamea wild extract first slows movement in the small bowl to allow for quebracho extract to create an environment that’s not suitable for methane-producing archaebacteria. Conker tree extract ultimately blocks methane production by killing off “bad bacteria” and binding to the reductase enzyme. Ultimately, these three ingredients work together to eliminate methane-archaebacteria so that the small bowel can return to a sterile condition.

Another company to be aware of is Germany-based Hevert Pharmaceuticals LLC, an independent family-run company that was started in 1956 by Dorothea and Emil Hevert. The company was led by Dr. Wolfgang Hevert and is run today by Marcus and Mathias Hevert. The success has been due to homeopathic remedies that contain several homeopathically prepared active substances. Hevert’s Gastrointestinal Relief is consisted of proven homeopathic active substances: Bismuth subnitricum 6x, carbo vegetabilis 3x, ipecacuanha 6x, magnesia phosphorica 3x and nux vomica 6x. The ingredients work synergistically to provide relief from a nervous stomach by reducing pressure, pain and cramps in the upper abdomen and to decrease excessive gas. Gastrointestinal Relief also normalizes gastric function and ultimately calms the GI system. The product is meant for adults and children over the age of 12.

State of the Market

The digestive category of supplements is one of the fastest growing sectors where digestive wellness made the list of top global trends for 2015 according to New Nutrition Business. Shu said, “The 2014 sales for digestive health supplements in the U.S. was $1.9 billion, which shows a 11.9 percent increase over 2013 and it’s expected to have a double-digit growth over the next five years.” The need for a supplementation plan has increased due to eating habits, antibiotic use and processed foods. With that said, digestive supplement companies will have to find ways to improve supplement products in terms of effectiveness and durability.

Traditional treatments to aid an upset stomach have been to take medication or laxatives, however these methods are not long-term solutions and can cause further damage to the body. Therefore, it’s important for individuals to look for products that contain natural ingredients like Gastrointestinal Relief, Atrantil and LIFE Nutrition’s probiotics. For a right supplementation plan to be effective, it should be practiced with a balanced diet that supports overall GI health. Lastly, practitioners should play an important role in guiding patients to chose what products work for them.



Dietary Emulsifiers Impact the Mouse Gut Microbiota Promoting Colitis and Metabolic Syndrome. (2015). Retrieved March 01, 2016, from www.nature.com/nature/journal/v519/n7541/full/nature14232.html.

Enteric Nervous System in the Small Intestine: Pathophysiology and Clinical Implications. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2016, from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3752592. Furness, J. (1999). Nutrient tasting and signaling mechanisms in the gut. II. The intestine as a sensory organ: Neural, endocrine, and immune responses. American Journal Physiology. Retrieved March 01, 2016, from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10564096.

The Interplay Between Fiber and the Intestinal Microbiome in the Inflammatory Response1,2. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://advances.nutrition.org/content/4/1/16.full.

For More Information:
Atrantil, (214) 984-3724 x703, www.atrantil.com
Hevert Pharmaceuticals LLC, (541) 344-4980, www.hevert.com
LIFE Nutrition, www.lifenutrition.com