Your guts or intestines might not be something you think about often, that is until there’s a problem. However, current research showing that gut health is essential to your wellbeing in more than just the bathroom way.
There are links between intestinal health and:
- body weight
- heart health
- blood sugar
- brain health
- mental health
- energy levels
- immune function
You’re reading that correctly. Suppose the microbes in your intestines are out of balance. In that case, you could be holding excess body fat, your mental health could be suffering, and a multitude of other nasty symptoms you might not otherwise link to your digestive health.
Given this information, it makes sense to prioritize your gut health, and obviously, probiotics are a great place to begin. However, much like the surprise combination of symptoms associated with poor gut health, there are some surprising supplements you might want to try to support your GI tract as well.
Feed your Probiotics with Prebiotic Supplements
Probiotics are live “good” bacteria that live within the intestines and balance out the “bad” bacteria. Since probiotics are alive, it makes sense that they need to eat. However, they can’t necessarily munch on anything that comes their way from your diet. Probiotics require special plant fibers to fuel them.
Prebiotics are insoluble plant fibers that make it all the way through your small intestine to your large intestine, where they then ferment and serve as fuel to nourish the tiny beneficial microbes. Once nourished, the probiotics in your large intestine can flourish and become more diverse.
Heal Damage with L-Glutamine
Amino acids are frequently discussed in the fitness world due to their roles in the muscle preserving and muscle building processes. However, L-glutamine is an amino acid that’s involved in the digestive process as well.
The lining of your intestines uses L-glutamine to fuel its processes. An adequately fueled intestine along with a healthy mucous lining (also thanks to L-glutamine) allows for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.
L-glutamine has a variety of other benefits, too, like boosting the immune system, improving muscle mass, and burning fat.
Support the Structural Integrity of Your Guts with Collagen
Collagen is an abundant protein within the body. Supplementing with collagen has become popular within the beauty industry, as it’s known to improve the appearance of your hair, skin, and nails. However, the benefits of collagen go beyond simple vanity and delve deep into overall wellness.
Collagen is a protein, and proteins create the structures within the body, including the intestines. A strong digestive tract at the muscular level prevents nasty conditions like leaky gut and keeps everything moving on schedule.
Support the Intestinal Lining with Zinc
Zinc is essential for all sorts of things—immune support, healing, brain development in children, taste, and smell. However, intestinal health is another surprising benefit of maintaining appropriate levels of zinc.
If your zinc levels fall out of whack, either by having too much or too little, the intestinal barrier falls apart, leading to uncomfortable conditions like diarrhea and inflammation. You won’t consume too much zinc through diet alone, but you might not get enough.
When you supplement with zinc, you must be careful not to include too much. For reference, the daily recommended amounts are eleven milligrams for men and nine milligrams for women. Because zinc is one nutrient that you can overdose with, always talk to your primary care physician about your concerns and ask for his or her help with dosing.
Food Sources for Gut Healing Nutrients
Supporting your gut doesn’t have to be about purchasing pricey supplements, though they can help. All of these nutrients: prebiotics, L-glutamine, collagen, and zinc, can be obtained through your diet alone with some careful planning and research.
- chicory root
- whole oats
- egg whites
- red and yellow vegetables
- white tea
- all meat, but red in particular
- whole grains
- dark chocolate
Other Ways to Support your Digestive System
Besides consuming these nutrients, whether in supplement form or food alone, there are other changes to your diet and lifestyle that you can make to support your intestinal health.
Eat foods with probiotics.
Including foods that are rich in probiotics can help to ensure you’re maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut are delicious ways to consume live bacteria that make it all the way to your large intestine.
If you consume a daily probiotic, you might be concerned about adding in probiotic-rich foods, as well. Don’t worry about consuming too many probiotics. The gut is continually flushing itself out, so it’s impossible to eat too many.
Increase fiber intake.
Like probiotics, fiber is also well known for helping you stay regular. That’s because fiber ferments in your gut and feeds the bacteria in the intestines. While the fiber ferments, the body breaks it down into short-chain fatty acids. These acids help soothe inflammation and maintain a healthy lining to your intestines.
Reduce processed foods.
It’s probably not a shocker that processed foods are mentioned here; there is usually nothing healthy about them. While they have a long list of negatives associated with them, you can’t overlook that diets high in processed foods and refined sugar throws off the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut. This is because sugars tend to make bad bacteria multiply.
Set a sleep schedule.
Sleep is a massive piece of the wellness puzzle. You might not realize it, but a poor sleep schedule is another thing that can throw off the balance of bacteria in your body. Studies show that too little sleep actually changes the microbiome in your intestines, leading to increased toxin levels, increased inflammation, and a host of other scary symptoms.
Prioritizing your gut health is a great step towards getting serious about your overall wellbeing. Including foods rich in gut-supporting nutrients, supplementing when necessary, and making minor lifestyle changes like sleeping more are all ways to improve your digestive tract’s health and therefore make you healthier overall.