Gut health is important for overall health, and there are many wide-ranging causes that can change and affect gut health. These changes can be from acute causes, such as gastrointestinal surgeries, to others, such as the normal aging process, which may affect gastrointestinal motility. Regardless of the cause, the intestines usually experience changes during the healing or aging process.1
That said, despite any shifts, it’s important to get back on track as soon as possible and make the gut the best it can be.1 Here are a few things to consider.
What are the implications of changes in the gut? The gut has trillions of bacteria that help to digest food, absorb nutrients, and manage our wellbeing.Many of these bacteria are beneficial, and evidence has shown that good gut health is linked to supporting general health, including the immune system and brain. However, certain gastrointestinal conditions can lead to changes in the gut’s microbial environment and result in poor health and wellness.2
Common sources of gut-health changes include shifts in gut immunity, stomach acid, and gastrointestinal flora (that is, the ecosystem of over 400 bacterial species that make up the microbiome).2,3
Some digestive changes—including compromised gut function—are simply caused by the aging process.3This is because our natural metabolic processes slow as we grow older.
Are there ways to support common gastrointestinal changes? You’ve probably heard the expression, “prevention is the best form of medicine.” Prevention is admittedly king in a healthcare setting, but it also involves hard work and dedication.
So how can we avoid intestinal changes that may affect gut health? Here are some preventive strategies that may help keep your gastrointestinal health in check:4
Which ingredients can enhance gut health?Many foods and supplements are connected to a healthy gut and a strong digestive tract.4 Some options to explore include:
Probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”6,7 They offer a number of benefits, including supporting digestion, and data suggests a gut-brain connection exists.8 While only strain-identified probiotics have been researched extensively for specific health benefits, fermented foods, such as kimchi, miso soup, kombucha, and kefir are popular dietary sources of probiotics.
Most probiotics come from one of the following genera of bacteria:8
Prebiotics are fibrous carbs the human body cannot digest (but certain bacteria in the gut can). They serve as food for probiotics and include oats, garlic, onions, apple skin, beans, and chicory root.5 Much like probiotics, prebiotics encourage healthy digestion.8
When it comes to improving our digestive health, fiber—also known as roughage—is crucial.13 It cannot be digested by the body; rather, it passes through the stomach, small intestine, and colon more or less intact.9
Fruits and vegetable, whole grains, beans, and legumes are all rich in fiber.14 Fibrous ingredients are generally full of nutrients as well, which may enhance our absorption abilities.13
There are two types of fiber, one of which is more closely linked to the digestive system:13
Be sure to discuss your fiber intake with your healthcare practitioner to minimize chances of discomfort.13
This amino acid provides both a source of fuel and precursors for growth to the rapidly dividing cells of the intestinal lining.15
5. Inner-leaf aloe
Sourced from the aloe vera plant, inner-leaf aloe has been shown in studies to support temporary digestive symptoms such as cramping, bloating, and flatulence.16 It has also been shown to a support a healthy intestinal lining.17
Ideal for gastric comfort, zinc-carnosine works by supporting the healthy ecology and integrity of the stomach lining.18,19
Always consult your healthcare practitioner before making any adjustments to your diet or adding any supplements.
For more information on nutrition and gut health, please visit the Metagenics blog.
Have you ever stood before the wall of vitamins at the drugstore or your healthcare practitioner’s office, wondering what you should take? Choosing supplements can be a daunting experience: Some boxes are orange. Some bottles are silver. Some contain iron, while others do not. Which one is right for you?
Start the selection process by getting specific about your particular stage of life. From young adulthood to the childbearing years and into menopause, each life stage may require greater emphasis on different nutrients to help your body get what it needs for optimal wellness.
Young, ambitious, and carefree! Does this ring true for you? Women in their late teens or early 20s are going off to college, choosing a career path, and just beginning to explore adulthood. This is a time to be mindful of getting the appropriate nutrients you need to create a healthy foundation for the years ahead.
Calcium. This mineral is important for women of all ages, but especially so in your 20s when bone mass reaches its peak. After this time, the risk of losing bone mass increases as a woman moves into her 30s and beyond.1 Taking a calcium supplement can help the body build bone, especially when paired with vitamin D3, which is known to enhance absorption of this vital mineral.2
Iron. Iron is important for young ladies, as menstruation is one of the ways this mineral is depleted from the body. In fact, menstruation increases the average daily iron loss to about 2 mg per day in premenopausal female adults,3 with excessive menstrual blood loss as the most common cause of iron deficiency in women.3
Baby, it’s you!The time of a woman’s life when she can become pregnant and have a baby is very special. It is also especially important to consider which nutrients are needed before conceiving and to ensure a smooth pregnancy and delivery.
Folic acid. This vitamin (known as folate in its natural form) is needed before and during pregnancy. If you are considering getting pregnant, it is smart to increase folic acid intake before conceiving—there is strong evidence that taking folic acid prior to conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural tube defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord by up to 70%.4Additionally, folic acid requirements are 5- to 10-fold higher in pregnant women than nonpregnant women,5 so get your folic acid going!
Iron. Iron supplementation in pregnancy is often recommended. During pregnancy, the body’s iron requirements progressively increase until the third month.6 This is because more iron is needed for the growing fetus and placenta, as well as to increase your red blood cells.7
Calcium. Calcium is essential for fetal development, and this requirement increases during pregnancy (from 50 mg/day at the halfway point up to 330 mg/day at the end) and lactation.6
Iodine. During pregnancy, iodine is needed in the production of fetal thyroid hormones (the fetus’ thyroid begins functioning as early as 12 weeks in the womb!) and should be increased by about 50%.6
Vitamin D. Vitamin D (mostly vitamin D3, as it’s the predominant form in mom’s blood) is needed in the first stage of pregnancy, as it contributes to embryo implantation and the regulation of several hormones.6
Choline. Choline is an important nutrient for the health of women throughout their lifetime, and in particular during pregnancy. Choline is also vital for early brain development.8
The change of lifeAs your body progresses toward menopause, it produces less estrogen, opening up a world of change. It is during this time that certain nutrients can help support you in the management of symptoms like hot flashes and mood fluctuations, as well as help stave off concerns about bone mass loss.
Calcium and vitamin D. In menopause, calcium remains a top nutrient to support the maintenance of bone mass. Bone turnover increases at this time, while the creation of new bone does not, which can lead to bone mass loss. Along with calcium, vitamin D is an important factor in helping to support bone health, which has been shown to help prevent bone mass loss in perimenopausal and menopausal women.9
Vitamin K and vitamin D. It has been shown that Vitamin D and K are both important nutritional factors in supporting mineralization and healthy structure of bones.10
Vitamin B12. When it comes to menopause, the B’s have it! Vitamin B12 plays a key role in energy metabolism, something we all need more of during menopause.11
Where to begin?Your healthcare practitioner is the best person to ask about which nutrients you may need. So get out of the vitamin aisle and in to see your doctor!
This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
By Nilima Desai, RD
If you have ever experienced hot flashes, night sweats, etc., due to menopause, you are not alone. About 80% of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and vaginal dryness,¹ which can significantly affect their quality of life. Menopause is characterized by a decrease in estrogen levels, which triggers these uncomfortable symptoms. Most women report hot flashes to be the most bothersome symptom and the reason for starting hormone therapy.²
Symptom Relief OptionsIn addition to lifestyle recommendations, such as following a plant-based diet, increasing physical activity, and minimizing smoking and alcohol intake, the addition of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been most effective in reducing vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats) commonly associated with decreased estrogen levels.²,³*
However, current recommendations from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest limiting HRT to the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time possible.⁴ As a result, 40-50% of women choose to use practical alternative options, such as plant-derived solutions to address menopause-related symptoms.³ Various plant-derived solutions including phytoestrogens such as isoflavones, lignans, and other Chinese and herbal remedies such as ginseng, black cohosh, etc., have been studied for the relief of menopausal symptoms.*
Plant-Derived Solutions: Phytoestrogens are a group of nonsteroidal plant-derived compounds with estrogen-like properties. The chemical structure contains a phenolic ring that enables them to bind to estrogen receptors in the body.⁵ They bind to both types of estrogen receptors, Erα and Erβ.⁵ However, research suggests that majority of the phytoestrogens have a higher affinity to bind to Erβ as compared to steroidal estrogens.⁵ Therefore, they may exert their actions through different pathways and may potentially induce different beneficial responses.*
There are four classes of phytoestrogens: isoflavones, lignans, coumestans, and stilbenes.⁶
Results from 21 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the association between different phytoestrogens and menopausal symptoms (frequency and duration of hot flashes, vaginal dryness, etc.) included in a meta-analysis concluded that there was an association of overall phytoestrogen use with a decrease in the number of daily hot flashes and in vaginal dryness scores.³ However, the use of phytoestrogens was not associated with significant changes in 24-hour night sweat episodes.³*
ERr 731® is a standardized extract of Siberian rhubarb root, a plant-derived, nonhormonal therapy designed to alleviate menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes.*
In a confirmatory RCT involving 119 perimenopausal women, compared with perimenopausal women receiving placebo, those receiving ERr 731® experienced a median 83% decrease in daily hot flashes over the course of 12 weeks.⁷ Compared to placebo, perimenopausal women who received ERr 731® (the extract found in Estrovera) experienced a decrease in symptoms (as indicated by an average [mean] reduction) of up to 83% in individual Menopause Rating Scale scores.⁸ Clinical benefits of ERr 731® appear to be related to selective binding of Erβ and lack of affinity for Erα.9,10*
Black cohosh is an herb that has a long history of use for the relief of menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats. Results from four RCTs examining the association between black cohosh with menopausal symptoms included in a meta-analysis concluded that black cohosh was not associated with changes in the number of hot flashes and night sweats within a 24-hour period.³ Therefore, although black cohosh is a popular herbal remedy to address menopausal symptoms, research has shown no significant association between black cohosh supplementation and relief in menopausal symptoms.³*
Other herbs: There aren’t many studies conducted on the associations of Chinese and non-Chinese medicinal herbs with menopausal symptoms. The few RCTs conducted on the various herbs were not consistent and in general didn’t show any association with symptom relief.³*
Although many RCTs have been conducted on phytoestrogens and herbal remedies in relation to menopausal symptom relief, further studies are needed to determine potential long-term adverse health effects.*
Next StepsUse of HRT needs to be evaluated carefully, and the clinician should assess the risks and benefits associated with prescribing HRT for each individual woman based on her symptoms and personal and family medical history. For women who choose to avoid or have contraindications to HRT, plant-derived therapies in conjunction with a patient-centered approach may potentially provide an alternative in relieving certain symptoms associated with menopause. To determine the best options, patients should always consult with their healthcare provider.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.References: