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Do you need supplements to heal your gut? Experts weigh in

0 2 years ago

By Samantha Cassetty, RD

According to a 2022 survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), about a quarter of respondents said digestive health is their number one health priority, and nearly half rate it as important. On top of that, #GutTok has racked up more than 525 million views of influencers sharing personal stories about products that helped them heal their gut.

But how do you know if your gut needs nourishing, and do these products make a difference? Here’s expert advice on the gut health trend.

Signs of an unhealthy gut

If you’re looking under a lens, an unhealthy gut has less microbial diversity than a healthy gut. When you have an unhealthy gut, the harmony between the beneficial and harmful bacteria is off, promoting a cascade of biological events that can put your health at risk. For instance, a 2017 review found that gut imbalances and inflammation may promote anxiety and depression. Physical and neurological health issues, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune conditions and degenerative brain disorders may also be initiated or promoted by gut imbalances.

That’s the broader picture, but many people consider gut health to be the absence of GI symptoms, like bloating, gassiness and cramps, which can also be signs of dysbiosis (or imbalance in gut bacteria). So, while occasional bloating and the like is normal, when GI problems are persistent or painful, it’s helpful to see a doctor.

For a quick and dirty gut health check, Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, says to take a peek at your poop. “You want it well-formed, brown and easy to pass,” she explains. “A good rule of thumb is not going more than three days without pooping or going more than three times in one day,” she adds.

#GutTok: Here’s the deal on the trendiest gut health products

Here’s the scoop on products that are repeatedly recommended by TikTok influencers.

Probiotics

“In healthy adults, probiotics have been found to help with the immune system, better bowel movements and the vaginal microbiome,” Sauceda notes. Probiotics are also being studied for various disorders, but they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, a strain that helps with constipation may not be the same as one studied for another issue. Therefore, if you want to try one, it’s helpful to shop for the specific strain in an amount shown to be effective for the goal you have in mind. A registered dietitian can help you navigate this.

Meanwhile, Sauceda cautions that if you’re doing a gut healing protocol, taking probiotics too soon may make things worse. And probiotics aren’t magic bullets; the beneficial bacteria they supply won’t live in your gut forever, so dietary and other lifestyle factors are still part of the best gut health strategies.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are substances that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. You can get them from supplements, but you can also find them in numerous plant foods. And getting them from plant foods has the additional advantage of helping you meet fiber targets and supplying vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health-promoting substances that contribute to body-wide benefits. So, in addition to fruits and veggies, aim to eat a range of plant foods, including pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Plant foods are gut superheroes, so try to fill 75% of your plate with them.

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#Guthealth #probiotics #healthyeating

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