Best Supplements for Functional GI Concerns‡
Quality of life is something that we all strive for daily. Anyone who deals with gastrointestinal (GI) concerns such as occasional diarrhea, constipation, or a mixture of both understands that some daily activities are sometimes affected by the occasional GI upset. This blog article will take you on a journey to help you better understand ways to navigate your health and focus on promoting positive gut health. ‡
Understanding Gastrointestinal (GI)
As you know, diet and nutrition are key to our gut health. And if you're up on the latest findings, you will see a strong correlation between your gut health and overall well-being. Remember that every person is different and modulating the type of dietary approach will be necessary based on individual needs. For example, some people may be sensitive to the wheat protein gluten. Others may have allergic responses that affect their GI tract, while others may have had insult or injury to their gastrointestinal system bringing about some GI concerns.
But for now, let’s review the GI tract and how it works for us. Your GI tract consists of four continuous segments or areas: the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon (also known as the large intestine).
These organs work in unison for us. The integrated response of the GI tract to what we eat is a coordinated series of events. This includes responses to the ingestion of meals, the transfer of the food to the stomach, and then intestines for digestion, absorption, and elimination of waste products. All these events play an important role in an individual’s GI function, tolerance and gut health.
Different Types of GI Concerns
Finding credible information can sometimes be stressful, but rest assured we have you covered and hope to speak candidly about some of the GI concerns that may be affecting you.
We know you have some questions about some GI upset like occasional diarrhea and constipation. And we’re not forgetting some of you may be trying to cope with both.
When did you first start to experience these symptoms? Many of you can easily recall, even in childhood, ’dealing’ with either occasional diarrhea or constipation, but this may have become even more of a concern as you got older. To keep things not ‘too clinical,’ we will leave the criteria for GI concerns to your healthcare practitioner.
However, we can identify that abdominal discomfort, gas and bloating are all signs of functional gut health concerns that should be addressed.
What defines occasional diarrhea? You might think this is silly because we have all likely experienced it. But honestly - what is the simple definition of diarrhea? To sum it up, it’s the increase in the frequency of loose, watery stools.1
What’s happening? Well, there’s a rush of water not effectively absorbed in the intestines, resulting in water loss and electrolytes. The onset can be sudden and the duration may be contingent on a variety of factors. (Remember, I’m keeping it cool and not too clinical for you!).
Why is this happening? A variety of factors may lend to this - genetics, a person’s response to stress, diet, insult or injury to the gut, medications, allergies and exposure to certain microorganisms are just a few.
Supporting healthy immune balance within the GI tract is helpful. This includes maintaining healthy gastrointestinal barrier function and immune support to maintain the integrity of the intestinal mucosa.‡
The GI tract houses a large portion of the body’s immune system and has the job of protecting you from unwanted microorganisms. The gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is one of the main protective mechanisms. The GALT helps protect intestinal mucosa from allergens and toxins and is a major component of the body’s immune system.2‡
Did you know it is estimated that more than 70% of the body’s B lymphocytes are found in the GALT?‡ Amazing, right? As you may know, the best way to get key nutrients, including probiotics and prebiotics to support gut health, is through the food you eat. However, dietary supplements, like probiotics, are another great way to support your overall health.‡
Probiotics are believed to support healthy GALT composition and support barrier function, GI epithelial cell health and T cell function within the GI tract.3 Pure Encapsulations® Probiotic G.I. is a shelf-stable probiotic blend that provides 10 billion CFU per capsule of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus silvarius, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus.‡ These beneficial microflora are crucial for proper GALT function and development.4‡
One of the probiotic strains with numerous clinical studies is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. This strain is known for surviving gastric juices, good intestinal adhesion, and supporting healthy gut microflora and respiratory and immune health.5 Supplementing with Pure Encapsulations® PureGG 25B offers L. rhamnosus GG, which also has favorable effects on bowel function, particularly abdominal comfort, bowel motility and occasional diarrhea.6‡
But for some of you, there are concerns about occasional constipation, wanting to support bowel function and promote your overall gut health.‡
If you have experienced occasional constipation, you know and understand that stools were likely difficult to pass and infrequent. It is like the waiting game to see when things will ‘pass.’
But different things may cause a change in your GI motility or the movement of food through your GI tract. Some people may have issues with gastric emptying, which may delay the digested food from emptying appropriately, leading to occasional constipation and affecting gut health.
Adequate hydration is another key factor that may affect the stool. Certain medications, diet (and dietary fiber), how active or sedentary you are and genetics (of course!) all play a part in how your GI functions.
Digestive enzymes are integral to the digestion process. Certain enzymes specifically support the breakdown or digestion of macronutrients in our diet. Refresher: macronutrients are the nutrients that are most prevalent in our diet, like carbohydrates, protein, and fat (water, too!).
If you want to support your digestion and gut health (aren’t we all?), consider a dietary supplement like a digestive enzyme with an extensive profile to help protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber and dairy digestion as a good starting point. ‡
Look for enzymes that are specific to the digestion or breakdown of food macros:
- Proteases to assist with the normal breakdown of proteins and di- and tripeptides.7
- Lipase to promote dietary fat breakdown, and amylase and glucoamylase to stimulate complex carbohydrates or polysaccharides to breakdown starch and glycogen.8 Also, enzymes like alpha-galactosidase help promote the breakdown of certain complex carbohydrates, found in some legumes, vegetables, and grains—to help relieve occasional bloating or gas.9‡
Pure Encapsulations® Digestive Enzymes Ultra offers all of these plus other numerous enzymes to assist with breaking down dietary fiber, making the nutrients in fiber-containing foods more bioavailable.10‡
Managing Occasional Diarrhea and Constipation
Some people who look to manage their occasional diarrhea and constipation realize that knowing what and how much to eat is important in helping them manage their daily symptoms.
- Some diets are tailored to individual needs, which allow the consumption of easily digestible foods based on personal needs. Focusing on a clean, whole foods diet with adequate amounts of the right fruits and vegetables, dietary fibers (soluble and insoluble), lean protein and plant-based proteins, limiting dietary fats and including the correct blend of fats (mono and poly unsaturated) may promote overall optimal health and GI tolerance.
- Some individuals may be advised to limit or monitor their lactose intake and certain foods when following guidelines based on low fodmap foods. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people that impact their gut health. FODMAPs are found naturally in many foods and food additives.11
- Some individuals focus on avoiding gluten-containing foods. Digestive enzymes targeting gluten and dairy digestion, like those in Gluten/Dairy Digest, include a blend of proteases that target gluten breakdown.‡
- Ensuring adequate hydration daily and drinking by schedule is important to ensure adequate daily fluid intake and to replenish additional fluid losses from occasional diarrhea. On the flip side, with occasional constipation, additional dietary fiber is warranted and fluids are essential to help soften and decrease the transit time of stools.
As I mentioned at the very start of this blog, gut health is an important part of your overall health and well-being. Poor gut health can impact your quality of life (think back to the last time you had a digestive issue – did it interfere with your activity?).
Here are some simple lifestyle management tips that could go a long way toward improving your gut health and overall health and well-being!
Manage your stress!
High levels of stress and anxiety can be a leading cause of consistent digestion problems. Make sure you take the time to relax or learn stress reduction techniques for better gut health.
Keep physically active!
Staying physically active not only helps keep the body fit but also improves digestion by helping move food through our intestines more quickly, so nutrients are absorbed better. Try incorporating some form of exercise into your daily routine – it can be as simple as playing catch with your dog or walking around the block!
Meet with your healthcare practitioner or GI specialist routinely.
Do not cancel that appointment! Whether you’re experiencing bloating, occasional diarrhea or constipation, or dealing with an unpleasant GI condition, seeing your healthcare practitioner can make all the difference.
Managing GI tolerance includes keeping your best food choices and a balanced diet at the forefront of your day-to-day living. It is also essential to manage other factors like your lifestyle and ensure you follow the protocol your healthcare practitioner outlined for your health journey. Whatever your health need or goal, you can confidently turn to our Gastrointestinal Health Category for functional nutrition solutions and gut support. ‡
With Pure Intentions, from Pure Encapsulations®
- Diarrhea - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic, accessed November 29, 2023.
- Iweala OI, Nagler CR. 2019 Apr 26;37:377-403.
- Cristofori F, et al. Front Immunol. 2021 Feb 26;12:578386.
- Levy M, et al. Genome Med (2015) 7:120.
- Hojsak et al. Clin Nutr 2010; 29, 312-6.
- Guandalini et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2000:30(1), 54-60.
- Czakó L, et. al. Can J Gastroenterol. 2003 Oct;17(10):597-603.
- Suarez F, et. al. Dig Dis Sci. 1999 Jul;44(7):1317- 21.
- Di Nardo G, et. al. BMC Gastroenterol. 2013 Sep 24;13:142.
- Sandberg AS, et. al. J Nutr. 1996 Feb;126(2):476-80.
- About FODMAPs | Monash FODMAP - Monash Fodmap, accessed November 29,2023.