It is estimated that more than 75% of the population has digestive problems. Getting into practice I never realized this was such a huge problem, but day after day when patients came in they reported having digestive problems. It makes sense when you look at the Standard American Diet (SAD) as most of the food we are putting into our bodies is highly processed. We require certain nutrients on a regular basis and without those nutrients our bodies can't function and heal properly.
Depending on what the digestive problem is there are 3 main supplements that typically work really well for people.
These enzymes are in the stomach and gut for the purpose of breaking down food. When we constantly eat unhealthy food our concentration of enzymes can be thrown off. For example, if we are eating a mostly carbohydrate based diet then we are going to keep the enzymes made for breaking down carbohydrates but the other enzymes for fat and protein might be minimized. If you have not been eating much protein or fat and go back to eating it, your body might not be able to break it down completely causing digestive stress and pain.
Digestive enzymes can help to break down the food you are putting into your stomach more efficiently. Many people lose the ability to break down lactose and so they can't eat many of their favorite products. Digestive enzymes typically have lactase in them which helps to break down lactose allowing people to eat things like ice cream and cheese without digestive problems.
Suggestion: 1 - 6 digestive enzymes per day. Typically they work best if taken 30 minutes before a meal.
Many people need to start by taking 4 - 6 per day, before meals. Once their stomach problems start to improve they can reduce the amount of digestive enzymes they are taking on a regular basis. Some people with chronic digestive problems will probably need to continue taking an increased amount and taking them before their meals.
The flora of the intestines is important for many reasons including boosting immune system, healthy digestion, regulating inflammation and much more. Probiotics are one of the main players in how well these processes move forward. Historically we would get our probiotics from fermented foods and dirt that was found on our food. In our clean and sanitary world we don't typically eat any dirt and many people don't like fermented foods. This causes less probiotics to be present in the digestive system than we need.
Also, research has shown that a diet concentrated in processed carbohydrates promotes unhealthy bacteria in the gut to grow. When this happens the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria is unfavorable and digestion doesn't function as it should leading to gas, bloating and pain.
Suggestion: 1 probiotic per day or every 4-5 hours if you are having a flair up.
Supplementation with probiotics are similar to that of digestive enzymes. It really depends on how you are responding. If you are sick and take a probiotic and get relief for 4 - 5 hours, then take another one every 4 - 5 hours until you start to improve. Once you are back on track it would probably be wise to continue taking at least 1 probiotic on a daily basis.
As one of the most prevalent supplements used in the body, magnesium has a number of health benefits. One of the most powerful benefits is as a muscle relaxer. This can possibly help with anything from headaches, cramps, heart palpitations and digestion, especially constipation.
If you are eating highly processed foods low in fiber on a regular basis, the body is going to absorb as many nutrients out of the food as possible leaving very little to pass through the digestive tract to be eliminated. This is one of the main causes of constipation.
Adding in magnesium can be really beneficial for anyone suffering from constipation. It helps to relax the digestive tract and allows everything to start moving again.
Suggestion: 400 - 600 mg per day.
The main side effect of magnesium is diarrhea, which is a welcome response for someone who has chronic constipation. Some physicians suggest taking magnesium until you are going to the bathroom more frequently. Then once you get to that point you would back to reduce the amount of magnesium you were taking and that should get you closer to having a regular bowel frequency.
If you are someone with severe digestive problems, you need to be doing all three of the suggestions above, or at least two of them in combination to see the results. I also recommend eliminating foods that are causing distress and eating probiotic rich foods on a regular basis for maximum benefit.
If you are taking medications, be sure to consult with your doctor before adding in supplements.
Dr. Dan Kehres, DC is a Saginaw Chiropractor and Midland Chiropractor at Kehres Health & Chiropractic. We are passionate about changing people's lives through chiropractic, nutrition and teaching true health. We believe that true health is taking all facets of your life into consideration when striving to be healthy - physical, mental, chemical and nutritional.