A Consumer’s Guide to Digestive Health

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This blog post was provided by Yerba Prima. 

“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates

After almost 2,500 years of studies, research and tests, it turns out the ancient Greek physician commonly referred to as the “father of medicine” was pretty close when he made this declaration. Of course not every disease originates in the gut, but good digestion is the foundation for good health.

When all functions as it should, we feel healthy, vibrant, and energetic.  When it doesn’t, we feel sluggish, uncomfortable and even ill.

According to a report by the National Institutes of Health, up to 70 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of a digestive disorder. In fact, those numbers are on the rise. Add those with chronic problems yet to be officially diagnosed, and those with more occasional digestive problems and the list quickly grows to include just about everyone.

The good news is, there are a variety of health aids on the market designed to address and resolve many digestive issues and ensure a healthy gut. The bad news, you almost need to be a registered dietician or medical doctor in order to properly sort through the seemingly endless options.

Do I need fiber or a laxative? What is the difference between an internal cleanse and a detox? Can this be taken by men, women or both? Ugh!

Before getting overwhelmed, check out this simple guide to help digest all the possibilities.

Starting with fiber

Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that travels through the digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements. A diet high in fiber promotes a healthy digestive tract and increases regularity. Fiber can also create a feeling of fullness, a useful tool in weight control.

Additionally, a diet high in fiber can decrease your risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. The problem is that most adults only get about half that, so fiber supplements are often recommended.

One of the most popular fiber supplements is psyllium, which comes from the ‘husk’ or outer coating of the psyllium plant’s seeds. On contact with water, psyllium thickens into a gel-like substance that acts like a broom to sweep waste from the digestive tract and colon.

“You want to avoid lower grade fiber products that grind the whole plant, including parts that are essentially fillers,” explains Craig Hays, Organic Chemist and Quality Assurance Manager at Yerba Prima (www.yerba.com), an innovator of dietary fiber and internal cleansing products. “Check the label to make sure that the psyllium plant seeds are used.”

Laxatives

If constipation is an issue, a fiber supplement alone may not be sufficient. If this is the case, a mild laxative may provide relief but should only be taken for a very short duration.

Cascara Sagrada and Senna, two of the most common natural laxatives, both act on the colon to stimulate muscle contraction.

“In normal doses and for short periods of time they are effective,” says Hays. “If higher doses are taken they can over stimulate the colon and cause problems.”

Senna or Cascara, taken along with fiber to provide bulk to your stool, makes for easier passage through the system. Some laxative formulations like Yerba Prima’s Fiber Plus Senna Powder, combine the two, along with other herbs designed to soothe the digestive system.

Detox

The digestive system is designed to expel toxins from our bodies. However, with the overwhelming amount of chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, environmental toxins, as well as drugs, alcohol, processed foods and added sugars that we are exposed to daily can put undue stress on the liver and the body’s elimination capacity. Detoxification is a popular strategy for aiding this process.

One of the most effective ingredients for a safe, natural detox is bentonite, a natural volcanic clay that attracts toxins through adsorption and is taken in a solution or capsule form. The clay is not digested, but passes through the gastrointestinal tract, where it binds to toxins and carries them out of the body through the bowel.

“Bentonite attracts toxins like a magnet as it passes through the body’s digestive tract,” says Hays. “When combined with psyllium, it is even more effective because that ‘ball of toxins’ is swept out of the body by the fiber.”

Total Body Cleanse

Because exposure to environmental contaminants, including industrial pollution and heavy metals, is cumulative, many experts advise performing a total body cleanse on an annual or semi-annual basis. The goal is to remove accumulated chemicals through all the body’s channels of elimination: the bowels, kidneys, lungs, liver, and lymphatic system.

“People do a cleanse when they want to jumpstart their system and get back on a healthy track,” says Hays, whose company developed the first whole body internal cleanse.  “It is popular as part of a new year’s resolution, in preparation to a change in diet or when starting an exercise regimen.”

A cleanse can be achieved by taking many individual supplements, however, it is considerably easier (and cheaper!) to take a product that provides a complete range of desired health effects.

“Just as you would not run your car until it breaks down without maintaining it, you should not do that to your body,” adds Hays.

Gender Specific Formulations

Because men and women have different physiological and nutritional needs, there are different requirements for men and women when it comes to internal cleanses.

Female consumers should look for internal cleansing systems that are designed to enhance good digestion, nutrient assimilation, waste and toxin elimination, energy stability and hormonal balance. Certain herbs and extracts have been used for thousands of years to ease menstrual- related issues – like Chaste-tree berry and Dong Quai Root extract. The combination helps women feel healthier and more energetic throughout the month.

Similarly for men, formulations that contain a common base of powerful cleansing supplements, along with gender specific ingredients, can protect and rebuild elimination systems leading to overall better health.  This includes saw palmetto for prostate health, as well as Asian ginseng and sarsaparilla root extract to support male vitality.

“Whether you are taking fiber, detoxing or doing a total body cleanse, it is all about taking care of yours digestive health so you can look and feel your best each and every day,” concludes Hays.

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