In this week's column we will investigate the 3 most important oral supplements for repairing the integrity of the digestive system.
Glutamine is an amino acid found in most foods containing protein. However, to obtain enough glutamine to have therapeutic effects one must take it as a supplement in capsule or powder form. Glutamine is a very important nutrient for repairing damage and rebuilding the integrity of the cells that line the intestines. These cells gobble up glutamine like it is going out of style. They use glutamine to rebuild their structural components so they can withstand the rigors of existence in the digestive tract. Relatively high doses of glutamine should be taken for several months in order for optimal healing to occur.
Probiotic bacteria are the "good guys". They are the native bacteria that live along our digestive tracts. Species like acidophilus, bifidus, and hundreds of other species colonize our digestive system and live in harmony with the cells of our intestines. Basically, we give these bacteria a home to live in and they keep that home neat, tidy, and clean no matter what we throw at them. However, people with digestive system disorders like Celiac Disease and Wheat Sensitivity typically have an imbalance of the "good" bacteria vs. "bad" bacteria and yeast species. A major part of treatment is to use probiotic bacteria to restore a healthy population of the "good guys" and dismantle the "bad guys". For probiotics to be therapeutically useful you must take in more than is available in most yogurts. In fact, I typically recommend a probiotic with at least 20-30 billion live organisms per day.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are amongst the most important nutrients for all of us. They play several crucial roles in every cell of the body. The most significant may be the role they play in the cell membrane. This is the outer lining of a cell. The cell membrane is where most of the cell-to-cell communication takes place. It is also the part of the cell that allows nutrients and other molecules either into or out of the cell. When cells of the digestive tract are damaged by the inflammatory processes associated with digestive disorders like Celiac Disease and Wheat Sensitivity they need higher than normal amounts of essential fatty acids for optimal repair.
The most important essential fatty acid for the digestive system is an omega 3 fatty acid called EPA. This is a highly anti-inflammatory molecule that helps to damper down inflammation in the digestive system so that repair can begin. However, it is best to take more than just EPA because the other types of essential fatty acids also play crucial roles in repair. The best sources of essential fatty acids are purified fish oils, hemp oil, and flax oil. However, there is a great deal of other benefits in consuming some essential fatty acids from flax seeds, hemp seeds, or chia seeds. These sources also provide extremely healthy forms of fibre that supports the proper elimination of toxins from the bowel.
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Dr. Brent Barlow
Dr. Brent Barlow is a naturopathic physician and author of the book series, To Feel Well. The first book in the series is now available. Click Here for more information or to purchase Improve Your Digestive System. He is an expert in the field of integrative and holistic healthcare and has a special interest in treating cardiovascular, hormonal, inflammatory, and digestive system disorders. He is board certified to utilize advanced integrative procedures like intravenous nutrient infusions, prolotherapy, neural therapy, and hormone prescription. Dr. Barlow is a graduate of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver and practices in Kelowna, British Columbia.