Today I want to talk about issues in your digestive tissues! We all experience tummy issues from time to time. Before I focused on my gut health, the “trains” weren’t exactly running on schedule (if ya catch my drift). Some of us have gotten so used to living with abdominal problems that it’s become a fact of life (along with having too much stress and not enough sleep). Well, it’s time to pump the brakes and get your GI troubles taken care of.
Stress, hormones, exercise and even genetics play a role in the health of your digestive system. But the biggest player is what you eat (or don’t eat!). Your gut is the center of your physical and mental state—it guides your overall well-being. The food you eat travels 30 feet from your mouth to your colon. That’s a long journey and along the way, things can get complicated. So sometimes, your digestive system could use an extra boost to get back into balance.
Your gut needs lots of things for smooth digestion, including three biggies I want to talk about today: digestive enzymes, probiotics and the prebiotics that feed them. Digestive enzymes help break down food, probiotics (bacteria) help keep our systems in balance and prebiotics act as a fertilizer to help grow the good bacteria that are already there.
But sometimes when we make improvements to our diets, our bodies respond in curious ways. Like when you begin eating more plant-based foods, your digestive system might get a little funky at first. From bloating to cramps, an increase in veggies can be an adjustment for our systems.
That’s why adding in enzymes, probiotics and prebiotic foods can be extremely helpful when you’re transitioning to a diet higher in fiber and plants—like my 21-day total wellness program, Crazy Sexy You. These babies will help you reduce your discomfort so you can keep on truckin’ to glorious health!
Here’s more good news: Your overall health will vastly improve when you get your digestive system in good shape. Even if you think your gut is pretty hearty and you don’t need to supplement, you can still benefit from adding some enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics into your meals.
Here are the top benefits:
- You absorb more nutrients (delish!)
- Your digestive issues go bye-bye
- You’re less likely to get infections
- Your body gets a cleansing tune-up
- Your gal parts get a boost and you’re less likely to experience UTI’s (Amen to that!)
That’s a whole lotta goodies right there! So let’s explore the world of gut-boosters. You’ll learn what they do and how they’ll help you. Then we’ll go over some everyday food and supplement options you can start exploring right away. As always, check with your doc before adding supplements to your life. Let’s jump in!
How can you boost your gut health?
Soak up more nutrition from your food with digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes are produced in your salivary glands and pancreas, but you can take them as a supplement. Their job is to break your food down into smaller compounds that your body can use. So when you boost the amount of digestive enzymes in your gut through supplementation, you’ll probably experience improved digestion and get more nutrition from your food. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Many people have had digestive discomfort their whole lives, but did you know that production of enzymes starts to decrease with age? Whatever the case may be, if you’re experiencing gas, bloating, health issues associated with your pancreas, leaky gut or vitamin and mineral deficiencies, then digestive enzymes could bring relief.
To get started, most people take digestive enzymes at every meal. Within a month or two, however, you should be able to take just one per day. My favorite brands include the Digestive Enzymes Ultra from Pure Encapsulations (here), the Digest Spectrum from Enzymedica (here) and chewable Garden of Life’s Organic Digest+ (here). You’ll know they’re working when your digestive symptoms decrease or even go away. You can wean off them at any time and add them back into your diet as needed.
Remedy digestive and women’s health issues with probiotics
Probiotics help improve the balance of healthy bacteria in your GI tract, keeping it clean and healthy. They’re great for helping with digestion, immune function, weight loss, absorbing nutrients (just like enzymes), detoxing your body, keeping healthy bacteria in girly parts, preventing UTI’s and promoting a happy mood. I bet you’re wondering: Where can I get some of that?
Fermented foods, like organic tempeh, organic miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut kefir and kombucha, are excellent sources of probiotics. But even if you’re regularly getting these foods in your diet, you can still add a supplement for an extra probiotic boost. Just be sure to find one with “enteric coating”, which helps your body absorb all that probiotic goodness. I like Dr. Ohhira’s (here), Garden of Life’s Primal Defense Probiotics (here), and Jarro-Dophilus EPS (here) because they’re good for travel and don’t need to be refrigerated. And most docs will say you can’t overdo it when it comes to probiotics.
Pump up your gut with prebiotic foods
I know things can get confusing between enzymes and probiotics, but hang in there with me. If you really want to kick things up a notch, you can also add in prebiotic foods that contain a type of fiber that feeds and fuels probiotics. Basically, they enhance your gut-healing and immune-boosting power. And if they’re raw and uncooked, even better. The more prebiotic food, the healthier your digestive tract will be.
Here are the 10 best prebiotic foods to add to your diet:
- Raw chicory root
- Raw Jerusalem artichoke
- Raw dandelion greens
- Raw garlic
- Raw onion
- Cooked onions
- Raw asparagus
- Raw wheat bran
- Baked wheat flour
- Raw banana
The recommended intake of prebiotic fiber is 5 grams a day, which is also the amount in 1 banana plus a piece of high-fiber bread. I have some great recipes for ya that incorporate a few of my fave prebiotic ingredients. Try out my Save the Tuna Salad on Rye and this Beetroot Ravioli with Cashew Cheese for a great way to really give your gut health the ultimate boost!
I hope this info gives you some new options for easing your tum troubles and feeling better each day. Your gut is the epicenter of your health and deserves regular TLC. When I take care of my belly, it takes care of me in powerful ways. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you have the same experience!
Your turn: Give a shout-out in the comments if digestive issues have ever impacted your well-being.
Peace and happy digestion,
Check out my bestselling book, Crazy Sexy Diet, for more tips for getting back on track to vibrant health and happiness! I dive deep on gut health and the fundamentals of plant-based living—plus a bunch of delicious recipes! Get Crazy Sexy Diet
I agree with most of this but if fodmaps are causing you gut trouble then all 10 of those prebiotic foods will make you feel very sick!
Hi Jane! Thanks for your comment. I’m a dietitian and the nutrition director here at Crazy Sexy Wellness, so I’ll jump in. If someone is following a low FODMAP diet because of leaky gut or other digestive issues, they would need to emphasize probiotics and digestive enzymes, and would be limited to raw banana and raw dandelion greens as their prebiotic foods (or a supplement). In my experience with my nutrition patients and low FODMAP diets, people have been able to follow them temporarily and slowly increase their intake of whole grains, legumes, and high FODMAP fruits and veggies as their digestive system allows. As a dietitian, this is always refreshing for me since so many healthy and nutrient-rich foods are on the high FODMAP list. Hope that helps! xo
I totally need this today! I’m getting over another cold and my immunity is just shot. I’ll have to give some of these a try. Thanks for the suggestions.
I never used to poop. It was amazing I rarely had any pain whatsoever. Then I did! I went to colonics, they turned me onto digestive enzymes, and I’ve been a new woman ever since. But it’s not perfect, so I am adding the probiotics. I love that our guts are the center of our universe. I’m determined to get mine in tip top shape. Thx Kris.
I’ve had chronic IBS since I was a teenager. Having just turned 49 it’s safe to say I’m tired of always having a severe stomachache and bathroom issues. I want to find a way to improve and strengthen my gut health. I’m thankful for the great information and am hopeful I’m on the right track.
Me too Lisa – but I’m 56 this year – so glad to hear your looking into this now and not waiting as long as I have. Good luck and keep us updated!
I am so grateful for you, this post, and the universe! This is just the info I needed to help my Mom, thank you so much for sharing this, Kris. SO awesome!
I personally have been taking the Garden of Life Women’s Probiotics for years and was wondering… On the package it says it contains enzymes, do you think that’s the same as taking them in a separate pill? Thank you!
Wheat flour is among your digestion recommendations?? Wheat? wheat? You’ve got to be kidding.
Hi Penny! I’m a dietitian and the nutrition director here at Crazy Sexy Wellness, so I’ll jump in. Wheat is rich in prebiotics (aka probiotic food), so for people who are not allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to wheat, it can be an amazing source of prebiotics. The list is long though, so you can certainly choose other options. xo!
Thanks Kris. Great post, I have always been confused between pre and probiotics. Is it recommended that one take all 3 of these supplements?
Also, I was under the impression that refrigerated probiotics were best as they are “alive”. Is that incorrect?
Hi Kathy! I’m a dietitian and the nutrition director here at Crazy Sexy Wellness, so I’ll jump in. Prebiotics are basically fiber that is *food* for probiotics. Most people who eat really healthy plant-based diets already get prebiotics without even realizing it. But, probiotics and digestive enzymes often need to be supplemented.
As for refrigerating probiotics, many brands need to be refrigerated. However, the ones Kris recommends just need to be stored in a cool, dry place. Dr. Ohhira’s is one of my favorites and from his site he says “The fermentation process used to craft Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics ® is conducted at seasonal temperatures. This results in a very stable product that does not require refrigeration. Individually blister-packed capsules preserve potency, ensure purity, and are convenient for travel.”
Hope that helps! xo
I read that if a person suffers from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, probiotics and prebiotics should be avoided because they may overcrowd the gut with bacteria and make gas problems worse. How would I find out if I have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?
Hi Sabine! I’m a dietitian and the nutrition director here at Crazy Sexy Wellness, so I’ll answer for Kris. From what I understand, functional medicine docs are aggressive with recommending probiotics to their patients with SIBO. If you have some of the symptoms (digestive issues similar to IBS), you may want to check with a doc for further investigation. Hope that helps! xo
I actually had SIBO and successfully rid myself of it and now dealing with the ramifications it had on my gut. I would definitely follow Dr. Pimentel’s plan that you can find online. The only time it doesn’t really make sense to take probiotics is if you’re taking the specific antibiotic for SIBO because then it’s just going to be combating against the good bacteria and the bad. Personally, I had a hard time with prebiotics until I got the SIBO under control, but I can handle them fine now along with a ton of fermented food I couldn’t digest before.
You can determine if you have SIBO through a very looong breath test. Make sure they use the lactulose solution so you can determine which type of SIBO you have. Which type you have will change the treatment protocol. If you have any other questions about the test or what having SIBO feels like feel free to email me. I know gut issues can be a scary thing to deal with.
Are you a vegan?
I read that pickles are good for the gut however the jars at the supermarkets have a long list of strange preservatives I had never heard of. Any advice as to what pickles are best? Or are homemade pickles the way to go? Any recipes? Jen
My digestive system has gone downhill over the past couple of weeks. I’m visiting a naturopath next week in an attempt to get back on track. This message has arrived at the perfect moment!
I have TOTALLY experienced the benefits of adding both enzymes and probiotics to my daily regimen. They truly work best together and DAILY so just try it and believe! You will feel more confidence and more energy with a flatter belly and less “annoying issues!”
I super love GreenSmoothieGirl’s PreZymePro–it has the prebiotics, probiotics, and enzymes all together. It works really well.
Why does eating healthy foods cause gas and bloating?
Some people just don’t have the necessary digestive enzymes in their body to digest the health foods or the gut may already be inflammed. If you’re having issues with vegetables have you tried cooking them down before eating them?
the main issue is juicing and smoothies, which is obviously a really important part of a good nutrition plan, but can anyone suggest an alternative or solution, if someone is experiencing gas or bloating?
I only juice with vegetables and the rare fruit so I can’t speak as much to just fruit smoothies or fruit juice. There’s too much sugar in that for me so I prefer to get my fruit as a whole source. A couple things I did when I was having gas and/or bloating from the vegetable smoothies and juices was to only do it a couple if times a week at first. Increased fiber can take awhile for your body to adjust to. You can try having smaller amounts daily as well as another way to get your body acclimated. Also, if you have any added fats in there it can slow digestion time allowing what fruits you are using to ferment and cause gas.
You can test out your different issues by just starting out with an ultra-simple smoothing or juicing recipe and add things slowly from there testing what and when the bloating arises. Avoid adding vegetables that knowingly cause gas until you find a smoothie or juicing recipe you don’t react to and then add things here and there.
okay thank you so much! I think my system has more of a problem with the veggies, which is a bummer. I would love to chug a daily dose of kale, celery, chard, dandelion, and a handful more, but maybe I should just juice instead of ‘blend’ them into a smoothie, in order to cut back on the fiber, per your point. I can also start with simple juices and add items along the way.. good suggestion! This is also a predicament for someone else I know who had their gall bladder removed years ago , so now Im wondering if her system can’t handle the fiber since she missing the digestive enzymes that typically are produced from a gall bladder. I will pass these tips on to her. Thanks so much!
Not a problem. Happy to help. Hopefully she’s using supplements to help assist her digestive since her gall bladder is gone. Just an FYI, kale can be one of the hardest to digest vegetables which is sad since it offers so many additional benefits. Even now that my gut is much stronger than it used to be I simply still can’t tolerate kale in any form even cooked down. Everyone does better on certain foods vs others. It’s just about finding your best meal plan that gives you energy and aids healthy digestion. Good luck!
Maybe someone else has experienced this. I added a probiotics and managed 3 days in a row. I experienced gassiness and spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I then tried a MWF schedule and things improved a bit. Still a lot of bathroom time. Im taking the week off to see if things even out a bit.
You could have SIBO or Candida or just some gut dysbosis. You may be experiencing a Herxheimer Reaction, but it could also just be something specific to that probiotic. If it was me I would give this one a solid try for two weeks and if the problems still persist I’d take a week off and try a different one. Good luck!
Thanks for always putting product recommendations. That is so helpful! 🙂 xo
What do you recommend for constipation induced by anti-metics from chemotherapy? Normally it isn’t a problem for me. Taking Miralax, Sennakot, Calms etc. but imagine there must be some thing better out there. Would digestanta help?
I used smooth move tea while on chemo and it helped me -hated the ping pong affect of other things….
I’m throwing this out as food for thought. I have cancer and am currently going through chemotherapy. I was regularly taking probiotics and my doctor suggested I stop taking them right now because my white blood counts were dropping very low a few days after receiving chemo (called neutropenia). For those who don’t know, a low white blood counts means your body will have a difficult time fighting off an infection. Apparently my doctor was concerned that the extra bacteria from the probiotic could cause an overgrowth of bacteria in my gut (yes, even good bacteria) that my body can’t fight off. Now I only take probiotics when my blood counts return to a normal range. So if anyone is going through chemo, you might want to check with your oncologist before taking probiotics.
Nice article & great information! I wrote a similar piece that goes hand in hand with your article!
This is an amazing writeup , thanks alot.