Digestive Health

Healthy Digestion—Your Key to Overall Good Health

“You’re only as young as your digestive tract.” I’m not sure who first said this, but surely no truer words have been spoken. I have seen first hand the need to maintain a healthy digestive system. Less than optimal digestion limits our ability to properly absorb and assimilate what we eat, in turn reducing the amount of fuel available for our cells to use as energy.

More embarrassing and uncomfortable are the outward affects—occasional bloating, flatulence, and irregularity, to name a few. It’s no surprise that digestive discomfort can be a source of anxiety for many women.

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How to Keep Your Digestive System Running Smoothly

Even if you’re eating healthy foods, exercising, and taking supplements—it doesn’t matter unless your body can use what you’re putting into it. That’s where your digestive system comes in—it’s the only way your cells can get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need from the food you eat.

Unfortunately, age, environment, and lifestyle all take their toll. But the good news is—you can keep your digestive system running smoothly and efficiently by doing these two things:

  1. Maintaining the proper amount of digestive enzymes, and
  2. Balancing your intestinal flora with health-promoting, live bacteria.

This is an area where nutritional supplementation really shines. But you need to be careful about the supplements you choose. First, very few digestive formulas provide the full range of digestive enzymes you need; second, there’s questionable delivery systems used for probiotics (the healthy live bacteria); and third, it’s nearly impossible to find a solution that combines the two—digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Whichever digestive supplement you choose, be sure it offers the following digestive enzymes and healthy live bacteria.

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Get the Full Range of Enzymes You Need

When your digestive system is working properly, enzymes break down the three key types of foods for specific nutrients: carbohydrates for glucose; protein for amino acids; and fats for fatty acids. Each type of food requires its own enzymes to work in different areas of the digestive tract—it’s a very sophisticated process.

For carbohydrate digestion:

  •  Alpha-d-galactosidase for complex starches in legumes, cruciferous vegetables and some nuts, and grains
  • Alpha amylase to break down starch molecules for simple sugars
  • Malt diastase to reduce starches by removing the maltose units
  • Glucomylase to break down the maltose into glucose for fuel

For protein digestion:

  • Protease 4.5 to help break down larger protein molecules in the stomach
  • Protease 6.0 works in the intestines to further break down complex protein chains
  • Peptidase for the final stage of protein digestion

For fat digestion:

  • Lipase to break down saturated and unsaturated fats found in nuts, oils, meats, and dairy products, and to help increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).

And while I advise women to avoid dairy products whenever possible, I know that it can be difficult and, in some cases, you may not even realize that what you’re eating contains dairy. That’s why I also recommend two additional enzymes:

  • Lactase is the only enzyme that digests milk sugar (lactose)
  • Protease 3.0 to help break down the milk proteins casein and whey

Enzymes are measured differently than vitamins and minerals. Instead of grams, milligrams, or international units, they should be measured by their effectiveness in breaking down the food you eat in a certain amount of time. For example, 2,200 HUTs (hemoglobin unit tyrosine base) of Protease 6.0 will break down the proteins found in three ounces of chicken in thirty minutes.

You should look for natural, plant-based varieties of digestive enzymes in dosages based on the amounts needed to digest carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and dairy from average meal sizes.

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Support the Healthy Bacteria in Your Digestive Tract


Intestinal flora is just a pleasant phrase used to describe the bacteria that live in your intestines. There are over 400 different species of bacteria and their existence is natural, normal, and necessary.

Most of these bacteria are harmless and some strains play an integral part in healthy digestion and the absorption of nutrients. They help break down hard-to-digest foods, promote healthy bowel movements, and fortify the walls of your digestive tract, keeping out unwanted bacteria.

But much like digestive enzymes, this healthy population of bacteria declines as you age. In addition, antibiotics and other medications, alcohol, and everyday stress often upset the delicate balance of flora in your digestive tract.

I believe one of the most effective ways to get the beneficial bacteria you need is with a probiotics supplement. While there are hundreds of bacteria, the two that stand out as the hardest-working and most beneficial for women, in my opinion, are L. acidophilus and B. longum.

The L. acidophilus belongs to the Lactobacillus species, the predominant and most important bacteria in the small intestine. L. acidophilus work along the walls of the small intestine to do three key things:

  • Promote a healthy balance of bacteria
  • Increase the integrity of the intestine’s walls, helping to ensure nutrient absorption
  • Help support immune system activity1

The second strain, B. longum, belongs to the Bifidobacteria family which lives along the walls of your colon. It produces beneficial lactic acid to keep the large intestine acidic (instead of alkaline) and promote proper pH levels, discouraging the growth of other less beneficial bacteria.

B. longum is also one of the most common strains found in the digestive systems of adults. It helps the body break down carbohydrates more effectively and it scavenges and neutralizes many of the everyday toxins found in the gut, including those produced during digestion.

If you take a probiotic supplement, make sure it includes both of these crucial strains of beneficial bacteria. And please, make sure they’re delivered in such a way that they actually get to your intestines—a major challenge with probiotics.

Whatever digestive supplement you choose, you should feel noticeable results—improvements in your bowel movements, less bloating, and better overall digestion. Plus, with the right supplement there are things you won’t even realize are happening, like the balancing of flora in your intestines, vagina, and urinary tract; the neutralization of toxins; and the support to your immune system. This means stronger overall health, being able to get more pleasure from food, and feeling comfortable wherever you are.

You can stay up to date with the latest information on digestive health (and other important health topics for women) with my monthly newsletter, Women’s Wellness Today. For my complete advice on digestive health, including specific recommendations on how and what to eat to maximize digestion, read my special report, The 21- Day Enzyme Miracle, which you’ll receive when you subscribe. Click here to learn more.

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Quick Tips

Here are a few quick tips to help keep your digestion running smoothly.

  • Relax and take time to enjoy your meals. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
  • Drink healthy beverages and plenty of water between meals. Eight to ten glasses of water each day is ideal. Non-chlorinated spring or filtered water is best. The extra fluid will aid your digestion by stimulating your body’s production of bile, saliva, and gastric, pancreatic and intestinal juices.
  • During high-stress times, reach for these herbs and spices to soothe your digestive system: cilantro, coriander seeds, cardamom, turmeric, and fennel.
  • To reduce digestion stress, you may also take a high-quality daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.  Learn more here.