Healthy digestion tips: supporting metabolic health
May 10, 2023
Food is our body’s fuel, and supporting our digestive health and metabolic health is key to getting the most out of the food we eat.
That’s because digestion and metabolism are how our body transforms the nutrients from food and drink into energy so all our systems can operate smoothly.
Many people look to their digestive health and metabolic health when they’re trying to improve their overall wellness, especially when it comes to striving for a healthy weight. Let’s learn more about digestion, metabolism and what supplements might support them and our wellness goals.
Your digestive health is governed by an end-to-end digestive system. It begins when you put food in at one end and culminates with elimination of undigestible waste at the other end.
In between, your body is busy breaking down the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals from your food, then absorbing all usable nutrients and sending the unusable materials down the line.
The process includes digestive enzymes that help break down the food. These enzymes are found in your saliva and the digestive juices from your stomach and pancreas. Bile from the liver and gall bladder also plays a role in digestion.
“Healthy digestion means that each stage along this tract is functioning normally,” said Kristin Morris, a principal research scientist for Nutrilite™ products who has a doctorate in nutrition biochemistry. “All the players are providing your body with what it needs—digestive enzymes or other factors—to break down the food we eat and get the nutrients and energy.”
When digestion is complete and the nutrients have been absorbed, that’s when your metabolism takes over. Metabolism is how your cells convert those nutrients to energy (measured in calories) and how your body uses it to perform all its functions, including breathing, running, controlling body temperature, thinking and even digesting food in the first place.
Even when you’re just sitting still, your body is using energy to pump blood through your veins and grow or repair cells. Another way to think about metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories.
That’s why so many people focus on their metabolism when trying to achieve a healthy body weight—whatever that looks like for them.
A wide array of supplements targeting digestive health and metabolic health are available in the marketplace. Here are a few of the more popular ones.
Remember the digestive enzymes we mentioned earlier? Our bodies make 22 digestive enzymes that help break down the food and drink we consume. There are also other enzymes we need for digestion that are found in raw foods, vegetables, fruits and meats.
These enzymes are vital for early stages of the digestion process – called predigestion. They start breaking down food during the first hour or so after eating, when it's still in the upper stomach, waiting for stomach acid to collect in the lower stomach to break it down further.
“Sometimes our bodies don’t have all the enzymes they need to digest various foods effectively or they aren’t there in the proper amounts,” Morris said. “The result could be occasional discomfort such as gas, bloating or other signs of indigestion.”
For example, people who are lactose intolerant are missing the digestive enzyme needed to break down lactose into smaller, digestible parts. As a result, the lactose sits in their gut and causes discomfort.
“What you can do is support your digestion by taking a digestive enzyme supplement to help your body absorb as many nutrients as possible," Morris said.
Nutrilite Digestive Enzyme is one example. It’s formulated with a proprietary blend of enzymes that helps break down proteins and lactose while supporting optimal nutrient absorption.
White kidney bean extract is often marketed as a carb blocker, because it works to block your body’s absorption of carbohydrates. It actually works against the digestive enzymes that target carbohydrates, reducing the amount of carbs that are broken down into starch and sugars and absorbed by your body.
That means there are fewer calories being absorbed. That’s why many people seek out white kidney bean extract supplements as one strategy in their weight management efforts.
“If your goal is to reduce your calorie intake, you don’t want your body to be really good at extracting energy and storing it away for later. That’s the opposite of what you want,” Morris said. “So this is a way to help reduce the amount of energy from carbohydrates that your body could store away.”
Nutrilite Carb Blocker includes white kidney bean extract. It is designed to inhibit the digestion of both simple sugars and complex carbohydrates when taken with a high-carbohydrate meal by inhibiting the action of two carbohydrate-digesting enzymes in the intestines. It does this without depriving your body of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Historically, people looking for extra support for their metabolism have turned to the phytonutrients in green tea, such as the polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which has been linked to numerous health benefits, including weight management when combined with a low calorie diet and exercise.
The challenge is getting your body to absorb enough of the EGCG to make a difference, Morris said.
“EGCG isn’t easily absorbed because it has difficulty passing through the membranes of our intestinal walls, where most nutrient absorption takes place,” she said. “Unabsorbed, EGCG gets eliminated from the body, reducing any benefits. So it’s not about how much EGCG you ingest, but rather how much your body can absorb.”
That’s why Nutrilite Slimmetry™, a green tea extract supplement, also includes a special technology that may help improve the absorption rate of EGCG. GreenSelect® Phytosome®* produces a natural complex that binds EGCG together to help it cross intestinal membranes, so more of it is absorbed into your body instead of being eliminated, Morris said.
*GreenSelect® is a registered trademark of Idena S.p.A.
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