Category Archives: digestion

Are These Garden of LIfe Probiotics Worth the Cost?

Garden of Life LogoI recently received the opportunity to review several Garden of Life products, including their line of Doctor Formulated Probiotics. In the spirit of full disclosure, please be aware I was given these products for free. I  tried two of them myself and gave the others to clients who volunteered to try them and report their results. As you read this review, it will be obvious the fact I received free product in no way influenced my review. I am brutally honest and am fully committed to always sharing the truth. Please note that some of the links shared in this post are affiliate links for which I receive a very small sum if you make a purchase after clicking the link. These small affiliate sums help pay the costs of maintaining this website.

I reviewed a meal replacement powder, several probiotics, and several organic multivitamins. The products I reviewed and my opinion of each follow. I’m covering the probiotic line first, as it’s one that has products marketed toward the entire family. I’ll review the other products in future articles.

Dr. Formulated Probiotics

This line of probiotics was formulated by Dr. Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist who is a recognized expert on nutrition, the gut-brain connection, gluten issues, and neurodegenerative disorders. The entire line includes broad spectrum probiotics with a high number of active cultures and a large number of bacterial strains. Each product is hypoallergenic, vegetarian, and free of gluten, dairy and soy.  The probiotics in each product are specially formulated to be resistant to stomach acid and bile so they reach the digestive tract. (Many probiotics on the market are not, so they are consumed by stomach acid and bile and never reach the digestive tract.) Those are all definite “pros” related to this line. 

It is also important to note that Garden of Life is the only manufacturer of OTC probiotics that ships them in refrigerated trucks. This ensures the probiotic strains stay viable. Most other manufacturers ship in regular trucks, which means the heat during the summer may very well diminish the potency of the products. Garden of Life shipped me the Prostate+ product in a cooler filled with ice packs. I was impressed. In spite of that, the cost required to do so doesn’t seem to have impacted the cost of these probiotics. They range in price from $21 for the children’s up to around $40 for the probiotic with the highest potency. Those prices are in line with similar probiotic products, and are less expensive than some which are only sold to doctor’s offices but which have fewer strains and lower potency.

The complete line includes general formulas and specific formulas for the following:

  • Mood+:  A combination of organic Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb known ot assist with stress, combined with probiotic strains known to help support neurotransmitter balance.
  • Prostate+:  A formula that combines organic herbal remedies known to support prostate health combined with specific probiotic strains known to do the same.
  • Urinary Tract Plus:  A combination of organic cranberry extract combined with Vitamin D and strains known to boost immunity to support the body’s natural ability to resist e coli.
  • Fitbiotic:  A combination of healthy organic fiber combined with probiotic strains known to support weight loss and blood sugar levels.
  • Once Daily Ultra:  This probiotic contains a whopping 90 billion active cultures and also contains lactobacillus gasseri, a strain known to support healthy blood sugar levels. Not many probiotics on the market contain that strain.
  • Once Daily Women’s:  A nice blend specifically designed for women’s physiology. Is shelf stable, meaning it maintains its potency without being refrigerated. (However, for best results I don’t recommend storing these in hot, steamy bathrooms.)
  • Once Daily Men’s:  The counterpart to the women’s version. My male clients liked only having to take one capsule per day.
  • Children’s Plus Chewable:  A nice blend that includes 5 billion active cultures along with Vitamin C and Vitamin D in an organic, all-natural tablet that actually tastes good. I have many clients who found their kids didn’t get sick as often when they happily ate one of these each morning during the winter.

It’s a simple fact that most of us need a probiotic and would benefit from taking one every day. I like this line and especially like that it contains strains of probiotics that most OTC probiotics do not. I’ve used the 

I like this line and I especially like the products designed to support specific systems. In the midst of that, be aware that the specific support products aren’t designed to be used alone. They should always be used as part of a support program and not used as the sole product. It would be impossible to include therapeutic doses of additional support ingredients in a single dose, so the products for specific systems don’t contain a large enough quantity of additional ingredients to provide a strong amount of therapeutic support. 

My clients who used these products reported the following:

  • Several saw improvements in digestion, ranging from being more regular to having less indigestion. One saw loose stools completely disappear. She had resisted using a probiotic prior to this, even though I had recommended it repeatedly.
  • More than one reported feeling more energy throughout the day.
  • A male client who was using the Prostate+ product said everyone in his office came down with a nasty virus, but he skated through without so much as a sniffle.
  • A client who used Urinary Tract+ said, “I liked knowing this provided extra support, but really think the D-Mannose I was taking helped prevent UTIs more than this did.” 
  • One client had mild detox symptoms associated with having harmful bacteria in her gut die off. Those symptoms disappeared once we reduced her dosage from once daily to once every-other day. She was able to return to a once-daily dose two weeks later, and I recommended other steps to help improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in her digestive tract.

The only “cons” I found with this line of probiotics were related to the fact the products marketed to benefit specific systems don’t contain therapeutic doses of additional nutrients, and that this line can only be purchased online or in specialty health food stores. Those are paltry issues when compared to the other benefits of these probiotics.

Are they worth the money? In my opinion, that answer to that question is a definite YES.

Effective Approaches to Heartburn and GERD

Ask someone what their most annoying health challenge is, and there’s a good chance they’ll answer “heartburn and GERD.” Stomach on Fire illustrating Heartburn and GERDHeartburn and GERD are uncomfortable and potentially damaging conditions which are one of the most common issues experienced by people in the US. There are currently 285.3 million people on prescription medications for heartburn and GERD. That equates to one in ten people! This number doesn’t even include the large number of people taking self-prescribed over-the-counter medications for heartburn and GERD. Many people (including mainstream medicine) assume heartburn and GERD are caused by excess acid. This means the common approach is to prescribe proton pump inhibitors (such as Nexium and Prilosec) without determining the true root cause of the problem.

One problem caused by the prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) is they interfere the absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, B12, etc. Long-term use has been linked to malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies. PPI use has also been connected to frequent headaches, constipation and diarrhea, fatigue, increased incidence of pneumonia, higher rates of bone fractures (due to inhibited calcium absorption), bacterial imbalance in the digestive tract, higher incidence of C Dificile infections, magnesium deficiency, increase in coronary disease, and other serious health problems.

The primary reason it is so imperative to assess the cause of heartburn and GERD is that many people’s heartburn and GERD is actually caused by a lack of stomach acid, not by an excess. Although PPIs may bring relief by further decreasing already faulty levels of stomach acid, they ultimately lead to poor digestion and absorption.

As I stated previously, it is absolutely imperative to determine the root cause of heartburn and GERD before taking any medication. It does’t make sense to take a medication designed to decrease the production of stomach acid when heartburn and GERD are actually caused by a deficit in stomach acid. Most people assume the acidic burning in their stomach is caused by excess stomach acid, but the truth is that many forms of heartburn and GERD are actually caused by a deficiency in stomach acid.

Stomach acid is essential for digestive enzymes to work. A deficiency in stomach acid causes the body’s digestive enzymes to  not work effectively, which leads to indigestion, poorly digested food, heartburn and GERD. Stomach acid does not digest food but instead creates an acidic environment that allows digestive enzymes to work at their peak efficiency. Decreasing stomach acid weakens digestive enzymes, which ultimately means the nutrients in foods cannot be absorbed. Stomach acid is also essential for the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc.

Heartburn is a typically burning sensation limited to the stomach. Heartburn my cause burping, bloating, and/or nausea, too. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the contents of the stomach rise into the esophagus. (Which should never happen.) GERD can create a burning in the chest and throat, a gagging sensation, or a feeling something is stuck in the throat. GERD can also cause muscles in the esophagus to spasm, which sometimes creates intense pain that may be confused with a heart attack. (A single nerve communicates pain from both the heart and esophagus, so pain in the esophagus often feels like pain in or near the heart. This pain may be severe.) 

If you are having chest pain, seek medical attention immediately even if you suspect the cause of the pain is heartburn. The root cause of GERD is that the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) that should separate the esophagus from the stomach (and prevent food from traveling up) doesn’t close when it should or does not close completely. Some studies found increasing the stomach’s acidity actually improves the LES’s function. This means PPIs may eliminate symptoms but actually worsen the root cause of heartburn and GERD. Since GERD causes stomach acid to enter the esophagus and damage it, use of PPIs may cause worse damage to the esophageal tissues while hiding the symptoms – for a while.

My perspective on PPIs is that they may be valuable as a short-term means of restoring quality of life, but that steps need to be taken to identify and address the true cause of the problem. The goal should always be to shorten the use of PPIs. Heartburn and GERD are miserable conditions. If left untreated, it may cause a lack of sleep, inability to work, and may lead to vomiting multiple times per day. Restoring quality of life needs to be a priority.

The most common causes of heartburn and GERD include, but are not limited to:

  • Food allergies:  This is the THE most common cause of heartburn and GERD, but is a factor that is often ignored. I have many clients who were told their symptoms couldn’t possibly be caused by food allergies. When we identified their food allergies using a simple blood test and eliminated allergenic foods, those clients experienced complete relief and no longer needed medication. Food allergies can produce over 200 different symptoms from head to toe, so it is important to identify them and eliminate the offending foods. I’m a firm believer that anyone with chronic heartburn or GERD should have a food allergy panel run.
    .
    I spent two years vomiting three or four times daily and feeling horrible due to digestive distress and extreme GERD. My gastroenterologist laughed at me when I asked about food allergies. (I’ve forgiven him and am now thankful to have had that experience because it enables me to help more people today.) I ignored my gastroenterologist and sought help in other places, including having food allergy testing done. Identifying and eliminating the food allergies I had completely eliminated my digestive issues. I often find identifying food allergies and eliminating the culprits quickly restores health in many ways. Sadly, some people aren’t wiling to give up “comfort” foods and prefer to remain on medication. Food allergy testing can be conducted by a single blood test that can identify over 700 allergens.
    .
  • Lack of stomach acid:  Our bodies produce less stomach acid as we age, which can cause heartburn. Using herbal remedies known to increase the production of stomach acid is my preferred approach when a lack of stomach acid is the cause of heartburn. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to take HCl in capsule form with meals. (Organic Apple Cider Vinegar may also help.) I try to avoid the use of HCl, as taking an external form of HCl may cause the body to stop producing it.
    ,
  • Excess consumption of liquids with meals:  It sounds simple, but drinking less than 6 ounces of liquid with meals often eliminates heartburn and reflux. When we drink too much liquid with meals, the stomach’s agitating action tends to force stomach contents and liquids up into the esophagus instead of down into the small intestine. This leads to pain and potential damage to the esophagus.
    .
  • Ulcers:  Active ulcers don’t always show up on stool tests designed to find blood. It is important to test for H Pylori or use other assessment techniques to identify ulcers. There are natural approaches that can be used to address an ulcer, but they should only be begun under the supervision and direction of a trained practitioner.
    .
  • Extreme dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance):  Digestion and absorption can be harmed if the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the digestive tract is skewed. This typically results in an overgrowth of fungus that can lead to leaky gut, diarrhea or constipation, anal itching, constant nasal stuffiness, and other challenges. (See Candida Basics: Important Info for more information on this condition.) Re-establishing ample beneficial bacteria greatly improves digestion and absorption. This can sometimes be accomplished simply by taking a probiotic or eating fermented vegetables.
    .
  • Gallbladder imbalance:  Removal of the gallbladder or stagnation in the gallbladder (including sludge and stones) may lead to heartburn and indigestion when fatty foods are eaten. Restoring gallbladder function using natural methods often eliminates this problem very quickly. I do not believe the gallbladder should ever be removed, as it performs a vital function. The body will reverse gallbladder disease when proper support protocols are used.
    .
  • Structural abnormalities:  Sometimes heartburn is caused by physical abnormalities. This cause is the toughest to treat and may sometimes require surgical intervention.

Have you eliminated GERD or heartburn? What solutions did you use? Please share!

Easy Ways to Improve Digestion

Digestion has been called the foundation of health. It is important to improve digestion using simple techniques. This is because our body uses the Improve Digestionnutrients absorbed during digestion as “building blocks” to maintain every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Poor digestion and absorption can cause many problems and often creates higher levels of disease and dysfunction.

Digestive issues are rising at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the symptoms of poor digestion are not always limited to the digestive tract. When poor digestion leads to nutrient deficiencies, symptoms may manifest in any body system. This means vague symptoms may be indirectly related to poor digestion and absorption. As always, determining the root cause of physical challenges is imperative. It is almost impossible to improve digestion without knowing the root cause of the challenge.

There are a few very simple steps you can take to improve digestion. As always, discuss these with your physician and/or practitioner before making any changes to your current lifestyle habits.

Practices that can improve digestion include:

  • Chewing Better:  Grandma knew what she was talking about when she encouraged you to chew every bite 20 times. We live in a world where people inhale their food. Chewing it thoroughly creates a “slurry” the stomach and intestines can digest and absorb much more easily. Chewing well is the first step you can use to improve digestion.
  • Not Drinking More than 6 Ounces of Liquid With Meals:  Your stomach performs poorly when overfilled. Diluting the digestive enzymes puts a strain on the small colon, as it may cause undigested food to pass from the stomach into the small colon. Making sure food is adequately digested before passing out of the stomach is an important step to improve digestion. Drinking too much liquid while eating dilutes digestive enzymes and also overfills the stomach. Overfilling the stomach can lead to heartburn when food and liquid are forced up into the esophagus during the digestive churning that is normal for the stomach. 
  • Exercising Regularly:  All forms of exercise positively impact the muscles of the digestive tract, enabling them to do their job more efficiently. Exercise also stimulates the muscles of the colon, allowing wastes to move more easily. Many people notice a need to have a bowel movement immediately following a workout. There’s a good reason for that!
  • Standing Up Straight:  It’s such a simple change, but standing up straight and maintaining good posture – especially immediately following a meal – can have a strongly improve digestion. When we slump, the digestive organs get squished together and may not be able to function efficiently. Standing or sitting erect takes the pressure off and allows the digestive tract to work better. You may also notice you have less back pain and have more energy, as good posture makes it easier to breathe deeply and reduces strain off the neck and back.
  • Eating Purposefully:  In other words, taking time to sit down and eat in a relaxed environment and state of mind. Easier said than done in this crazy world, but taking time to enjoy a relaxed meal has a positive impact on digestion and absorption. Stress negatively impacts the stomach’s production of stomach acid and the digestive tract’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Purposefully taking time to eat slowly and to enjoy every bite is a powerful way to improve digestion.
  • Staying Hydrated:  In a perfect world, we would each drink half our body weight in ounces of water every day. One of the results of staying hydrated is that our digestive tract works more smoothly and is able to more efficiently eliminate waste. Staying hydrated allows the body to keep waste moistened so it moves through the digestive tract more easily.
  • Eating Real Food, Not Processed Chemicals:  It’s a simple truth that our digestive systems were not designed to recognize and digest food additives such as artificial colorants, chemical preservatives, etc. Switching from a diet of processed foods to natural food often has a dramatically positive effect on digestion and absorption. Our body most easily digests and absorbs real food that it easily recognizes.
  • Getting Help When Needed:  The factors mentioned above can improve digestion but are usually not enough to restore normal digestion when the digestive tract is not working properly. If your digestion is not what it should be, please seek the guidance of a trained professional. Restoring digestion is often the first step to restoring wellness in other areas of the body.

You’ll notice I did not list any supplements. There are a wide variety of supplements that can benefit digestion, especially for someone with digestive challenges, but I chose to stick to lifestyle changes in this article.

Have you ever dealt with digestive challenges? What helped you improve your issues?

Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion

Digestive issues are a widespread problem. They are so widespread that even babies and toddlers are now Stomach (Digestion)afflicted with painful, inconvenient digestive problems. The causes of these issues are more than can be covered in a single blog post, but the simple explanation is that our bad diet, the chemicals in our food supply, and the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis are destroying the delicate balance that keeps our digestive system working well. The following six tips will help keep your digestive system happy:

1) Chew Well: I know this sounds overly simple, but digestion begins in the mouth. Your stomach is not designed to digest large chunks of food, yet many people literally inhale their food without chewing. Grandma was right: Chew every bite at least 20 times. Food should be chewed into a fine slurry before being swallowed. Chewing every bite thoroughly also helps your body to product the hormones that let it know the stomach is full and it’s time to stop eating. People who inhale their meals often don’t feel full after eating. Thorough chewing helps us feel full. Failure to chew puts a burden on the liver and pancreas, as they must produce extra enzymes to help digest the large chunks of food that should have been more finely ground in the mouth. When the liver and pancreas constantly have to secrete extra digestive enzymes, they can become fatigued and may cease to function correctly. It is not unusual for people with extreme digestive disorders to also have elevated liver enzymes.

2) Drink Enough Water, but Don’t Drink with Meals: Drinking during meals dilutes digestive enzymes and can make digestion very difficult. Because digestive enzymes require a specific pH in the stomach, drinking water with lemon in it negatively affects the stomach’s pH and neutralizes digestive enzymes so that they don’t work. I’m a big fan of drinking lemon water, but encourage you to only drink it between meals. During meals, most of us need less than six ounces of water to help wash down our food.

Between meals, we all need to consume at least half our body weight in ounces of water on a daily basis. The old rule of drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily (64 ounces) therefore only works if you weight 128 pounds, which few of us do. Dehydrated cells do not function correctly in any part of the body. Dehydration also makes it extremely difficult for waste products to move easily through the digestive system.

*On a side note, dehydration also causes a hormonal reaction that makes you feel hungry. Staying hydrated can therefore help avoid unnecessary snacking and grazing.

3) Power Up with Probiotics and/or Fermented Foods: A very fragile balance of good and bad bacteria exists in the digestive system. This balance can be negatively affected by antibiotics, excess sugar consumption, excess yeast (Candida), and excess alcohol consumption. Many people with digestive issues have a bacterial imbalance. A proper balance can be restored or maintained by taking probiotics or by eating and drinking fermented foods which are naturally loaded with probiotics. My preference is to get my probiotics via fermented foods and coconut water kefir (which I brew continually), but if fermented foods aren’t your cup of tea, I highly recommend trying Garden of Life’s Raw Probiotics: http://amzn.to/nlJSp1.

4) Feed Your Probiotics with Prebiotics: The probiotics in the digestive system need to be fed with prebiotics. Prebiotics, primarily found in fruits and vegetables, feed the probiotics and help them thrive and reproduce. An additional advantage of prebiotics is that they contain fiber which is also essential for good digestion.

5) Weave Fiber into Every Meal: Fiber is essential to good digestive health, but needs to be incorporated very carefully if you have poor digestion or are chronically dehydrated. The best sources of fiber are in beans and lentils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. (Note that many breads labeled “whole grain” are basically highly-processed white breads with added caramel coloring. If you can’t see grains in the bread, chances are it’s been processed enough that most of the fiber was removed.) Fiber creates bulk that helps make stools firm and helps move them through the colon. Fiber also serves to absorb fats, slow down blood sugar spikes caused by carbohydrates, and absorb toxins. If your diet does not currently contain much fiber, or if you have pre-existing digestive problems, add fiber very gradually. Start with cooked vegetables, pureed into a soup if needed. Also make sure you are drinking adequate water. Increasing fiber intake can cause constipation if adequate water isn’t consumed to help keep things moving. Let me also state that no one should ever have to take fiber supplements. Adequate fiber is easily gotten from the diet, especially when processed foods are eliminated and vegetable intake is increased.

6) Find the Cause of Distress Instead of Treating the Symptoms: Digestive distress isn’t normal and does not occur without a specific cause or causes. Treating the symptoms without determining and eliminating the cause may bring relief but will ultimately cause greater damage. A wide variety of non-invasive testing and assessment techniques exist to determine why your digestive system is not functioning as it should. Take the time to find a practitioner who will listen closely to your exact symptoms and will then work with you to identify the cause of the problem and to create a program to heal your body. Help can be found. Go find it!

I am particularly sensitive to digestive issues because I suffered from severe digestive distress for several years. At my worst, I vomited several times a day and had constant nausea. My experience with this led me to seek special training on digestive disorders. I KNOW what it’s like to be inconvenienced by constant diarrhea and vomiting, know the exhaustion that comes with it, and know how frustrating it can be to have doctors treat your symptoms without treating the cause. My goal is always to determine and eliminate the cause of an issue so that it can be eliminated.

As always, I can be contacted at 317.489.0909 if you would like to schedule a consultation.