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How gut health supplements work and what they do

Quick takeaway: There are three main types of gut health supplements. ERME based supplements deprive unfriendly bacteria of their food source, reducing their number. Probiotics introduce microorganisms to your gut with the aim of providing health benefits. Prebiotics essentially work by ‘feeding’ your good gut bacteria, helping them produce nutrients for your body.

Gut health has become a significant area of interest in health and wellness circles, with a burgeoning market of supplements claiming to support digestive health. This article will explore the various gut health supplements available today, focusing on probiotics, prebiotics, JUVIA, and others. It will delve into how these supplements work, supported by scientific facts, and discuss the benefits, limitations, and potential side effects of each supplement type.

Our aim is to help you understand what works, what doesn’t, and how to think about your gut health so that you can make better and informed decisions. At JUVIA, we take your gut health very seriously and we are not afraid to benchmark our product against everything else that is out there because we know that JUVIA works best on what’s ‘in there’ (your gut microbiome). 

ERME based supplements

Currently, there is only one ERME based supplement on the market and that is JUVIA. ERME is our unique plant-based ingredient derived from barley. 

JUVIA is very different from other gut health supplements because it doesn’t add anything to your gut microbiome like probiotics, nor does it feed anything like prebiotics. Instead, it deprives the unfriendly bacteria of its vital food source - carbohydrates, which causes them to die and reduce in number. This gives your good bacteria the opportunity to populate and flourish. 

The good thing about JUVIA is that it also lets you enjoy all of your favourite foods without the negative consequences. It can be mixed with water, yoghurt, cereal or your favourite dessert.

JUVIA is useful for rebalancing your gut microbiome. Drinking it for 6 weeks has shown to make a world of difference to our current users, particularly those who have a really sensitive tummy. 

You can find out more about our science here.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer potential health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They are usually bacteria, but certain types of yeast can also function as probiotics. These supplements primarily work by altering the composition of the gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms living in our intestines.

One potential benefit of probiotics is their possible role in maintaining gut health. They can compete with pathogenic bacteria for resources, reducing their numbers and diminishing the risk of illness. Moreover, probiotics may be able to modulate the immune system, potentially reducing inflammation and allergic reactions. On the flip side, probiotics can also cause your body to generate an inflammatory response if it does not recognise the strain of bacteria. This not only makes the probiotic ineffective but can lead to health complications. 

In any event, probiotics have limitations. The quantity and survival of probiotics through the digestive tract can vary greatly depending on the strain and formulation. It is widely believed that a very small portion of the probiotics you consume actually make it into the gut. Moreover, despite the labels quoting billions of microbes, which sounds impressive, it is actually a very small quantity when you consider the size and weight of the capsule when compared to the weight and volume of the food that you consume, which also contains billions of invisible microbes. It raises the question, how much of a difference can those little capsules actually make when you are consuming vast quantities of differing strains all the time? 

Moreover, the strains that are commercially available tend to be the strains that are easiest to grow and not because those strains are particularly beneficial. 

Do probiotics work?

Not everyone may experience the same benefits from probiotics, as their effects can be modulated by individual gut microbiota composition. In a nutshell, your gut health relies upon the diversity and population size of your individual gut flora. 

In order to improve your gut health through supplementing probiotics, it helps to know which strains you currently have and those that you are lacking, otherwise you could cause more harm than good. 

The most common side effects from consuming prebiotics include bloating and gas, though they are generally safe for most people.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. They help these bacteria produce nutrients for your body, which can lead to improved gut health.

Prebiotics show promise in enhancing digestive health by stimulating the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria. They may also improve calcium absorption and immune function. However, like probiotics, individual responses to prebiotics can vary significantly because their effectiveness relies on the individual gut microbiome composition of the host. Their effectiveness compared to eating a healthy diet is also brought into question. 

Prebiotics can be quite expensive. The food you eat not only contributes microbes to your gut flora, but it also feeds them. It may be better to invest the money you intend to spend on prebiotics on better quality foods that include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that are high in fibre. 

What are the side effects of prebiotics

Overconsumption of prebiotics can lead to a variety of side effects. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Stomach cramps, especially for people with irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive disorders. 

Other Supplements

Other popular gut health supplements include digestive enzymes, L-glutamine, and collagen. Digestive enzymes aid in the breakdown of food into nutrients, while L-glutamine is an amino acid that serves as a primary fuel source for cells in the gut lining. Collagen, on the other hand, is believed to help maintain the integrity of the gut lining.

Each of these supplements has its own set of potential benefits and side effects. For instance, while digestive enzymes can aid those with specific digestive disorders, their unnecessary use could theoretically reduce the body's natural enzyme production. L-glutamine has shown promise in promoting gut health, particularly in those with critical illnesses, but high doses can cause adverse effects like nausea and stomach upset. Collagen is generally well-tolerated but lacks robust scientific evidence supporting its benefits for gut health. 

These supplements can be very expensive and should not be taken without speaking to a medical professional first. 

Weighing the Benefits and Limitations

Each supplement type offers potential benefits for gut health, yet none is a one-size-fits-all solution. The effectiveness of these supplements can vary significantly depending on the individual's unique gut microbiota composition and overall health status. Also, most of the current evidence comes from research in controlled environments, which does not always perfectly translate to real-world outcomes.

Moreover, the gut health supplement market suffers from a lack of regulation and oversight, leading to inconsistencies in product quality and efficacy. Some supplements might not contain the strains or quantities advertised, while others may have contaminants that can harm health. It's therefore essential for consumers to choose supplements from reputable manufacturers and seek advice from healthcare professionals.

The thing we love about JUVIA is the fact that being derived from barley, that has been consumed for thousands of years testifies to its safety, which cannot be said about a lot of other supplement products. 

Potential Side Effects

While most supplements are safe for general use, they can cause side effects, especially when taken in excessive amounts. These include digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea. 

Certain individuals, such as those with a compromised immune system or critical illness, should exercise caution with probiotics, as these live bacteria could theoretically cause infections. It is always best to speak to a medical professional with the view to testing your gut flora before attempting to introduce new strains of bacteria into your body. 

Those that have celiac disease should avoid JUVIA because it can trigger a response.  

The Efficacy of Gut Health Supplements

While the burgeoning field of gut health supplements provides a promising avenue to support digestive health, it's clear that more research and regulation are needed to ensure consumers can safely and effectively harness their potential benefits. Regulation will also see that consumers get what they pay for and that the quality of their supplements will be more consistent. 

Consumers should consider the potential benefits, limitations, and side effects when choosing a gut health supplement. Consultation with a healthcare professional is essential to make informed decisions that align with one's health goals and needs, especially if you plan to introduce new bacteria strains into your body. 

The Role of Diet and Lifestyle

While supplements can provide a convenient way to support gut health, they should not be used as a replacement for a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. In fact, insofar as gut health is concerned, all the health supplements in the world won’t help you if you have a poor diet. 

Studies have shown plant based diets can have a huge impact on your gut health. We cover this in more detail here

Consuming a diverse range of fibre-rich foods like colourful fruit and vegetables, maintaining regular physical activity, reducing stress, and getting adequate sleep all contribute significantly to gut health. In many cases, these lifestyle modifications will likely offer more substantial and long-lasting benefits than supplements alone.

Check out our other articles on lifestyle changes that improve gut health. 

The Future of Gut Health Supplements

The field of gut health supplements is constantly evolving, with new products and scientific discoveries continually emerging. Research on personalised nutrition – tailoring diet and supplements to the individual's unique genetic makeup and gut microbiota composition – may lead to more targeted and effective ways of supporting gut health in the future.

Until then, JUVIA is here to help you by ensuring that your friendly bacteria can thrive, while your unfriendly bacteria perish to a minimal level, putting you in control.

Final thoughts 

While there's no magic pill for optimal gut health, the range of supplements currently available offers numerous avenues for individuals seeking to improve their gut health. JUVIA, and other supplements each have their unique strengths and potential limitations. Understanding these can help consumers make informed choices about what might work best for them.

Looking to find our more about JUVIA and its unique ingredient, ERME? Check out our science page and healthcare professional page.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful. Stay tuned and check out our other blogs for more useful information that will help you understand how to improve your gut health. If you haven’t tried JUVIA yet, why not give it a go? And, don’t forget to share it with your friends and loved ones - gut trouble is more common than you think. 

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