* What are the most common misconceptions about digestion and gut health?
Many individuals do not understand that most unpleasant digestive symptoms are due to functional disorders of the gastrointestinal tract where tissue disease such as inflammation, ulcers and cancer is absent. Classic examples of the most common causes of digestive upset include the irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia. These matters are discussed in detail in my book Natural Ways to Digestive Health. I see functional digestive disease as lack of harmony of the gastrointestinal tract with a major contribution from mind body linkages.
* How does digestive health impact the overall health of the body?
Without good digestive function, health cannot prevail. Much interest has focused on the complex contribution of the gastrointestinal tract to many other body functions. The digestive health system is highly intelligent and it contains more nervous tissue than the spinal cord which is organized into “little brains”. The overall impact of digestive harmony on the rest of the body includes, but is not limited to, priming of immune function, the supply of nutrients for all body function and remote effects on central nervous system function.
* Why do consumers and retailers seem reluctant to talk about the importance of gut health?
For many years, I have been educating retailers on the importance of digestive among their customers. There is a great need for increased education among consumers and retailers on the complex functions of digestion. The dietary supplement industry has been too focused on issues such as colon cleansing, at the expense of understanding how natural substances can provide specific actions in many areas of the gut. In addition, the dietary supplement industry has not developed much to supersede ancient remedies, such as licorice, for beneficial upper digestive function. Educators in the dietary supplement field have denied the reality of the role of gastric acid in heartburn and there is widespread ignorance about the potential of certain substances to act in a similar manner to acid blocking drugs, with their advantage of simple and gentler effects. The advent of proton pump inhibitor drugs, e.g. Prilosec®., has revolutionized the symptomatic management of heartburn and I have performed many clinical studies with these types of drugs which resulted in the identification of natural proton pump inhibitors with strong, beneficial antioxidant effects that I have patented to deal with heartburn naturally.
* What are some of the most important basic and specialty nutrients/compounds to support gut health?
Among the most important nutrients or natural substance to promote digestive health are fish oil taken in an enteric coated format (for high dosage and compliance), probiotics, prebiotics, agents to assist liver detoxification (e.g. milk thistle) and my patented use of ellagic acid as a proton pump inhibitor, together with natural ways of neutralizing gastric acid with plant flour (e.g. Fava bean). I have discussed these agents in detail in my book Natural Ways to Digestive Health (M Evans and Company Inc., 2000)
* The gastrointestinal tract is a perilous journey for supplements; how do you ensure delivery of your products to the portion of the GI tract where they will do the most good?
I have published extensively on the absorption of nutrients, drugs and botanicals. Perhaps the most important new development in supplements utilize pharmaceutical technology to deliver selectively supplements to their site of maximum absorption e.g. enteric coated fish oil. There are many factors that affect the absorption of supplements and many supplements take no account whatsoever of factors that may affect bioavailability (absorption into the body). A key issue is high quality formulation, with good dissolution characteristics and dispersability.
* How do you suggest retailers educate their customers on the important nutrients they need for digestive health?
Retailers must first define evidence based literature rather than mythical and magical thinking that revolves around “colon evangelism”. They need to be well educated in many areas and I have petitioned trade shows for educational tracks for retailers who should be presented with evidence based material. This approach has been part of my commitment in writing books in popular healthcare including an evidence based natural approach to digestive health.
* What specialty nutrients can support detoxification of the GI tract, and how important is it to the body to detoxify the gut?
I am a principal physician advising the New York Detox Project for 9/11 Rescue Workers and we have interesting outcome data on acute detoxification. The role of colon cleansing in detoxification requires much further research and definition. Gut detoxification underlies the practice of many medical disciplines and it has been utilized at times in medicine. There is no single ingredient to use for detoxification. The best formulations are complex and involve many traditional botanicals.