How Digestive Tract Microbes Can Shape Our Health [Scientific Update]

July 9 2013 | Digestive Health | Enzymes

The digestive system essentially converts the foods that we eat into the energy needed to support processes critical to the body. The anatomy of our digestive system involves a complex series of organs and glands that work in concert to break down consumed foods into smaller molecules so that they can be utilized by the body.

Where Digestion Begins

Digestion begins in the mouth where food is partially broken down by the process of chewing and by the enzymatic action of the carbohydrate-digesting amylase enzymes present in the saliva. Food is then swallowed and propelled down the esophagus to the stomach.

In the stomach, food is mixed, ground and digested by gastric acid and a protease enzyme called pepsin. Gastric acid consists mainly of hydrochloric acid (HCl), and it efficiently breaks down food material, particularly protein. If production of gastric acid decreases, as is often the case with advancing age, digestion is less efficient. Researchers have found that over 30 percent of men and women past the age of 60 suffer from atrophic gastritis, a condition marked by little or no gastric acid.

Fortunately, natural approaches and nutritional supplements help support optimal digestion in the stomach.

The partially digested food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine, a tubular structure composed of the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. The duodenum continues the process of breaking down food with the aid of bile from the gallbladder and enzymes released by the pancreas and the duodenal walls.

Bile converts large fat globules into smaller ones. Further digestion of fats, protein and carbohydrates takes place with the help of the pancreatic enzymes lipase, trypsin and amylase, respectively. Certain nutritional enzyme supplements help support the digestive action in the small intestine.

Digestion is basically complete once food passes through the duodenum. In the jejunum and ileum, nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. Then the blood is purified by the liver to remove harmful substances. The liver also stores fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and excess glucose for future use. Nutritional supplements can help support these valuable liver functions.

The large intestine receives mostly indigestible material and water from the small intestine. Excess water and any residual minerals are absorbed here. Fiber helps move the remaining debris through the large intestine, thus easing the passage of waste. Fiber also helps to support friendly bacteria. About 100 trillion bacteria reside in the digestive system and perform several essential functions.

Friendly Bacteria, or Probiotics

Probiotics, as these bacteria are called, promote efficient digestion, support the immune system, inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms, and produce several vitamins. Many fiber supplements (soluble and/or insoluble) are available from a variety of plant sources. Different bacterial species are available as probiotic (friendly flora) nutritional supplements.

Probiotics have long been known to provide many benefits to human health. I have read with great interest several research reports on some additional actions of probiotics. One experiment found that mice fed broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus behaved less anxiously than mice fed broth without these bacteria. The behavioral changes can be partially explained by differences in brain chemical receptors and stress hormone (corticosterone) levels. The overall observation was that a change in the mix of intestinal bacteria provided by L. rhamnosus influenced mouse behavior by way of the vagus nerve. The vagal impulses induced by the microbes resulted in an increase in GABA (gamma amino butyric acid, a brain chemical and neurotransmitter) receptors in the brain and lower levels of stress hormones. The net result was a significant decrease in anxiety observed in the mice receiving the bacteria.

Probiotics Affect More Than The Gut

Just a few years ago, most scientists believed that probiotics only acted locally in the gut. However, this study suggests that gut bacteria could play a role in various brain and psychiatric disorders as well as being involved with individual behavioral differences.

In previous papers, we have addressed the important concept of how the microbial composition of the gastrointestinal tract (microbiome) affects weight loss/gain. The idea that changes in gut microbial populations can occur when an individual loses (or gains) weight was the subject of a recent research publication.

It has been known for quite some time that gastric bypass surgery reduces the quantity of food that can be processed by the stomach, and this usually results in weight loss. The microbial composition of the digestive tract also changes with the loss of body weight. This change in the microbiome that occurs during gastric bypass-induced weight loss gradually approaches the gut flora composition of normal weight people. To determine if this weight loss is caused by microbiome population changes, scientists at Harvard University performed gastric bypass surgery on a group of mice and then, after a certain period of time, implanted the new mouse gut flora into mice bred to have no gut bacteria at all. As it turned out, these mice quickly lost weight, which indicated that an alteration of gut microbe composition might represent a nonsurgical approach to treating the constantly growing worldwide health problem of obesity.

Digestive tract microbes can shape and influence our precious health. Research work on the function and diversity of the microbiome is extremely robust, and valuable therapies will continue to emerge. We will also gain a greater understanding of the relationship between digestive function and health.

By Dr. William J. Keller


1. Krasinski SD, Russell RM, Samloff IM, Jacob RA, Dallal GE, McGandy RB, Hartz SC. Fundic atrophic gastritis in an elderly population. Effect on hemoglobin and several serum nutritional indicators. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 1986 Nov;34(11):800-6.

2. Bravo JA, et al. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011 Sep 20;108(38):16050-5.

3. Liou AP, et al., Conserved shifts in the gut microbiota due to gastric bypass reduce host weight and adiposity. Science Translational Medicine. 2013 Mar 27; 5(178):178ra41.




8 Nutritional Supplements to Support a Healthy Intestinal System [Infographic]

March 26 2013 | Cleansing/Detox | Digestive Health | Enzymes | Infographic | Intestinal System

The health of your intestinal system may also represent the health of your entire body. Every nutrient first has to be digested and passed through the intestines before it can make it to the other organs. The stomach and intestines are often the first line of defense for your immune system, too.

Nature's Sunshine has plenty of supplements for the intestines. But to make things a bit more clear, we put this graphic together below to help you understand 8 of them and how they could help your intestinal health:

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8 Nutritional Supplements that Support a Healthy Intestinal System


Nature’s Three


  • Nature's Three provides insoluble and soluble fiber from psyllium, oat and apple. Both kinds of fiber are critical to a properly functioning intestinal system. 
  • Encourages regular bowel movements
  • Helps maintain cholesterol levels already in the normal range




  • LBSII Herbal blend supports the intestinal system, promoting optimal bowel function and clearing the bowels of toxic waste. 
  • Contains cascara sagrada, buckthorn, licorice, capsicum, ginger, Oregon grape, turkey rhubarb, couch grass and red clover


Cascara Sagrada


  • This “sacred bark” has been used by cultures the world over as a nutritional support for waste elimination. Cascara Sagrada acts as an herbal laxative, influences intestinal contraction and supports a clean colon. 


Intestinal Soothe and Build


  • Intestinal Soothe and Build are made up of herbs that soothe and balance the bowel. 
  • Maintains the proper balance of microflora for optimal function. 
  • Also helps relieve occasional bloating pressure, soother the mucous membranes lining the intestinal tract, relaxes the bowl and encourages the removal of toxins. 
  • Contains slippery elm bark, chamomile flowers, plantain leaves, rose hips fruit, bugleweed aerial parts and marshmallow root. 


Aloe Vera Liquid:


  • Aloe Vera Liquid nourishes the digestive and intestinal systems
  • Soothes internal tissues of the digestive and intestinal tracts
  • Contain vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients
  • Supports intestinal health


CleanStart/Tiao He Cleanse


  • Cleansing products (such as CleanStart and Tiao He Cleanse) help rid your body of common colon toxins that affect your overall health and supports natural waste elimination to provide a sense of energy and well-being.


Food Enzymes


  • Food Enzymes break down toxins and undigested food to keep your intestinal tract healthy.  
  • One capsule digests: 30 g Protein, 30 g Carbohydrates, 20 g Fat


Probiotic Eleven


  • Probiotic Eleven is a unique combination of healthful friendly  bacteria to help maintain and replenish intestinal supply.  
  • Each capsule contains 6 billion microorganisms. 


Anti-Gas TCM


  • Anti-Gas TCM is a highly concentrated blend of 15 Chinese herbs that support the digestive and detoxifying functions of the body, including the urinary system.  




Is Your Road to Good Health Paved with Good Intestines? [Slideshow]

March 7 2013 | Cleansing/Detox | Digestive Health | Enzymes | Intestinal System | Liquid Herbs

The average American diet can wreck havok on the intestinal system. And an unhealthy intestinal system can lead to a host of other problems. If you missed our webinar, you can see the slides below. Go here to listen to the entire thing. 



Small Instestinal System

  1. It reabsorbs water and electrolytes and sends them back into the blood stream.
  2. It eliminates cellular waste and toxins released from cells.
  3. It eliminates digestive by-products and indigestible substances.

Colon Function

  • Includes: large intestine, rectum, and anus
  • Absorbs water and minerals
  • Formation and elimination of waste
  • Houses over 700 species of bacteria, some of which are considered friendly bacteria, that produce vitamin B12, Biotin, and K and  protects us against harmful some bacteria, virus, and fungus.

Did You Know…

  • Your diet directly influences the diversity of microbes in the intestines?
  • Undigested meat and other foods cause mucus buildup in the colon? This buildup produces toxins that enter the blood's circulation?
  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement causes waste material to build up and become compacted, leading to constipation?

Intestinal System Challenges

Due to overwhelming stress in our lives, our bodies are struggling to eliminate all the different toxins that accumulate in our cells.

Unhealthy Intestinal System can lead to:

  • Fatigue 
  • Skin issues
  • Occasional diarrhea 
  • Occasional constipation 
  • PMS 
  • Bad breath
  • Occasional gas & bloating
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety & worry
  • Mild age related memory loss and concentration

Transit Time is Key

Colon transit time is about 10 Hours. The longer the transit time, the more toxic the waste becomes. Longer transit times can lead to auto-intoxification through the reabsorption of putrefied and fermented waste. Short or quick transit times result in occasional diarrhea. 

Causes of Occasional Constipation

Causes of constipation can include stress, medication, poor dietary habits, inadequate fiber, dehydration and lack of exercise. 

14 Questions to Know if Your Colon is Healthy

  1. Do you use tobacco?
  2. Do you drink alcohol daily?
  3. Do you exercise less than 3 times a week for 30 minutes?
  4. Do you eat 4 oz (size of a deck of cards) of red meat more than 3 times per week?
  5. Are you overweight?
  6. Do you eat fried foods?
  7. Do you eat processed meats? (i.e. hot dogs, lunch meat, etc.)
  8. Do you have less than two bowel movements per day?
  9. Is your stool hard and dry?
  10. Can you have a bowel movement without straining?
  11. Do you delay your bowel movements?
  12. Do you eat less than 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily?
  13. Do you consume less than 25 grams of fiber per day? (One apple contains 5 grams)
  14. Do you have a stressful lifestyle?

A Few Standard American Diet Number

  • Avg. national daily calorie consumption: 3,770 
  • Avg. global daily calorie consumption: 2,833 
  • National overweight and obese children: 33% 
  • Global overweight and obese children: 
  • 12% National annual sugar consumption: 
  • 142 pounds per person National percentage of fast food as part of daily diet: 55%

Dietary Suggestions to Maintain a Healthy Intestinal System

  • Eat more whole grains
  • Avoid "white" bread, replace it with whole-grain breads with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving
  • As you increase your fiber intake, drink at least 8 glasses of fluids a day
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are the natural choice
  • Slowly increase your intake of healthful foods, allowing your digestive tract to adjust
  • Beans are an excellent source of fiber
  • Read package labels to compare fiber content

Nutritional Supplements that Support a Healthy Intestinal System

Aloe Vera Liquid:

  • Nourishes the digestive and intestinal systems
  • Soothes internal tissues of the digestive and intestinal tracts
  • Contain vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients
  • Supports intestinal health
  • Supports the intestinal system
  • Is an excellent source of soluble fiber
  • Encourages regular bowel movements
  • Helps maintain cholesterol levels already in the normal range
  •  14-day cleansing product that helps rid your body of common colon toxins that affect your overall health and supports natural waste elimination to provide a sense of energy and well-being.
  • Break down toxins and undigested food to keep your intestinal tract healthy.  
  • One capsule digests: 
  • 30 g Protein 
  • 30 g Carbohydrates
  • 20 g Fat
  • A unique combination of healthful friendly  bacteria to help maintain and replenish intestinal supply.  
  • Each capsule contains 6 billion microorganisms. 

Digestive Enzymes and Colon Cleansing for Healthy Digestion

May 23 2011 | Cleansing/Detox | Digestive Health | Enzymes

Digestive enzymes enable food’s incredible journey through the body—giving us strength and energy to recharge and live a healthy life. Digestive enzymes act as catalysts as they break down food and make it possible for the body to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. Although the digestive system is a powerful one, it’s also very delicate. Taking care of your digestive tract by keeping it clean and providing what it needs plays a major role in the body’s overall health.

Many fruits and vegetables contain digestive enzymes. Such enzymes are also beneficial for breaking down proteins and meats. As discussed in Finding Health with Digestive Enzymes, today’s diet lacks many of the food-derived digestive enzymes the body needs. This is because cooking, freezing, processing, canning and other food preparation methods kill or significantly deteriorate the strength of food enzymes. 

Once food is broken down, it passes through the small intestine where the body separates the nutrients from the waste. In many cases, the small intestine suffers from toxic build-up, diminishing the effectiveness of nutrient absorption. Finding a natural colon detoxifier can help recharge your digestive system and relieve it from harmful build-up. CleanStart, one of our best-selling natural body cleanse products, contains nine botanicals that pull toxins from the intestine walls and allow for healthy waste removal.

When the digestive tract lacks necessary digestive enzymes and harbors toxic build-up, the abdomen feels uncomfortable, stressed and bloated. If you suffer from occasional digestive disturbances, consider your diet. Are you providing your body the necessary food enzymes for healthy digestion? Could your digestive tract suffer from toxic build-up? Try taking one or two capsules of our digestive enzyme supplements (Food Enzymes or Proactazyme) with each meal, clean your digestive tract with a healthy, natural colon cleanse (CleanStart) and notice the difference!

Finding health with digestive enzymes

April 25 2011 | Digestive Health | Enzymes | Immune Health

Digestive EnzymesWhat are enzymes? They are said to be the “powerhouse” of every cell in the body. Intertwined with nearly every system in the body, digestive enzymes determine how effectively the body breaks down food. The body can’t function without them.

We are born with some digestive enzymes. However, these alone cannot sufficiently break down all of the food that we eat. The body can produce and replenish enzymes; but still it needs more from outside sources. Natural, raw foods have enzymes in them that are designed to break down the food. These are the same molecules that make fruit ripen and then eventually rot. However, today’s food preparation processes can kill these enzymes, making digestion difficult on the body. If you cook, freeze, dry or can your food, you’ll most likely kill the enzymes your body needs for healthy digestion.

As most of today’s diets include some form of processed food, it’s likely that you have an insufficient level of digestive enzymes. This causes stress on the digestive system, which can lead to indigestion, heartburn, bloating and more. Moreover, digestive stress can affect how many nutrients your body is able to absorb. Often, those with symptoms of digestive stress have a weakened immune system.

Since it’s nearly impossible to maintain a diet of just raw, natural foods, it’s important to supply your body with the essential digestive enzymes it needs. It’s easy to do so with a safe, healthful digestive enzyme supplement that will help you feel better as you find greater health.

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