An Integrative Approach To Restoring Digestive Health

By Ross Pelton

Scientific Director, Essential Formulas

Ross Pelton is a pharmacist, nutritionist, author and a health educator who is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on drug-induced nutrient depletions. He was named one of the top 50 most influential pharmacists in the United States by American Druggist magazine for his work in Natural Medicine.

Mar 29, 2012
Kate Quackenbush


As Americans’ lifestyles increase the frequency and severity of digestive distress, natural practitioners have the tools to help sufferers restore balance.

The American Gastroenterological Association reports that nearly 50 percent of the U. S. population has digestive issues that impact their personal and professional lives.From acid indigestion, reflux and regurgitation; to constipation, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and more, digestive distress has been reported to affect more than 95 million Americans. Those individuals who experience digestive distress may face occasional symptoms of gas, bloating, indigestion, abdominal discomfort, distention, irregularity and general food intolerance, and it’s only getting worse.

While patients may not initially seek Chiropractor Dr. Natalie Engelbart’s assistance with digestive issues, it is something listed on the intake forms or that is discovered when she does her history/consultation with them. “I estimate that at least 90 percent of the patients who seek my care have some type of gastrointestinal (GI) complaint,” said Dr. Engelbart, DC and science advisor for Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, noting that the number of patients who suffer with digestive issues hasn’t risen necessarily over the last five to 10 years, “but that the severity has increased for most individuals over that time.”

Our digestive system is integrally linked to our ability to function and lead healthy lives. Jay Pasricha, author of The Brain-Gut Connection, wrote: “The gut is important in medical research not just for problems with the digestive system, but for the rest of the body.” In addition to the Interstitial Cystitis Alternative Medicine Association citing that 70 percent of our immunity lives in the digestive tract and the balance of flora, Gerald E.Mullin, MD, co-author of The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health, noted that IBS sufferers commonly wrestle with sleep issues, depression and anxiety.

The major trend Richard Mihalik, director of innovation and product development with Missouri-based National Enzyme Company (NEC), a private label enzyme and probiotic provider, has observed is consumers’ dissatisfaction with the long-term use of drugs to maintain digestive support.

“More traditional treatments of American digestive disorders is to treat them with drugs, such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors and acid blockers.All of these therapies have potential short- and long-term health consequences because they throw your bodies natural systems out of balance to correct a different imbalance,” he said.

As traditional medicine has not provided an effective solution for digestive distress, natural and holistic methods offer the relief sufferers are so desperately seeking.

“More natural approaches, such as probiotics and enzymes, are designed to support and restore balance to your body’s natural systems by supplementing the systems already in place. The drug therapies have fallen out of favor because they really don’t offer long-term solutions and the other imbalances can result in negative health consequences,” said Mihalik.


Guy Devin, PhD, CCN, HHP, AADP, owner of Conscious Light LLC and Healthy Nutrition Coaching in Phoenix, AZ, who has been assisting clients with their digestive and colon health for 12 years, expressed that it’s important to understand the cause of an issue. “Once you understand the cause, you can get proper guidance as to how to reverse and overcome digestive issues,” he said, highlighting two main factors he’s seeing as responsible for his patients’ digestive distress: stress and processed food.

“Americans typically consume diets consisting of processed and cooked foods high in fat and sugar content.Regularly consuming nutrient-depleted meals, many struggle to acquire their daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Further, gluten is hidden in many processed foods and more people are displaying symptoms of having issues digesting gluten,” said Scott Cloud, executive vice president of Enzyme Science, the practitioner division of Enzymedica, a Florida-based manufacturer of digestive enzyme supplements. “In addition, age-related digestive issues are very common.As we age, our digestive system does not work as effectively as it once did, and therefore we begin to see higher incidents of digestive distress.”

Dr. Engelbart pointed to some other causes of digestive stress, which include overuse of antibiotics; increasing use of antibiotics, hormones and genetic modification in/of food sources; decreased ingestion of fermented foods; increasing use of prescription and OTC drugs. “The good flora in the colon are destroyed by the use of antibiotics, as well as oral contraceptives, chlorinated water, etc.,” she said.

First Steps

According to Dr. Devin, the No. 1 natural choice for those suffering digestive issues is lifestyle and diet changes, explaining that he favors “crowding out the bad foods and increasing the good foods, such as plant-based in addition to increasing fiber intake. If we clean up the diet, we see an almost immediate response by the Body,” he said, adding that water is critical to flushing the toxicity that can cause digestive issues in the first place. “Also, create a good exercise plan—we must move our bodies to help the lymph system drain properly, which is a key to moving the toxins out of system as well.”

Ruth Carey, RD, CSSD, LD is a nutrition consultant in private practice and a Board Certified Sports Dietician who has been counseling patients on digestive and colon health for 32 years.With an increased prevalence of irritable bowel and gluten sensitivity over the last 10 years, she noted that yogurt with probiotics, probiotic supplements and elimination diets are all useful natural approaches that can be successful with the help of a registered dietitian.

“Registered dietitians are trained to evaluate the diet and then individualize recommendations.Elimination diets take a few visits and months to follow through and find what works,” said Carey, suggesting that practitioners do a complete diet history and then address digestive issues on a case-by-case basis. “It often helps, of course, to start by eating a clean diet with little processed foods.Diets high in fruits and vegetables help, and antioxidants can aid in reducing inflammation,” she added, but noted that antioxidants as supplements are not proven to help with these issues, rather she recommends seeking them through diet.

“Natural approaches include lifestyle Changes (improving diet, increasing exercise, decreasing stress) and supplementation with probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, etc.,” concurred Dr. Engelbart. “How effective natural approaches are depends upon the actual patient and the condition, and how compliant the patient is with these natural approaches. However, I have found that most patients respond extremely favorably to the right lifestyle changes and dietary supplements.”


Dr. Devin noted that for gut health, “we need a digestive enzyme with any cooked meal we consume. This helps to break down the food and create the possibility of better utilization of the foods we are consuming.”

“Consumers continue to experience digestive discomforts as a result of having intolerances to ingredients, such as gluten, lactose, casein and phenols,” said Enzyme Science’s Cloud. “Due to an enzyme deficiency, they have great difficulty digesting these foods. As a result, consumers seek out natural enzyme supplements to help with these intolerances.”

Enzyme Science provides three digestive support formulas: Complete Digestion, a full spectrum digestive formula with enzymes and probiotics; Critical Digestion, the highest potency digestive formula with enzymes and probiotics; and Intolerance Complex, a targeted enzyme blend for gluten, dairy, Casein and phenol digestion. The company uses only the highest quality and potency plant-based digestive enzymes, and adds shelf-stable, acid-resistant probiotics to its digestive formulas to support healthy gut flora, Cloud added. In addition, all three formulas include ATPro, an exclusive blend of critical nutrients that provide ATP (adenosine- 5-triphosphate) and nutrients that enhance ATP production. “This coenzyme is essential for nutrient absorption and propels our formulations to the next level in superior results and patient satisfaction,” Cloud explained, adding that the company also utilizes the unique Thera-blend technology introduced by Enzymedica that blends multiple strains of enzymes.

Meanwhile, NEC offers a professional line of practitioner private label products targeted to support digestive, cardiovascular, energy, joints, bones, sleep and other concerns. All products are available for private label with customized labels with very low minimums, noted Mihalik.

“NEC has almost 80 years of formulation experience and a proprietary database of formulation knowledge in dietary supplements that is applied to every one of our formulations,” he explained. “As a leader in enzymes and their interactions with other dietary and supplement ingredients, we can provide enzymes in formulations to allow patients to get the benefits they deserve from both the food they eat and the supplements they take.”


Michel Sirgent, senior vice president of Bio-K International, Inc., a Canadian probiotic manufacturer, noted that there has been a sharp increase in the areas of IBS, Clostridium difficile (C. Difficile) infections as well as chronic and inflammatory infections, such as colitis. “There have been severalC. difficile outbreaks in the hospitals which have been reported by the media in the last few years and this has alerted people including doctors to the need of taking a high quality probiotic to help protect the digestive system while taking antibiotics,” he said.“Most, if not all, drugs come with side effects. The right probiotic supplement can be very safe and effective and an excellent alternative to the medical therapies that modern medicine uses most.

“Practitioners put their reputation on the line with every product that they recommend,” he added. “Bio-K+ delivers consistent quality and results, and is supported by clinical studies.”

One such study was published in the July 2010 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.1 As standard therapies for antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and C. dificile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) have limited efficacy, the study aimed to show that probiotic prophylaxis is a promising alternative for reduction of AAD and CDAD incidence.

In this single-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled doseranging study, 255 adult patients were randomized to one of three groups: two probiotic capsules per day (Pro-2, n=86), one probiotic capsule and one placebo capsule per day (Pro-1, n=85) or two placebo capsules per day (n=84).Each probiotic capsule contained 50 billionc. f.u. of live organisms (Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285 + Lactobacillus casei LBC80R Bio-K+ CL1285). Probiotic prophylaxis began within 36 hours of initial antibiotic administration, continued for five days After the last antibiotic dose, and patients were followed for an additional 21 days.

The study concluded that the proprietary probiotic blend used was well tolerated and effective for reducing risk of AAD and, in particular, CDAD in hospitalized patients on antibiotics. A doseranging effect was shown with 100 billionc. f.u. yielding superior outcomes and fewer gastrointestinal events compared to 50 billion c.f.u.

“For practitioners, we provide a clinical strength of 50 billion c.f.u. enteric-coated capsule that they can offer their patients, specifically for the prevention of antibiotic diarrhea and antibiotic associated C. difficile infection,” said Sirgent. “This is holistic and integrated medicine at it’s best— allowing patients to benefit of probiotics if they need them without worrying about the side effects and damaging their digestive health and natural immunity.”

Essential Formulas, the Texas-based distributor of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic formulations, introduced Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics Professional Formula several years ago and it has been become a popular product for use by patients, according to Michael Schoor, Essential Formulas’ president and CEO. “CAM practitioners have known of the product for many years, but it is becoming more popular more traditional allopathic physicians,” he said. “The most recent new product was developed by Dr. Iichiroh Ohhira and his team of research scientists from Okayama University in Japan. It combines Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics with Brazilian green propolis, and several additional ingredients that help maintain a healthy immune system.”

The Professional line includes Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, Dr. Ohhira’s Propolis PLUS and Dr. Ohhira’s Essential Living Oils.

“Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics Professional Formula is the only long-term fermented product in the American marketplace. Each veggie capsule contains the actual fermented medium, which contains probiotics, prebiotics, organic acids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, bacteriocins, etc. No other probiotic product can make this claim,” said Schoor, adding that Dr. Ohhira and his team of research scientists have conducted studies for over 25 years, including C. difficile studies both in the laboratory and in hospital settings, and in vivo safety studies. Most were independently conducted by third-party university research scientists in Japan, and a human safety study is being completed at this time in the U. S. and will be available later this year.

A Communal Approach

Carey noted that a truly integrative approach should be taken when it comes to addressing a patient’s digestive health, where each therapy does what it does best.“A naturopath, for example, can do the testing for food intolerances, while an allergist should test allergies and an acupuncturist can aid in managing stress, sleep and perhaps inflammation.”

Dr. Devin agreed: “The beauty of natural practitioners networking with one another is the key to developing a healthy practice, as we all can’t be specialized in everything. I refer a lot of my more serious cases to a network of practitioners and they respond in kind by sending me referrals as well,” he said. “Working with colon hydro therapists is a must for any practitioner. An acupuncturist can really help in developing strong energy flows throughout the body.Working with others that specialize in more energy and stress-reducing areas is also vital for optimal health. So at the end of the day, the practice of natural therapies is a very cooperative-oriented community, which says a lot about health for the future.”


By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas

Ross Pelton is a pharmacist, nutritionist, author and a health educator who is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on drug-induced nutrient depletions. He was named one of the top 50 most influential pharmacists in the United States by American Druggist magazine for his work in Natural Medicine.

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