Gut (or digestive) health is a popular topic among online wellness personalities, with numerous videos continuing to flood social media, particularly on Instagram and TikTok, claiming to heal your gut, cure acid reflux, or even help with bloating.
If someone is claiming to have a “fix” for digestive issues, you should be sceptical of these claims. The main drivers of digestive health change include shifts in stomach acid, gut immunity (its role in producing antibodies), and gastrointestinal flora—the complex ecosystem of bacteria in your digestive system—that helps digest food, use vitamins, and produce energy for the body.
One of the most common digestive issues among adults is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is caused by excessive stomach acid that moves up into the esophagus. Symptoms may be occasional or daily and affect up to 20 per cent of the general population. If this sounds like you, use this helpful symptom tracker and take it with you the next time you see your health care provider.
If you struggle with GERD, your health care provider may have spoken to you about avoiding common triggers, such as citrus fruits and coffee, and making some lifestyle changes like avoiding large meals late in the day and snacks before bed.
Your health care provider might also suggest trying some over-the-counter antacid products or prescribe medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s). Prescription drugs such as pantoprazole, esomeprazole, lansoprazole are common, but prolonged, long-term use may result in future complications.
If you take PPIs daily, it’s important that follow up with your health care provider and try to reduce the regular daily use of these drugs, where possible. Your pharmacist can also suggest over-the-counter antacids and advise on whether these might interfere with any other prescription drugs you are taking.
To promote a healthy gut, there are a few things you can do, and it doesn’t only involve what you eat.
Not getting enough sleep is linked to a higher prevalence of obesity, which can put you on the path for having other digestive disorders, such as acid reflux.
Walking, cycling, playing golf, or participating in other activities that you enjoy and that encourage you to move and maintain a healthy body weight, all help ward off digestive issues.
Reducing stress is essential to managing heartburn. Trying relaxation or cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) may help. Tranquility by Inkblot is an online CBT program that’s available, free-of-cost, to those with ASEBP’s EFAP.
Individuals who live with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues are at higher risk of digestive issues because of the brain-gut connection.
Probiotics are live bacteria and microbes that are good for you, especially for your digestive system. The two most common types of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium-based products. Even within these families of probiotics, there are significant variations in product strength, doses, and dosage forms, which make it challenging to determine their effectiveness. It’s important to note that there is insufficient clinical research to support the effectiveness of probiotics in most conditions.
Always talk to your health care provider or pharmacist who knows your health history before starting any natural supplement, including a probiotic. If you decide to try a probiotic for a digestive issue, you might consider trying it out for one-to-two months to see if it provides any benefit to you.
The information provided in this article is for personal use, reference, and education only. ASEBP does not provide medical advice. Before starting any medication or product, you should always consult with your pharmacist, health care provider, or call Alberta Health Link at 811.
ASEBP’s Extended Health Care covers several Gastric Reflux Disease products, if prescribed by your health care provider. If you have a Wellness Spending Account (WSA), you can claim probiotic supplements. Find more information about eligible WSA expenses or contact a benefit specialist.
If you have ASEBP’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), you can get support from a registered dietitian to help ease your heartburn symptoms. Use your four hours of EFAP health coaching, at no cost to you.