In this Masterclass, Julie L. Johnson, DC, CFMP and Mary E. Balliet, DC, MSACN, discuss nutritional strategies for improving gut health with the goal of enhancing athletic performance. Understanding digestive health as it relates to immune function or disease development can greatly increase health; however, the gut also plays an important role in several components of athletic performance including supporting antioxidant defense systems, regulating bone mass via hormonal regulation, promoting healthy inflammation resolution, and improving mental resilience. Through clinical case studies, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Balliet identify underlying issues and symptoms, discuss testing options, and detail nutritional strategies to help correct these conditions.
Dietary intervention, including elimination diets as well as nutritional supplements, can greatly enhance digestive health while avoiding unwanted side effects commonly seen with pharmaceutical-grade medications. Supplementation and nutritional intervention can enhance digestive health and improve other conditions that stem from an imbalanced gut microbiome, or dysbiosis, including emotional issues. Nutritional supplements that can enhance digestive health include ginger, garlic, slippery elm, oil of oregano complex, and L-glutamine. With nutritional interventions, it is critically important to customize the supplement regimen for each patient. Each person displays a unique gut microbiome and, as such, their nutritional needs will vary. Customizing supplements can help increase the efficacy of the treatment plan and enhance patient compliance as their symptoms begin to subside.
Understanding digestive health and addressing gastrointestinal symptoms will have consequences far beyond the gut. Gut health impacts everything from pain to performance and everything in between. Using data from available testing resources can help inform practitioners to make the best recommendations for their patients. While it may feel overwhelming to decide between all of the available options for improving gut health, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Balliet encourage practitioners to pick one strategy and build from there. It may be a winding road, but gut health is critical to overall health and well-being.