Essential Nutrients for Gastrointestinal Health

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  • 0:01 GI Health
  • 0:41 Fiber
  • 2:58 Short Chain Fatty Acid
  • 3:55 Glutamine
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Gastrointestinal health is important to your overall health and wellbeing. Learn how fiber, short chain fatty acids and glutamine support your gastrointestinal tract and help you avoid conditions such as constipation, diverticulosis and colon cancer.

GI Health

If you have a healthy gastrointestinal (or GI) tract, it is quietly at work breaking down the foods you eat and dispersing their nutrients into your body. However, if your GI tract is unhealthy, you can experience pain, internal disruption and disease. In fact, as research advances, we see that your gastrointestinal health is closely related to your overall health and wellbeing. In this lesson, you will learn how fiber, short chain fatty acids and glutamine support the health of your gastrointestinal system.


Fiber is a dietary substance obtained from plant foods that cannot be digested. It is often talked about in relation to digestive health and, in particular, the relief of constipation. However, fiber does more for your gastrointestinal health than keeping you regular. Fiber can be either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. In the digestive tract it becomes a gel, which helps to slow down digestion. This makes it beneficial in the fight against obesity for a couple of reasons. First, it slows the emptying of the stomach, which prolongs the feeling of fullness. Second, the slowed digestion maintains a slower uptake of sugar into the blood. This steadying effect on blood sugar levels prevents the insulin spikes that promote fat storage. Soluble fiber is found in foods like beans, oats and fruits.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It's not broken down, so it adds bulk to the contents the digestive tract. This added bulk helps food residue move through the intestines, which is why it is good for relieving constipation. Insoluble fiber is found in foods like whole grains, vegetables and seeds.

Dietary fiber plays other roles in gastrointestinal health. Because it helps to soften stool and move food through the tract, it may decrease the risk of diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is the presence of small, pouch-like bulges, called diverticula, in the large intestine. The pouches are often asymptomatic and develop without a person's knowledge. However, this condition can develop into diverticulitis, which is a painful condition involving the inflammation of diverticula. Remembering that the suffix '-itis' means inflammation is a good way to keep these terms straight. We also see that due to the fact that fiber does not digest, it's able to move through early parts of the tract and into the colon. In the colon, the undigested fiber plays a role in the formation of short chain fatty acids, which are nutrients that benefit the gastrointestinal lining.

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