Total Store Gut Health Guidance
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
As research grows regarding the important role our gut has in keeping the body healthy, we are seeing many new food products and supplements, claiming to enhance digestive well-being. Retail dietitians need to be prepared to provide evidence-based guidance to both internal merchant teams who may be looking at new items and to shoppers as they navigate the store for gut health solutions. The following discussion points can be used for informing buyers and directing shoppers in food and pharmacy departments:
- Managing digestive health is complicated. Start by talking about the gut as an ecosystem that can be managed – similar to a river or pond system. Effective management of the gut ecosystem improves health and quality of life.
- A diet rich in different types and sources of fibers helps support a more diverse microbiota. Create communication that provides information on the variety of fibers and plant foods they are found in (soluble, insoluble, gel-forming, fermentable).
- Prebiotics are a special type of fiber found in certain foods and promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Natural sources of prebiotics include bananas, legumes, and onions. There are also prebiotic fermentable fibers, such as chicory root (inulin), which can be found as an ingredient in many foods. Point out those food products containing chicory root and how they can add needed fiber to the diet. Include recommendations for introducing these fibers slowly so they are better tolerated.
- Probiotics improve the gut ecosystem and health naturally but it’s important to ensure that live and active cultures are present in products. Direct shoppers and buyers to look for this statement on labels.
- Some new products are combining the digestive benefits of fiber, probiotics and prebiotics such as Kellogg’s Happy Inside™ cereal. Schedule demos or create signage to point out new products formulated for digestive health.
- The Keto diet and other low carbohydrate eating plans may reduce the fiber content in the diet and can “starve” the good bacteria from a food source. Discuss this consideration with consumers who may want to follow such a pattern for a long period of time.
- Consider providing a “gut health” shopping list to consumers who are picking up an antibiotic prescription from your pharmacies to direct them to solutions in your food aisles.
- Provide basic recommendations for consumers shopping for probiotic supplements. Products should contain high quality probiotics with clinically documented strains and be stored in the refrigerator. Specifically look for:
- Genus, species and strain of every probiotic to confirm a strain’s specific benefit - Example: Lactobacillus (genus) – rhamnosus (species) - R0011 (strain)
- Guaranteed minimum number of live probiotics per serving through best used before date, when stored as recommended.
- Contact information for the manufacturer.
For additional information: