08.09.23 10 min read

Best Supplements & Vitamins for Gut Health

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The gut refers to the gastrointestinal tract, which includes your stomach, intestines, and colon. The gut microbiome consists of microorganisms, including live bacteria, that live inside your gut. There are numerous different types of bacteria strains that can be helpful or harmful to your gut health. 

Researchers have found that an unhealthy gut microbiome can lead to health consequences. Having an unhealthy balance of good and bad bacteria may be linked to certain health conditions like diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, and even colon cancer. 

If you are struggling with gut health, you may be wondering if supplements and vitamins can help. The good news is that they can! Some of the most popular gut health supplements on the market include prebiotics and probiotics, but there are several others that can help as well.

This guide goes over the best vitamins and supplements for gut health, what to look for in a supplement, and more. 

Best vitamins & supplements for gut health

There are a wide variety of vitamins and supplements that have been investigated for their potential benefits on the gut microbiome. It is important to note that not all supplements marketed for gut health have been scientifically proven to work. If you are thinking about trying a supplement, you should talk to your doctor, nutritionist, or healthcare provider first.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that live inside your body. They are commonly known as the “good” bacteria that keep your gut healthy. Probiotic supplements are often used to help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. 

There are many different kinds of probiotics, and not all have been well-studied. However, two different types of probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are common probiotics found in supplements and functional foods. 

Lactobacillus strains can improve intestinal health in several ways. This probiotic protects the lining of your intestines, which helps keep harmful bacteria out and prevents infections. It can also increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, along with other good bacteria, like Bifidobacterium. 

Bifidobacteria is another group of probiotics that have been shown to prevent intestinal inflammation and improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. One study even found that Bifidobacterium may improve immunity

It is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand how probiotics work. Also, not all probiotic supplements are made with the same strains, so they don’t work for every situation. Before taking a supplement, consider trying probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, tempeh, and sauerkraut. 

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are types of fiber that can stimulate the growth or activity of good bacteria. Taking a prebiotic with a probiotic can help improve bacteria balance in your gut. Research shows that prebiotic consumption can be effective in regulating digestion. 

Inulin is a prebiotic that naturally occurs in foods like Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, and wheat. Clinical studies have shown that inulin supplementation may increase the frequency of bowel movements, helping those who struggle with constipation. Inulin may also improve the composition of intestinal bacteria. 

While prebiotic supplements may be a safe and effective way to regulate bowel movements and support gut health, they are not the best option for everyone, especially if you already eat a lot of prebiotic-rich foods. More research is needed to determine the most safe and effective dosage of these supplements. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are commonly used for health benefits like heart health, skin health, and reducing inflammation. Several recent studies have investigated the impact that omega-3 fatty acids have on the gut microbiota. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to affect the gut by altering the diversity of gut microbes, decreasing inflammation, and increasing the amount of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are known to protect the lining of the gut. 

While further studies are needed to prove these claims, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is rather safe and can provide a variety of health benefits. Because many people lack foods rich in omega-3s in their diet, supplementation may be a good option to reap all of its benefits. 

Fiber Supplements

Dietary fiber supplements are commonly used to treat constipation and regulate bowel movements. Fiber supplements are often made with different types of fiber, like methylcellulose, prebiotics, and psyllium.

Psyllium is a type of fiber commonly used in products on the market. One study found that patients who struggle with constipation had improvements in bowel movements and positive changes in their gut microbiome after supplementing with psyllium husk. However, psyllium had very little impact on the gut microbiome in healthy individuals. 

Not all fiber supplements are created the same. If you eat a fiber-rich diet with legumes, whole grains, and fruit, you most likely do not need a fiber supplement. However, if you are choosing a fiber supplement, it is important to understand what type of fiber it is made from. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important fat-soluble vitamin that has many functions in the body. People often supplement with vitamin D to support a healthy bone structure and to protect their immunity. A growing body of evidence suggests that vitamin D may play a role in bacteria balance and reducing inflammation in the gut. 

According to a study in 2007, poor vitamin intake has led to a variety of health conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease. A handful of studies now have also noted that vitamin D supplementation may prevent bowel inflammation and play a role in maintaining proper gut function. 

Since vitamin D is not found in a wide variety of foods, supplementation may be helpful to get adequate amounts each day. As far as the interactions between vitamin D and the human gut, more detailed studies are needed to understand its benefits. 

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes naturally occur in the body to break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the foods we eat. Taking these supplements is often necessary for those who do not make enough digestive enzymes.

For example, the lactase enzyme breaks down lactose (the sugar found in dairy products) in the body. For those with a known lactose intolerance, supplementing with lactase enzymes may improve clinical symptoms like bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. 

Even though many people believe taking digestive enzymes will help with bloating and abdominal cramping, they are not necessary if you do not have a known enzyme insufficiency. Digestive enzyme supplementation is most beneficial for those with certain gastrointestinal conditions like pancreatitis.

L-Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid that is made in the body and found in certain foods. It is the most abundant and versatile amino acid, having many functions in the body. Research on this amino acid has shown that glutamine plays an important role in the gut microbiota and overall health. 

Glutamine works by strengthening and maintaining your intestinal lining. A strong gut lining is important to keep harmful pathogens from getting inside your gut, which helps keep you healthy. Glutamine may also play a role in the survival and growth of gut microbes, contributing to a healthy composition of bacteria in your intestines. 

While the benefits of L-glutamine supplementation on your gut appear promising, additional, larger studies are needed to confirm the efficacy and safety. Taking L-glutamine in recommended doses is generally safe, but it is always best to consult your doctor to determine if this supplement is the best fit for you. 

Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient that plays a role in tissue repair and supporting a healthy immune system. While the exact mechanism of how zinc benefits the gut is still being studied, zinc is believed to support the intestines because of its anti-inflammatory properties and by protecting the intestinal barrier. 

Researchers have noted that both an excess and deficiency of zinc can cause damage to the intestinal barrier, leading to gut issues like malabsorption, diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel diseases. 

Supplementing with zinc may be beneficial for you if you have gut issues and have a known zinc deficiency. However, it is important to avoid overdosing zinc as it may cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. 

Turmeric/Curcumin

Turmeric is a well-known spice, particularly in curry powder, used to add color, flavor, and nutrition to certain foods. It contains a powerful antioxidant called curcumin. Curcumin has gained popularity for its anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit several health conditions. 

2019 review investigated the role of curcumin on intestinal inflammatory diseases. This review noted that curcumin may be able to decrease the inflammation that impairs the function of the gut barrier.

For most people, turmeric and curcumin are considered safe. However, high doses should be avoided. While curcumin does show powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can help heal the gut and improve digestion, more clinical trials are needed to confirm this. 

The supplement that is best for you depends on your personal situation. Not all supplements work the same nor are they effective for everyone, which is why it is important to understand how each supplement works. It is always best to consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting any supplement. 

>> Find a Gut Health Nutritionist That Accepts Your Insurance

If you struggle with digestive issues like GERD (acid reflux and heartburn), you can find more detailed information on foods and supplements that may help in these articles: 

How to choose vitamins & supplements for gut health

Unlike prescription medications, supplements are not closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unfortunately, some supplement companies do get away with not telling the full story on their labels. 

When it comes to supplements, not all products are created equal. When looking for a supplement, it is important to choose a reputable brand with clean ingredients. Below are a few things to consider before buying a supplement for gut health. 

  • Dosage. Some companies make vitamin and mineral supplements with very high dosages. If you are taking a vitamin or mineral supplement, make sure that you truly need to supplement with that vitamin or mineral. Consult a healthcare professional to confirm that the recommended dosage is backed by science before taking it to avoid toxicity. 
  • Other ingredients. Some supplements contain unnecessary additives like hydrogenated oils and artificial colors. Make sure to read the ingredients label to avoid any unwanted ingredients. 
  • The reputation of the company. Despite the claims, not all supplement companies produce good quality products. That is why it is important to investigate the company and look for evidence that its products are third-party tested. 
  • Third-party testing & certifications. Third-party testing labels on supplements ensure that the supplement has been properly manufactured and tested. Look for a USP or NSF label on supplements to ensure you are getting a safe product with pure ingredients. 
  • Shelf life. Even though the FDA does not require an expiration date on supplements, many supplements become less effective over time. Products should have a date manufactured on the label. The general consensus for the shelf life of supplements is two years after it has been produced. 
  • Price. Supplement companies like you to think that the most expensive supplements are the best for you. However, higher prices do not always equal better quality. Supplements typically are expensive enough, so make sure to research all of your options so you are not paying more than you need to. 
  • Customer reviews. Even though not all supplements work the same for everyone, you can learn a lot about a supplement by reviewing other people’s experiences. 

Why you should consider working with a gut health nutritionist

Taking supplements for gut health can be beneficial, however, following a proper diet is even more important. In some cases, learning about and consuming the Best Foods for Gut Health may remove your need for supplements. In addition, a nutritionist will be able to help you determine which nutrients you may be lacking in your diet that would be best supported through supplements.

Keeping your gut healthy can be difficult to do by yourself especially if you struggle with digestive issues. Working with a gut health nutritionist can help you understand your unique nutrition needs. You will also gain confidence in making the right food and supplement choices after working with a gut health nutritionist. 

As a trained professional, your nutritionist will assess your tolerances, preferences, and current nutrition habits. That way, your nutritionist can identify any gaps in your current diet and formulate a personalized plan that meets your nutritional needs, promotes a healthy gut, and is realistic for you to follow long-term.   

Here at Zaya Care, we can match you with Gut Health Nutritionists that are covered by your insurance. You can browse our network of nutritionists and filter by things like visit type, languages spoken, insurance accepted, and more to find your fit.

Gut health supplements & vitamins FAQs

What are signs that I need a gut health supplement?
Signs of poor gut health include bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, unexplained weight changes, and food intolerances. If you have adopted healthier habits and improved your diet and still experience these symptoms regularly, you may need to consider taking a gut health supplement. 

What is the best probiotic strain?
The two most studied probiotic strains are bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. Bifidobacterium is a popular probiotic strain because of its ability to fight certain infections, restore intestinal bacteria, and treat gastrointestinal issues like constipation. Lactobacillus is also important because it can prevent damage to the intestines caused by certain infections. 

Are there risks of probiotics and other gut health supplements?
Although probiotics are typically safe, they may cause resistance to antibiotics and increase your risk of certain infections. As with all supplements, some people may experience negative side effects from certain ingredients. In some cases, probiotics have triggered allergic reactions and stomach issues. 

When should I take my probiotic?
Recommendations for the best time to take a probiotic vary. Some supplement manufacturers recommend taking their probiotics 20-30 minutes before eating while others recommend taking them with food. It is best to follow the instructions on the product that you use. 

How often should I take my probiotic supplement?
Because probiotics are a natural supplement and not medicine, they are typically safe to take once a day. You should not take more than what is instructed on the label of your probiotic supplement. 

 How long should I take my probiotic supplement?
There is no single recommendation for how long you should take a probiotic supplement. Typically, it is safe to take probiotics regularly until your symptoms improve. 

Here at Zaya Care, we can match you with Gut Health Nutritionists that are covered by your insurance. You can browse our network of nutritionists and filter by things like visit type, languages spoken, insurance accepted, and more to find your fit.

Kamryn is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in performance nutrition and weight management. She has experience in a variety of settings as a dietitian, including sports, clinical, and private practice. She currently provides individualized nutrition and fitness coaching to adult men and women. Kamryn is passionate about using evidence-based nutrition strategies to help people achieve long-term success with their fitness goals and to maintain a healthier lifestyle.