If you’re an avid RSN follower, you know I am HUGE on gut health. Your gut health affects pretty much everything in your body, from your neurological function and mental health, to your skin, immune system, hormones and thyroid, and metabolic function.
The best supplements for gut health support good gut bacteria, keep your bowels regular and body detoxing, and support a strong gut lining.
Before even starting supplements, however, you should know the first and foremost most important thing you can do to support your gut health is whole food:
- Minimal ingredients/unprocessed/organic/non-GMO
- Prebiotics (fibers and herbs)
- Probiotics / Fermented foods
- Consider intermittent fasting
- Limit refined carbohydrates, no added sugars
- Abundant healthy fats:
- high omega-3s
- organic animal fats in moderation
- no processed vegetable oils such as corn, peanut, or soybean
- no trans fats
In addition to a whole food-based diet, supplements can be great to fill in the gaps, support your good gut bacteria and aid in strengthening your gut lining. Here are some of my top favorites:
- A high-quality probiotic: Your gut is a diverse microbiome with thousands of bacteria living in harmony, working to help your body get nutrition and maintain a line of defense against invaders. Probiotics are good bacteria, and they help build a thriving ecosystem in your gut.
What’s great about probiotics, is specificity in strains for certain actions in the body. For example, studies have found that certain strains of the Lactobacillus family can help you lose fat:
In one study, they showed taking Lactobacillus it reduced body fat by 3–4% over 6 weeks (29) and in another study of 125 overweight dieters investigated the effects of Lactobacillus rhamnos supplements on weight loss and weight maintenance and they found that women taking the probiotics lost 50% more weight over 3 months, compared with those taking a placebo pill. They also continued to lose weight during the weight maintenance phase of the study.
When picking a probiotic, make sure it contains some of these top beneficial strains:
- Bacillus coagulans
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis
- Lactobacillus plantarum
My recommendation: UltraFlora Biome Pro by Metagenics
- Prebiotics: These are food sources for those amazing probiotics! Prebiotic fiber helps nourish your gut microbiota, especially when you can’t eat enough fiber-rich foods. That’s because prebiotics provide the nourishment your digestive bacteria need to do their job. And as a bonus, prebiotic fiber helps you feel fuller, longer.
Here are some of my favorite food-based prebiotics:
- Resistant Starch, such as under ripe banana, plantains or cooked and cooled potatoes: escapes digestion in the small intestine and is consequently fermented in the large intestine, allowing the production of short chain fatty acids. Resistant starch has also been shown to lower the severity of insulin resistance.
- Almonds: Almonds and almond skin are rich in fiber and prebiotic compounds.
- Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are a great source of prebiotics, containing 20-40% soluble fiber and 60-80% insoluble fiber. These types of fibers help to promote regular bowel movements, feed beneficial bacteria, and can reduce the amount of dietary fat absorbed in the intestinal tract.
- Yacon Root: Yacon root is rich in prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin. he inulin in yacon has been shown to improve gut bacteria balance, reduce constipation, enhance immune response, improve mineral absorption, and regulate blood lipids.
Here are some of my favorite herbal-based prebiotics:
- Aloe: Can be helpful for those with colitis (use under doctor supervision only); reduces inflammation in the gut and has anti-microbial properties.
- Licorice Root: Used often as a part of Chinese herbal formulas as a tonifier; also known for its antiviral properties; deglycrrhizinated licorice is recommended.
- Slippery Elm: Contains mucilaginous compounds that help reduce inflammation in the gut as well as urinary tract; also used for sore throats, coughs, heartburn, GERD, and ulcers.
My recommendation: 1st Phorms GI Advantage, which is a combo of all of these!
NOTE: take prebiotics slowly, and if you notice an increase in bloating this may be an indicator of some bacteria overgrowth causing excessive fermentation (gas production.) If you think you may have some bacteria imbalances, click her to learn about my microbiome testing and working with my Rachel Scheer Nutrition Team.
- L-Glutamine: This is an amino acid that helps repair and strengthen the gut lining and modulating inflammatory responses. This is especially helpful for people who suffer from leaky gut. By enabling your enterocytes (gut cells) to regenerate more quickly, L-Glutamine helps seal the tight junctions in your gut and restores your gut lining to an optimal state even faster. These repairs are essential for reversing leaky gut, eliminating your symptoms, and reducing your risk of associated chronic conditions.
My recommendation: 1st Phorm’s Plain L-Glutamine (take 1 scoop per day for maintenance and 3 scoops per day for repairing leaky gut.)
- Licorice Root: We talked about how licorice root can be a great pre-biotic above, but it is also great for repairing the gut lining, similar to glutamine! Licorice root has beneficial effects on gut health when it has been treated to remove glycyrrhizic acid, a substance that appears naturally in licorice root that is thought to cause high blood-pressure and low potassium levels.
My recommendation: Glutagenics by Metagenics powder (also contains 3.5g of glutamine, making it a great combo product for repairing the gut!)
- Collagen Peptides: I like to refer to collagen as the super “glue” that holds everything together. Our body naturally produces collagen, which is essentially a long chain of amino acids. Collagen makes up structures throughout your body, including your digestive tract. You naturally make collagen. But unless you eat a lot of organ meats and bone broth, you probably aren’t giving your body enough amino acid building blocks to produce enough collagen protein.
Peptides are a shorter chain of amino acids, which are better digested and absorbed by the body. This is why all collagen supplements state the terms “hydrolyzed collagen” or “collagen peptides.” Essentially, these two terms are interchangeable and simply mean that the collagen is bioavailable.
Collagen helps to heal, seal, and repair the gut lining and also regulate stomach acid. Despite common belief, adequate stomach acid is essential for proper digestion. Without it, you cannot digest, break down, and absorb food optimally.
My recommendation: 1st Phorm’s Collagen Protein Powder. (You can easily mix in collagen peptides with your coffee of protein shake!
Zinc: An essential trace mineral that is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes and it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Deficiencies have been shown affect 25 percent of the world’s population, especially in the developing world.
In regards to gut health, deficiencies in zinc have shown to have a significant effect on the microbial population and diversity in the intestine as well as induce leakiness in tight junctional seals and consequently epithelial cell layers, leading to leaky gut.
My recommendation: Zinc A.G from Metagenics.
Rachel Scheer is a Certified Nutritionist who received her degree from Baylor University in Nutrition Science and Dietetics. Rachel has her own private nutrition and counseling practice located in McKinney, Texas. Rachel has helped clients with a wide range of nutritional needs enhance their athletic performance, improve their physical and mental health, and make positive lifelong eating and exercise behavior changes.