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While a good diet and a healthy lifestyle are the foundations for gut health, supplements can play a supportive role in improving and
maintaining a healthy digestive system and a balanced gut microbiome. Health Coaches can provide general information about various
supplements, but you should always check with your doctor before taking anything new to verify dosage and any potential contraindications.
The following supplements have been found to generally support gut health. What works for one person may not work for the next, so
always do your research and pay attention to how you feel.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT SUPPORT DIGESTION
• Digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes help break down and digest food. When the body’s digestive enzymes are lacking – whether due to stress, inflammation,
or another reason – some practitioners provide them as a temporary fix to help with digestion or break down hard-to-digest foods. Digestive
enzymes can be derived from fruit isolates, animals, or plants. These supplements can include any combination of enzymes, including
proteases to break down proteins, lipases to break down fats, and amylase and other enzymes that help break down carbohydrates.
Another digestive enzyme commonly used as a supplement is lactase, which aids the digestion of lactose, the sugar found in milk.
• Betaine HCL/pepsin
This supplement increases the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach to help break down food. This supplement must be taken with
some form of protein, which is why pepsin (an enzyme that breaks down protein) is often included. Betaine HCL/pepsin is used for low
stomach acid. This supplement must only be taken under the supervision of a medical practitioner as there are many contraindications.
In particular, individuals with ulcers, those who take anti-inflammatory drugs, or anyone who experiences a burning sensation when using
should not take this supplement.
• Digestive bitters
Bitters refer to herbs (such as dandelion root) with a bitter flavor. These stimulate the body’s natural digestive juices and production
of stomach acid. The Standard American Diet pays little attention to bitter flavors; therefore, digestive bitters are more commonly
supplemented. Bitter flavors can also curb sugar cravings and balance blood sugar.
• Ox bile
This supplement aids in the proper digestion of fat and supports nutrient absorption. It’s often recommended for those who’ve had their
gallbladder removed and require extra support to digest high-fat foods.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT SUPPORT HEALTHY GUT FLORA
• Fish oil
Fish oil has been linked to a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits that can help heal the gut. The
omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are essential for the body, so if they’re not consumed in the diet, supplements may be recommended.
Prebiotic fiber is food for bacteria. Healthy bacteria promote a healthy gut! Prebiotics are found in many vegetables, but some individuals
may prefer to supplement if they have a hard time getting enough fiber in their diet. Prebiotics can be irritating for individuals with small
intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
• Psyllium husk
This prebiotic fiber originates from the Plantago ovata plant. It’s bulk forming, meaning it can help with constipation by making stool easier
to pass. As with all fiber supplements, it should be taken with plenty of water.
Probiotics can be great for maintaining a healthy gut to protect against infection or rebuilding it after taking antibiotics or having some type
of disturbance. Diversity is key, so the more variety in the strains, the better. The amount and type of probiotics to take can vary based on
why a person is taking them, so it’s always best to consult a doctor before starting probiotics.
• Vitamin D
This fat-soluble vitamin helps maintain a healthy, balanced gut microbiome. It may also guard against colon cancer. To enhance absorption
of this vitamin, it should be taken with a meal or snack containing dietary fat.
BASIC GUIDE TO SUPPLEMENTS FOR GUT HEALTH
L-glutamine is an amino acid used as a building block for repairing a compromised gut. It can help nourish and rebuild the gut lining.
• Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
MSM is active sulfur, a mineral that can help reduce inflammation and rebuild tissue. Some practitioners prescribe MSM to help with leaky gut.
• Mucilaginous herbs
As the name might imply, these are typically herbs that have a mucus-like quality. They swell in water and can be gel-like, which can help
with inflammation of the digestive tract. Mucilaginous herbs are used to help move stool or soothe irritation. Examples include slippery
elm, aloe vera, marshmallow root, and plantain. Note that aloe latex and whole-leaf aloe extracts should be avoided as they may have
This supplement can help with detoxification. Magnesium is often paired with glycinate, an amino acid that can make it easier to absorb
and assimilate. Magnesium oxide softens stools. A popular natural remedy for constipation is milk of magnesia.
© 2018, 2020 Integrative Nutrition, LLC | Reprinted with permission
SUPPLEMENTS THAT NOURISH THE GUT LINING