Here at Hyperbiotics, we are firm believers that all health begins in the gut. You see, nearly 80% of our immune system resides in our digestive tract and everything—from how many nutrients we absorb and how well we digest food to our ability to keep bad guy microbes at bay—depends on the health of our gut and the amounts of beneficial bacteria that reside there.
We’re learning that there are two critical factors working together to determine our digestive and overall health—the balance of our beneficial bacteria and composition of our intestinal wall—and together, these make up our gut barrier and serve as the very foundation of our health.
Not only do probiotics perform a variety of whole body life-supporting functions, but they reinforce our gut barrier so toxins and unwanted particles can’t escape to our bloodstream and trigger inappropriate immune responses. In fact, scientists are even calling this collection of probiotic bacteria (our microbiome) a newly discovered organ in the human body. It’s that important.
When it comes to gut health and taking care of this vital part of your body, conscious attention is the key. To help you on your journey, we came up with our picks of the top 18 supplements to help reinforce your gut barrier and encourage the growth of good bacteria to support your health today and for many years to come!
1. Acacia fiber
Acacia fiber is extracted from gum sap of the acacia tree. Although mostly indigestible to humans, acacia fiber is an excellent prebiotic, or food for our gut microbes. In fact, studies show that just ten days of supplementation with acacia fiber is associated with increased bifidobacteria counts1. In addition, acacia fiber can help you reach your weight loss goals, reduce temporary inflammation, and is perfect for those with sensitive stomachs, due to its slow fermentation—that means less gas and bloating!
2. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera isn’t just for sunburns—it turns out it’s great for gut health as well. Full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins, aloe vera also helps to reinforce the gut barrier, relieve constipation, modulate temporary inflammation, and it even displays antibacterial properties against bad guy bacteria that try to set up shop in your gut2. Even better? Aloe vera is also a prebiotic food source for the good guys!
This fantastic fatty acid is produced by our gut bacteria as they digest prebiotic fiber. As an important energy source for colon cells, butyrate nourishes and controls temporary inflammation in the gut3. Butyrate is plentiful in grass-fed butter and is available as a supplement, but a healthy population of gut bacteria can produce it for you in your digestive tract.
Dried chamomile flowers have been used medicinally for more than 5,000 years, and the list of benefits of this often-used herb is extensive. When it comes to gut health, chamomile is a tried and true digestive remedy. Billed as a digestive relaxant, chamomile can calm temporary bloating, gas, and indigestion. The anti-spasmodic compounds in this mighty herb can also relieve occasional cramping and constipation4.
5. Curcumin Phytosome
Curcumin, also known as turmeric, is a yellow herb often used in Indian curry dishes, but did you know that it is also a powerful champion of gut health? A powerful antioxidant that quells temporary inflammation, curcumin promotes the health of your gut barrier. The form of curcumin is crucial—regular curcumin isn’t very bioavailable, but curcumin phytosome (curcumin formulated with a phospholipid) is associated with higher absorption rates5.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL (whole licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed) can inhibit inhospitable bacteria, ease digestion, and support an optimal intestinal lining. DGL works by forming a film over the mucous membrane of the gut, soothing irritations and relieving temporary inflammation.
Our body naturally produces digestive enzymes that help to break up the food we eat into smaller, easily absorbed particles. The problem is that our body’s enzyme production tends to decline as we age, leaving us less able to absorb the nutrients we need from our diets. Taking plant-based supplemental digestive enzymes can enhance your digestion and your overall energy.
EpiCor®, derived from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is often touted for its remarkable immune-boosting benefits, but research shows that this fermentate is an important gut health partner as well. In addition to quelling temporary inflammation with its high antioxidant levels, EpiCor® helps to make sure that the good guy bacteria adhere to the walls of your gut, and that they produce plenty of short chain fatty acids (including butyrate) to keep you healthy6 .
9. Fermented Foods
Rich in probiotics, fermented foods are loaded with beneficial bacteria that make their way into your gut to support digestion, protect the gut barrier, and help you absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha are all excellent fermented food picks.
10. Fish Oil
The fatty acids in fish oil (particularly Omega-3) are potent anti-inflammatory agents that can help to counteract temporary inflammation in the gut, but studies show that the fatty acids can also promote survival of all the beneficial probiotics in your digestive tract7.
Glutamine is a building block of protein called an amino acid, and it happens to be the most abundant amino acid in the human body. In addition to having anti-inflammatory benefits in the gut, glutamine is essential for the repair of your intestinal lining. Studies show that glutamine—plentiful in homemade bone broth—can enhance intestinal cell growth8.
Also known as betaine hydrochloric acid, HCL is naturally produced in your stomach to help you break down protein and other nutrients. Unfortunately, as you age, levels of HCL in your stomach can wane, leading to sub-optimal digestion and problems with gas, bloating, and malabsorption. If you think you may have low stomach acid, work with your natural health practitioner to find the right HCL dosage.
13. Marshmallow Root
Used for centuries in several ancient cultures, marshmallow root secretes mucilage, a gelatinous solution that coats and soothes irritated membranes and alleviates temporary inflammation in the gut. Marshmallow root can also create a protective layer that helps to seal tight junctions in the gut lining, helping to keep toxins from leaking into the bloodstream.
Quercetin is a flavonoid antioxidant found in plant foods like onions, apples, and citrus fruits. Research shows that quercetin assembles tight junction proteins that work to seal gaps in the gut barrier, thus protecting the rest of your body from microbes and other particles that could otherwise slip through9.
15. Resistant Starch
Resistant starch is an indigestible starch that reaches your colon intact to feed all the good bacteria there, enabling the good guys to produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate. Resistant starch can also improve insulin sensitivity, thereby improving your metabolism. Good sources include unripe bananas, potatoes, and legumes.
16. Slippery Elm
A North American staple since the 19th century, slippery elm is made from the inner bark of the elm tree. Slippery elm contains mucilage that coats and soothes the digestive tract and is also a potent antioxidant that relieves temporary inflammation. With its unique ability to both bulk up and soften stools, slippery elm is helpful for occasional diarrhea and constipation.
17. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 can calm temporary inflammation in the gut, but research shows that supplementation can also increase the diversity of your gut microbiome and ward off bad guy bacteria10. As a bonus, vitamin D3 can help your body metabolize glucose for improved insulin sensitivity.
Zinc—found in oysters, beef, nuts, and beans—is a mineral with significant protective properties for your gut. Not only does zinc protect and strengthen the gut barrier, but a deficiency can lead to gut membrane damage. Interestingly, zinc also seems to have a protective effect on your gut microbes, and a lack of this important mineral can negatively impact your microbiome11.
With so many valuable options to positively support your gut health, it’s a good idea to work with a functional or integrative practitioner to find the best supplements for your unique body.
Whether you are looking to find relief from occasional gas and bloating, or just want to optimize your digestion for more energy and vitality, taking the time to focus on the well-being of your gut is the first step to achieving long-lasting and vibrant health.
1. Cherbut, C., Michel, C., Raison, V., Kravtchenko, T., & Severine, M. (2003). Acacia Gum is a Bifidogenic Dietary Fibre with High Digestive Tolerance in Healthy Humans. Microbial Ecology in Health & Disease, 15(1). doi:10.3402/mehd.v15i1.7977
2. Cellini, L., Bartolomeo, S. D., Campli, E. D., Genovese, S., Locatelli, M., & Giulio, M. D. (2014). In vitro activity of Aloe vera inner gel against Helicobacter pylori strains. Letters in Applied Microbiology, 59(1), 43-48. doi:10.1111/lam.12241
3. Zimmerman, M. A., Singh, N., Martin, P. M., Thangaraju, M., Ganapathy, V., Waller, J. L., . . . Liu, K. (2012). Butyrate suppresses colonic inflammation through HDAC1-dependent Fas upregulation and Fas-mediated apoptosis of T cells. AJP: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 302(12).
4. Mehmood, M. H., Munir, S., Khalid, U. A., Asrar, M., & Gilani, A. H. (2015). Antidiarrhoeal, antisecretory and antispasmodic activities of Matricaria chamomilla are mediated predominantly through K -channels activation. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 15(1).
5. Marczylo, T. H., Verschoyle, R. D., Cooke, D. N., Morazzoni, P., Steward, W. P., & Gescher, A. J. (2006). Comparison of systemic availability of curcumin with that of curcumin formulated with phosphatidylcholine. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, 60(2), 171-177.
6. Marzorati, M., Vanhoecke, B., Ryck, T. D., Sadabad, M. S., Pinheiro, I., Possemiers, S., . . . Wiele, T. V. (2014). The HMI™ module: A new tool to study the Host-Microbiota Interaction in the human gastrointestinal tract in vitro. BMC Microbiology, 14(1), 133.
7. Bentley-Hewitt, K. L., Guzman, C. E., Ansell, J., Mandimika, T., Narbad, A., & Lund, E. K. (2015). How fish oils could support our friendly bacteria. Lipid Technology, 27(8), 179-182.
8. Larson, S. D., Li, J., Chung, D. H., & Evers, B. M. (2007). Molecular mechanisms contributing to glutamine-mediated intestinal cell survival. AJP: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 293(6).
9. Suzuki, T., & Hara, H. (2011). Role of flavonoids in intestinal tight junction regulation. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 22(5), 401-408.
10. Bashir, M., Prietl, B., Tauschmann, M., Mautner, S. I., Kump, P. K., Treiber, G., . . . Pieber, T. R. (2015). Effects of high doses of vitamin D3 on mucosa-associated gut microbiome vary between regions of the human gastrointestinal tract. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(4), 1479-1489.
11. Reed, S., Neuman, H., Moscovich, S., Glahn, R., Koren, O., & Tako, E. (2015). Chronic Zinc Deficiency Alters Chick Gut Microbiota Composition and Function. Nutrients, 7(12), 9768-9784.
Written by Jamie Morea, Gut Health Evangelist, Mama Bird & Co-founder of Hyperbiotics. For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.