Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
8 min read
Here’s one way to think about your gut microbiome. Picture city sidewalks on a busy, bustling workday, more people than you can count shuffling about, trying to get to their jobs and appointments, eager to perform the day’s duties. That’s sort of what your gut microbiome is like. It consists of trillions of microorganisms – sometimes called microbiota or microbes – consisting of thousands of different species of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. And they all have jobs to do. When your body is in good health, they all coexist in harmony, mainly within your small and large intestines.
The microbiome is responsible for helping your body operate smoothly from day to day. Studies have shown that the gut microbiome is crucial to our health in a variety of ways, having a particularly big influence on nutrient absorption, digestion, and the health of our immune system. For reasons discussed below, maintaining healthy gut microbiota is important for the overall health of your body.
If TikTok is any indication, gut health is on the top of a lot of people’s minds these days – and for good reason. As we learn more and more about gut health and its impact on just about every aspect of our overall health and well-being, people are looking for ways to support and heal their guts.
Your gut doesn’t simply exist on its own. The health of your gut concerns your entire digestive system – all the parts of your body that break down food to turn into the nutrients your body needs to perform its daily functions. Each part of your gut has different colonies of microorganisms that do different jobs, each working to break food into digestible forms.
It’s easy to see why your gut health would have effects throughout the body, then; all the fuel your body is getting starts with being broken down in the gut! Experts are increasingly recognizing that gut health can support mental health, hormonal health, skin health, and more.
How can we maintain healthy guts? Diet and environmental factors are key. Let’s take a look at some supplements that may be helpful to your overall gut health.
When you’re thinking about supplements to support gut health, probiotic supplements should come immediately to mind. They’re the primary gut health supplement. Probiotics contain live microorganisms that help your gastrointestinal tract repopulate with “good” bacteria. Different strains of bacteria offer different health benefits, but the key is to have more of the good than the bad, and that’s partly why probiotics are so useful.
While clinical studies of probiotics are still emerging, research has demonstrated their effectiveness in improving gut health. Studies have shown that probiotics may restore the composition of the microbiome and that the function of the microbiome has a direct impact on our health. One study that looked at probiotic use and gut health in athletes found that probiotic use reduced negative gastrointestinal symptoms by one-third. A review of other existing studies also found that the use of probiotic-derived products may be beneficial to gut health. Per another study, it’s important when choosing which probiotic to use to consider which bacterial strain is best-suited to your particular circumstance. Consulting with a medical professional might prove useful in this regard. Still, you may want to consider a broad-spectrum probiotic containing a wide range of strains. Care/of offers a probiotic blend – aptly named “The Harmonious Gut” – that can help regulate your digestive system.
Peppermint oil has what’s called “antispasmodic effect,” which basically means it helps calm the gut. That’s why it’s traditionally been used to address abdominal and stomach discomfort, including nausea, vomiting, and morning sickness. An animal study found that peppermint likely achieves this effect by relaxing the gastrointestinal smooth muscle. Because immediate release formulations of peppermint oil can lead to reflux, you should ideally look for coated capsules as a supplement. The safety of peppermint ingestion for pregnant people remains unknown, and the use of peppermint oil capsules hasn’t been studied in children younger than 8 years old.
Licorice root has been in traditional use for centuries. It’s been shown to help with abdominal discomfort and other gut-related problems. Indeed, studies have shown that deglycyrrhizinated licorice can be effective at alleviating stomach problems in patients. DGL also has properties that can be considered soothing and can be helpful with acid reflux and digestive discomfort. Another study showed that a combination of licorice and peppermint helped improve symptoms of gastric and intestinal discomfort. Furthermore, licorice has been shown to have antioxidant-like properties.
Chamomile is one of the world’s most widely used medicinal plants, celebrated for its range of health benefits. As far as gut health is concerned, chamomile can be beneficial for its antispasmodic properties, which may be soothing to your digestive tract. Traditionally, one of its main roles has been as a multipurpose digestive aid, helping address a variety of gastrointestinal disturbances. So, if you’re looking to support a healthier gut, you can’t go wrong with sitting down and enjoying a nice chamomile tea.
When you were young and had a stomach ache, your parents probably gave you Ginger Ale. There’s a reason for that. Gingerol, a natural component of the ginger root, has health benefits for your gut, including gastrointestinal motility. Gingerol has antioxidant properties and can help with bloating, gas, and nausea. Indeed, a systematic review of clinical trials showed that a lower daily dosage of 1500 mg of ginger can be beneficial for nausea relief. Moreover, the same review found that ginger posed no risk for side effects during pregnancy.
L-Glutamine is a non-essential acid, which means it can be synthesized in the body. During periods of stress, your body’s need for it can go up, and it must be further obtained through diet or supplementation. It’s the most abundant free amino acid in the bloodstream and is important to your intestinal cells. L-Glutamine directly supports gut health in crucial respects. First of all, it helps sustain the proper balance of the gut microbiome. And, second of all, it bolsters the integrity of the intestinal lining by increasing the expression of tight junction proteins.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, as well as one of the most important. It makes up roughly 90% of our connective tissue and bone mass and 70% of our skin. Our collagen levels decrease as we age, and sometimes supplementation is considered necessary. Collagen also has benefits for our gastrointestinal health, regulating the production of gastric juices and stomach acid while aiding digestion. Consider the study that looked at the effect of a daily collagen peptide supplement on the digestive symptoms of healthy women: It found that the use of a 20g collagen peptide supplement can improve digestion in otherwise healthy women, absent any other interventions. The key to sound collagen supplementation, though, is to take account of the quality of the product and how much you’re taking. Care/of’s collagen is available in two forms: Vegetarian Collagen, which is made with eggshell membranes, and Collagen, which is derived from grass-fed cows.
Psyllium is a widely used treatment to support bowel movements and promote gut health. It’s considered a prebiotic, or a healthy plant fiber that supports the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. When taking psyllium, it’s important to stay hydrated.
Artichoke is a Mediterranean plant whose leaf, stem, and root can be used to make extracts. Artichoke supplements have prebiotic-like properties. One study of subjects who took fruit and vegetable shots containing Jerusalem artichoke inulin confirmed the prebiotic efficacy of artichoke. Another study showed that taking 5 to 15g Jerusalem artichoke per day was beneficial to gut health – with evidence a prebiotic effect. Furthermore, an assessment of the prebiotic potential of artichoke in vitro showed supported claims for artichoke’s prebiotic character.
Some minor lifestyle adjustments can go a long way toward supporting your gut health.
With the increasing recognition that diet is crucially important to the activity of the microbiome, you may want to consider some tweaks to your diet. One thing you can do is to try to cut back ultra-processed foods or foods with high sugar content, since these have been shown to be harmful to our microbiota. Then you can also work some healthier, antioxidant-rich, fiber-rich foods into your diet. You can’t go wrong eating more whole grains (a big help, thanks to their fiber content). Likewise, you’ll be well served by eating more fruits and veggies – and by staying hydrated.Something else you can try is to work just a little more exercise into your schedule. Recent studies show that exercise can boost the number of beneficial microbial species in the gut, supporting a healthy body overall. Then, of course, you can try to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. While poor gut health can contribute to sleep problems, taking steps to make sure you get better sleep can have the reverse effect.
People are increasingly recognizing that the health of your gut is vitally important to the health of the rest of your body. To promote gut health, you want to make sure you get enough nutrients – nutrients that will ensure that your gut has more good bacteria than bad bacteria. Taking some of the supplements above can help you on your journey toward gut healing. Talk to a medical professional about the right course for you.