Top 6 Supplements That Improve Your Gut Health
by Dr. Nancy Rahnama
Director of Health & Nurition
It’s not unusual for me to find a patient in my office saying they’re still experiencing digestive discomfort, even after their primary care physician or gastroenterologist has told them there’s nothing wrong with them. Of course, being told there’s nothing wrong with them is a comfort and a curse – because they’re still experiencing symptoms.
When this happens, I usually suggest some dietary tweaks to help ease their symptoms. Here are the 6 tweaks and supplements I recommend to my patients to help improve gut health:
6 Supplements That Help Improve Gut Health
We are often advised to increase the amount of fiber in our diet and there are good reasons for that. You need to ensure you have sufficient fiber for a healthy gut. It is found naturally in fruit and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains and provides a fertile environment in your gut for the growth of good bacteria. Fiber is also necessary for keeping your bowel movements healthy; it is responsible for bringing water into your gastrointestinal tract.
Other pluses of a high-fiber diet are:
It has been linked to lowering the risk of developing colorectal cancer, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease.
It may lower cholesterol levels.
It can help lower blood pressure.
It aids weight control.
Arguably the best fiber comes from whole foods but supplements are available should this prove insufficient for the individual.
Most of us eat too many processed foods and that can lead to inflammation of the gut. One way to offset the negative impact of processed foods is to take a natural anti-inflammatory such as turmeric, curcumin (the principal active ingredient of turmeric), or omega-3 fatty acids.
Such supplements can help decrease gut inflammation and promote a healthier environment where good bacteria can thrive. Some studies have suggested that turmeric improves heart health and reduces the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and some cancers. Omega-3s, too, have many other positive benefits such as improving your mood, better eye health, lowering the risk of heart disease, and much more, so it’s certainly not going to hurt increasing these foods in your diet.
Turmeric, particularly, is easy to add to your food as it has a mild taste, so you can add it to almost any recipe to increase it in your diet. Alternatively, take a turmeric supplement.
A healthy gut requires good bacteria and lots of them – and as many different sorts as possible. If you are experiencing poor gut health, you likely have an imbalance in your microbiome. Adding a probiotic to your routine may restore the good bacteria that live in your gut.
However, don’t go overboard. It’s easy to get sucked in my marketing on TV and think that one little probiotic drink will keep your gut healthy, no matter what you eat. Drastically increasing your probiotic intake can have negative results.
Too high a volume of probiotics (we’re talking 50 to 60 billion here) is associated with symptoms such as bloating or a worsening of gut health. So I always recommend starting slowly with probiotics.
In the absence of testing your stool to determine exactly what your gut microbiome is, I advise starting with a probiotic of around 5 billion and see how you feel after a couple of weeks. If there is no improvement of symptoms, then increase the number by another 5 billion every two weeks until symptoms improve. If you see no improvement, speak to your gastroenterologist or primary care physician for further help.
Glutamine is an amino acid that helps preserve the integrity of the intestinal lining, strengthens the immune system, and aids many other essential processes in your body. By keeping the lining of the gut in good repair, the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome are reduced. It is important to have a healthy glutamine intake and supplements are available as capsules or in powder form. It’s also available in a wide array of healthy foods, from chicken and fish to tofu, spinach, and lentils.
The purpose of the gut is to break down food so that the body can absorb the nutrients. Inflammation and too few good bacteria result in a decrease in the production of digestive enzymes, making the digestive process less efficient.
You need a mix of digestive enzymes:
Cellulase helps break down the cellulose found in vegetables and fruit
Lactase helps digest dairy products
Protease helps with protein digestion
Amylase breaks down carbs and starches
Lipase deals with fats
Supplements containing these enzymes are available and can help ease digestive problems. The correct dosage for you will depend on your age, weight, and so on, so you may need to experiment a little to find the right delay amount. Consult your doctor if in doubt.
Magnesium is the last on my list but by no means least. Many of us are deficient in this important mineral without realizing it, but magnesium helps promote the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that is mostly responsible for our “rest and digest” condition, regulating digestion and urination. Magnesium helps improve gut motility, the stretching and contraction of the muscles involved with the gastrointestinal tract, which is so essential to a healthy gut.
These six supplements can help to improve your gut health. You may not need all of them, and if you eat a balanced healthy diet, you may only need one or two, but many will find them an important addition to what they eat. A healthy gut is the foundation for a healthy life, and supplements can help keep our gut happy and balanced.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease. In addition to her private practice in Beverly Hills, she is also the co-founder and Director of Nutrition for Dr Nancy MD.
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