6 Key Nutrients for a Healthy Gut: Best Foods & Supplements

Posted by Ethan Boldt on

By Dr. Josh Axe

If your goals include promoting healthy digestion and immune system function, and learning how to support gut health, then it helps to first become knowledgeable about the best nutrients for gut health.

Which microbes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients does a healthy gut need most? 

The truth is, gut function is very complex and requires a number of different nutrients on a steady basis. For example, probiotics help to support nutrient absorption, vitamin C plays a role in promoting healthy immune function, and magnesium assists in muscle function and generally promotes healthy elimination.

In order to help support gut integrity, a healthy microbiome and general digestive health, we focus on the nutrients (including best foods for the gut) below — which include probiotics, zinc, vitamins C and D, and several others. 

Ideally, we’d all be able to get these nutrients from a well-rounded diet; however, when that’s not possible, supplements for gut health are another good option. As always, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including supplementation.

1. SBO Probiotics

One of the most well-known and highly recommended gut supplements is probiotics, which are “good guy” bacteria that help populate the gut microbiome.  

SBO (soil based organism) probiotics are a particular type of probiotic found in soil that are considered “hardy” and tolerant to the harsh conditions of the stomach, which greatly helps with absorption. 

Why it's important to gut health: 

Probiotics support many functions in the gut, including: nutrient absorption, a healthy immune system, elimination, digestion and more. 

Supplementing with probiotics can also help reduce occasional constipation, diarrhea, bloating and flatulence/gassiness.

When you consume more beneficial probiotics, you also help crowd out “bad guy” bacteria — thereby supporting a healthy balance of microbes in the gut that is needed for healthy immune system function.

Are you getting enough? 

If you eat a modern, processed diet and don’t regularly eat fermented foods, then chances are you could use more probiotics in your diet and supplement routine.

Best foods:

Fermented foods are the best sources of probiotics, including: yogurt, kefir, amasi, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut.

Supplement options:

Most children and adults can benefit from a daily probiotic supplement, often taken in capsule form. We take an SBO Probiotic, which has the ability to survive harsh conditions in the GI tract. 

Depending on your interests, try Ancient Nutrition's SBO Probiotics Gut RestoreSBO Probiotics Ultimate formula, or our formulas made specifically for women and men.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is an electrolyte mineral that the body uses for over 300 different functions. It’s needed for muscle and nerve health, which support healthy elimination. 

Why it's important to gut health: 

Overall, this mineral promotes healthy bowel function and supports healthy elimination. Some find that it can help “move things along” digestion-wise, because it facilitates normal muscular contractions.

Are you getting enough? 

Many people lack magnesium in their diets, due to eating too little fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of processed foods. It’s ideal to consume magnesium foods regularly since your body uses this mineral on an ongoing basis.

Best foods:

The best sources include: leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, wheat germ, wheat and oat bran. To be sure you’re eating the most mineral-rich foods possible, opt for organic produce whenever possible.

Supplement options:

You can choose to take a daily magnesium supplement, whether in capsule or powder form, or a gut-supporting formula that features magnesium plus other gut supplements. 

For example, our SBO Probiotic Gut Restore formula combines magnesium with probiotics, organic licorice, marshmallow and zinc to deliver overall support for healthy elimination, reduction of occasional bloating, gas, diarrhea, a healthy immune system and more.

Another option is Ancient Nutrients Magnesium Capsules which feature a potent combination of immune health-supporting real-food ingredients with body-ready magnesium and vitamin D.

3. Collagen

Collagen is a structural protein that helps to build and promote healthy connective tissues, including those that form the gut lining. It’s made up of linked amino acids, including glycine, proline and arginine, which aren’t available in high amounts from other protein sources.

Why it’s important to gut health:

Having a healthy gut microbiome means that you’re able to maintain a healthy intestinal barrier. This supports healthy immune function, digestion, nutrient absorption and elimination.

Are you getting enough?

If you don’t drink bone broth regularly or take a collagen supplement, then you’re probably not consuming a lot of collagen. 

There isn’t a daily recommended amount for adults; however, adults often can consume between 1–3 servings of collagen protein powder daily, or about 10 to 30 grams of collagen protein. Be sure to read and follow label directions for use, however. 

Best foods:

The greatest source of collagen is bone broth, a traditional stock made with animal parts including bones and connective tissues. Collagen isn’t widely available in other foods, but consuming a balanced diet with protein and antioxidants (such as from meat, fish, vegetables and fruits) helps your body to synthesize its own collagen. 

Supplement options: 

Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein (MCP) powder (and Multi Collagen Capsules) promotes a healthy gut, in addition to supporting healthy skin, hair and nails. 

This non-GMO and gluten-free formula provides 10 types of protein and is made from four real food sources. It contains no fillers, sugar, artificial flavors or artificial preservatives, ensuring you get the highest quality collagen available.

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C might seem more like an immune health-supporting vitamin than a gut supplement;  however, vitamin C helps the body synthesize collagen, which forms connective tissues that promote the health of the gut lining.

Why it's important to gut health: 

Considering collagen is needed to promote gut lining integrity, vitamin C is an important nutrient you don’t want to lack in order to support digestion and gut health.  

Additionally, it supports a healthy immune defense and promotes healthy antioxidant activity. 

Other roles of vitamin C for gut health include helping to facilitate absorption of iron and facilitating protein metabolism. Additionally, it’s thought to help with balance of microbes in the gut, and may help promote a healthy gut barrier.

Are you getting enough? 

It’s recommended that adult men get at least 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day, and that adult women get at least 75 milligrams daily. These are considered minimum amounts to meet most adults’ needs

If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, then you’re probably consuming a good amount of vitamin C. However, those who lack fresh produce in their diets  — especially things like leafy greens, berries and other fruits— may come up short on C.

Best foods:

The best dietary sources of vitamin C include: kiwi, citrus fruits, leafy greens like spinach and kale, all types of berries, pineapple, mango, bell peppers and cruciferous veggies like broccoli.

Supplement options:

You can take a vitamin C supplement with or without food, at any time of day. Be sure to read and follow label directions for use. 

For additional gut support, healthy immune defenses and antioxidant activity, we combine clinically studied vitamin C with SBO probiotics in our Ancient Nutrients - Vitamin C + Probiotics Capsules.

5. Zinc

Zinc is functionally involved in hundreds of enzymatic functions in the body and considered an essential mineral that is second only to iron in terms of its concentration.

Why it's important to gut health:  

As an essential mineral, zinc is important for maintaining overall healthy immune defenses and supporting generally healthy digestion. It also helps to support a normal intestinal barrier, a balanced microbiome, and helps break down carbohydrates which supply the body with energy. 

Are you getting enough? 

Many people looking to support their gut health may not have sufficient levels of zinc in their body. Those who avoid animal products (like meat and eggs) or who don’t eat a balanced diet that includes a wide range of foods may also lack zinc. 

Best foods:

Zinc is found in the highest concentrations in foods including: red meat, organ meats, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains and dairy products.

Supplement options:

Zinc can be taken daily with or without a meal; however, it’s best not to take higher doses at the same time as taking other minerals. Again, always read and follow label directions for use. 

We recommend enzyme activated zinc, which is easier to digest and utilize. Ancient Nutrients Zinc + Probiotics Capsules feature highly-absorbable zinc in combination with probiotics for extra digestive and healthy immune system support.

6. Vitamin D

Also called “the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is a unique nutrient because our bodies get it mostly from sunshine exposure. It has numerous roles for different bodily systems, including supporting healthy immune system function and gut integrity.

Why it's important to gut health: 

You need enough vitamin D to maintain normal levels of inflammation and for promoting healthy immune defenses. It can help to maintain a normal microbiome and gut lining, which is where many immune cells, hormones and neurotransmitters are made.

Are you getting enough? 

A high percentage of adults are believed to be lacking vitamin D, considering many people don’t spend much time in the sun. People can particularly come up short on vitamin D during the winter months and in locations where people are mostly indoors. 

Best foods:

The best way to get enough vitamin D is to expose your skin to direct sunlight in small amounts (about 10 to 20 minutes per day without sunscreen). Dietary sources of vitamin D can also help, such as: eggs, fish like salmon and sardines, organ meats, fortified dairy products including milk and cheese, and some mushrooms.

Supplement options:

D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) is thought to be the more absorbable type of vitamin D compared to D2; therefore, it’s best to look for a D3 supplement. Vitamin D should be taken with a meal since it’s a fat-soluble nutrient. 

Ancient Nutrition’s Vitamin D Capsules feature probiotic-fermented Vitamin D3 combined with vitamin K and botanicals to provide general healthy immune system support. Adults can take one capsule per day to help maintain normal levels.

Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food and nutrition. He operates leading natural health website DrAxe.com and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health supplement company. He’s also author of the books Eat Dirt, Essential OIls: Ancient Medicine, Keto Diet, Collagen Diet and Ancient Remedies.