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 the just released Ancient Remedies.
By Dr. Josh Axe
A healthy gut microbiome is one of the most important aspects of overall health, considering your gut houses the majority of your immune system, plays a role in healthy weight management, and helps facilitate a normal inflammatory response.
If you generally have comfortable digestion, normal elimination, can eat a variety of foods and have healthy energy levels, these are all positive signs that you have a healthy functioning gut. However, if this is not the case, then you may want to focus more on your digestive health.
Along with changing your diet, taking the right supplements can make a big difference in addressing a healthy gut and gut lining. So what is the best supplement for supporting overall gut health?
There isn’t just one specific type of nutrient that supports gut health, rather there are several types of gut- and gut-lining supplements that can make a big impact in terms of supporting overall gastrointestinal health. These include supplements with herbs like marshmallow root and licorice root, as well as probiotics, collagen protein and digestive enzymes.
Why A Healthy Gut Lining Is Important
The cells that make up the lining of the intestinal wall are usually bound tightly together, making up what’s called “tight junctions,” leading to an overall healthy intestinal barrier.
Those tight junctions can be affected in part by a number of factors, including:
- a poor diet (low in fiber and high in sugar)
- alcohol use
- frequent use of certain medications
- genetic predisposition
Having a healthy gut microbiome means that you’re able to maintain a healthy intestinal barrier, as well as a healthy ratio of “good guy” to “bad guy” gut flora or beneficial types.
Some factors that can contribute to a healthy gut include:
- Eating a gut-friendly and overall healthy diet
- Getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber
- Managing stress
- Getting enough sleep
- Not smoking
- Limiting or excluding consumption of alcohol
- Limiting or avoiding environmental toxin exposure
Those tight junctions and the intestinal lining are capable of impacting more than your digestion. Because your immune system is mostly located in your gut, a healthy gut is needed for healthy immune system function.
Your gut also impacts your overall outlook — considering there are actually hundreds of millions of neurons located in your gastrointestinal tract, and these neurons send signals back and forth to your brain that can affect your outlook, energy, capacity to handle stress, and yes, your sleep.
Best Gut-Supporting Supplements
The following supplements can be helpful for keeping your gut on track. As always, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including dietary supplements.
1. “Leaky Gut” Supplement
Ancient Nutrition’s Leaky Gut capsules are formulated to support gut function with a powerful blend of botanicals formulated for gut integrity, as well as adaptogenic mushrooms and 2 Billion CFUs* of probiotics.
This multifaceted formula features the key ingredients: licorice root, astragalus, marshmallow, lion’s mane mushroom and L-glutamine, along with 2 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of Bacillus coagulans. Together these support digestive function health and promote healthy elimination, while also helping to maintain healthy gut microflora.
Here’s a bit more about reach ingredient found in these Leaky Gut capsules:
- Marshmallow root acts as an antioxidant and can help to generally soothe the lining of the gut while supporting overall gastrointestinal health.
- L-glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body and plays a key part in overall gut health. In general, L-glutamine supports gut integrity and a healthy gut lining.
- Licorice root is considered an adaptogenic herb that supports normal absorption of nutrients and a healthy response to stress. It can also help support the health of the mucosal lining of the gut.
- Astragalus is an herb rooted in Traditional Chinese Method (TCM) which is considered an adaptogen because it can help support overall health.
- Lion's mane mushrooms feature antioxidants, polysaccharides, beta glucans and beta-gluoxylan to support the gut and more.
For the best results, try taking Leaky Gut capsules on an empty stomach, either first thing in the morning or right before bed, at the same time each day. Please refer to the label directions for suggested use.
2. SBO Probiotics
A healthy gut is sometimes said to boil down to the ratio of “bad guy bacteria” vs. “good guy bacteria” populating your gastrointestinal system. Having higher levels of certain probiotic strains in the gut is associated with a range of health benefits, including support for healthy immune system function, nutrient absorption, elimination and digestive health.
To get the most benefits from probiotics, you want to consume a supplement that contains “hardy” and survivable microbial strains, which is what you’ll find in Ancient Nutrition’s soil-based organism (SBO) probiotics.
When reading probiotics labels keep a look out for the genus, species and strain. The label should also indicate the type of CFUs that are present at the time of manufacturing. Opt for a probiotic supplement that has at least 50 billion CFUs and ideally one with multiple bacterial strains. Keep a look out for beneficial strains like: Bacillus clausii, Bacillus subtilis, Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus coagulans.
If you’re looking for a quality probiotic supplement, consider Ancient Nutrition’s SBO Probiotic Gut Restore formula, which features 25 billion CFUs* (*at time of manufacture) of SBOs per serving in combination with organic fermented blends of superfoods and mushrooms. Within this formula you’ll find marshmallow root, licorice root, turkey tail mushroom, reishi mushroom and more for extra mind-body support.
Importantly, SBO Probiotic Gut Restore also features prebiotics and postbiotics to create a “trifecta effect” that supports absorption. Prebiotics provide the fuel necessary for probiotics to grow and thrive, while postbiotics help to maintain a balance of gut flora.
3. New Multi Collagen Protein
Collagen is the main type of protein in the body that gives connective tissues, including those that form the gut lining, their health and strength. Supplementing with collagen (or gelatin, which is derived from collagen) is important for gut health because it can help support a healthy gut, including a healthy gut lining. .
Using a collagen powder supplement each day is a convenient and effective way to help give your body the building blocks, in the form of amino acids, that it needs to make its own collagen.
Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein (MCP) powder features 5 types of collagen from four real food sources, plus it contains no fillers, sugar, artificial flavors or artificial preservatives, ensuring you get the highest quality collagen available. MCP specifically features hydrolyzed collagen, meaning the protein molecules are broken into smaller molecules, making them easier for your body to digest, absorb and use.
MCP comes in several flavors including the pure/unflavored formula which can be mixed into coffee, smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, soups, and many other recipes. Aim to consume between 1–3 servings daily, or about 10 to 30 grams of collagen protein.
4. Multi Collagen Protein Gut Restore
In addition to providing you with collagen protein, Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein Gut Restore formula provides you with 1 billion CFUs of soil-based organism (SBO) probiotics, powerful prebiotics and two kinds of glutamine for overall gut support.
One serving contains 9 grams of protein from five types of collagen (types I, II, III, V and X), all derived from sustainable sources, along with botanicals like ginger root, licorice root and peppermint leaf extract which have general digestive-soothing effects.
Together, collagen plus probiotics, glutamine and botanicals help promote healthy gut microflora, support integrity of the gut lining, reduce occasional bloating, and more, such as supporting healthy joints and skin. Try mixing one heaping scoop, which has a light lemon/ginger flavor, with 8 ounces of water, juice, tea or your favorite smoothie.
5. Bone Broth Protein
Bone Broth Protein (BBP) powder features collagen, which as you know supports healthy connective tissues throughout the body including those needed for healthy gut function.
Additionally, BBP is chock full of minerals and nutrients that further support digestive health — including glucosamine, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.
When made into a powdered supplement, Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Protein powders are derived from real bone broth liquid but dehydrated. This concentrated powder is shelf-stable, convenient and has many uses in a variety of recipes. It’s an excellent way to obtain more amino acids, especially the types called glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine, that are not found in high amounts in meat, fish and eggs.
BBP can be consumed 1–3 times daily to increase protein/amino acid intake. (Be sure to read and follow label directions for use.) BBP powders come in several flavors and mix easily with water, green juice, coffee, almond/coconut milk or smoothies, and can even be baked with or cooked.
6. Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes help break down proteins, complex sugars and starches in our diets, which can in turn support normal digestion and nutrient absorption.
For the greatest digestive benefit, take one or two capsules of digestive enzyme supplements before and after your main meals. (Check label for directions for use.) Ideally, opt for a full spectrum enzyme supplement that contains the following:
- Protease — helps break down proteins (including gluten)
- Amylase — helps break down starches
- Lipase — helps break down fats
- Lactase — helps breaks down lactose in dairy
Foods to Include
To help keep your GI system back on track, focus on eating nourishing foods high in fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and probiotics.
Probiotic/fermented foods are especially beneficial for supporting your gut with healthy microbes. And high fiber foods in your diet (especially prebiotic foods) will help probiotics to thrive. As long as it doesn’t seem to worsen any digestive issues, aim for 35 to 40 grams of fiber per day.
Here are some of the best foods to focus on when addressing gut health and gut lining health:
- Bone broth, which contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help support the integrity of the gut lining
- Sprouted chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds
- Steamed vegetables and fruit
- Raw cultured dairy products, such as pastured kefir, yogurt, amasai, butter and raw cheese
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kvass
- Coconut products such as coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut kefir
- Healthy fats including egg yolks, avocados, ghee and olive oil
- High quality protein foods that contain healthy omega-3 fats, such as grass-fed beef, lamb and wild-caught fish like salmon
- Teas including green, black, ginger and echinacea tea
Foods to Avoid
What foods should you avoid if you are wanting to support your gut health? Eliminating the following foods is recommended in favor of those that are more nutrient-dense:
- Unsprouted grains, especially those containing gluten (wheat, rye and barley) — note that sprouting and fermenting grains reduces phytates and lectins, making these foods easier to digest
- Processed foods made with added sugar, GMO ingredients and synthetic additives
- Refined oils
- Conventional dairy products
- Heavy alcohol use