15 Science-Backed Supplements for Gut Health

Medically Reviewed By Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN
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Maintaining good gut health can help relieve gastrointestinal symptoms. It is also crucial to the function of the wider body. Having healthy gut bacteria can also help protect you from external diseases and certain conditions. A standard Western diet can be harmful to your gut bacteria. Taking certain supplements can support the health of your gut microbiome and optimize its function.

Always check with a doctor before taking supplements or changing dosages. Not all of them are appropriate for people with specific lifestyle factors, medications, or conditions. A doctor can help you choose the safest and most effective way to support your gut health.

Read on to learn about 15 supplements that can help promote intestinal health.

1. Probiotics

a person is taking a supplement pill with a glass of water
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In 2012, the National Health Interview Survey found that probiotics were third in the list of most common supplements in the United States.

Probiotic supplements contain living microorganisms that thrive in the gut, which provides some health benefits. These include:

  • helping maintain optimal levels of healthy bacteria in the gut
  • producing healthy substances within the gut
  • improving your immune response, which helps protect against illnesses

Like all dietary supplements, probiotic supplements do not require Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the effects listed on the pack will occur.

Another way you can increase the probiotics in your diet is by consuming fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha.

2. Licorice root

Licorice root is useful for food flavoring, and it is also a widely used supplement for gut health. Some people believe that it can be beneficial for digestive issues because, according to one 2018 review, it can act as a mild laxative and has anti-inflammatory qualities.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that there is no definitive scientific evidence to prove that licorice root is beneficial for gut health.

However, the same 2018 review suggests that licorice could have powerful effects on regulating gut microbiota in test tubes and may help promote the growth of several healthy gut bacteria. That said, results did vary.

3. L-glutamine

According to a 2017 review, glutamine is a key nutrient for intestinal health. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which are important for conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and colorectal cancer. This is because inflammation plays a key role in the development of these conditions.

Some researchers have theorized that taking glutamine supplements could be especially helpful for people with inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, because these individuals may have lower levels of this crucial compound in their bodies. The results of several animal studies seem to confirm this, though tests involving humans have seen mixed results.

4. Slippery elm

Slippery elm has a long history of providing health benefits for the gut, including helping treat hyperacidity, ulcerative conditions, and weak mucous membranes.

However, one 2018 review states that plant preservation-focused organizations have classified slippery elm as endangered, so substitutes are preferable where possible.

Slippery elm contains polysaccharides, which provide significant health benefits to the gut microbiota.

5. Peppermint

A 2019 review notes that peppermint has a variety of qualities that are important in supporting gut health, including:

  • antimicrobial, which means that it can kill harmful bacteria
  • anti-inflammatory, which means that it reduces inflammation
  • antioxidant, which means that it can protect cells against damage
  • immunomodulating, which means that it can boost the immune system
  • anesthetic, which means that it can help with pain management

Scientific studies have produced mixed results on how effective peppermint can be. However, the researchers behind the review conclude that peppermint oil can be a safe way to help relieve abdominal pain and other symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

6. Inulin

Inulin is a type of prebiotic, which means that the body does not digest it. Instead, it ferments in the stomach and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria there.

One 2020 review looked at the effects of inulin supplementation on gut health but did not find conclusive results. However, a 2019 study that looked at the impact on the gut health of people consuming more vegetables containing high levels of inulin showed positive results. It suggested that this increased consumption may improve the gut microbiota and its function and improve people’s food-related behaviors.

Vegetables that are good sources of inulin include:

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • leeks
  • garlic

7. Collagen protein powder

According to a 2019 review, collagen peptides may have the ability to help “maintain, reinforce, or repair” the intestinal mucosa, which is important for gut health. Supplements from Alaska pollock skin-derived collagen peptides could help reduce inflammation in the intestines and elsewhere in the body.

However, one 2020 review found that consuming too many collagen peptides could lead to liver dysfunction and weight gain. Using the supplement for too long may also have negative effects on the gut microbiota. Therefore, researchers recommend that people do not consume too many collagen peptides.

You should discuss your collagen peptide supplementation with your doctor to ensure that you are taking the correct dosage.

8. Chamomile

A 2016 systematic review looked at the effects of chamomile on the body. Chamomile can protect the body against many illnesses, but the researchers highlighted its benefits for gastrointestinal disorders, including ulcerative colitis, in particular.

Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which means that it can reduce inflammation and destroy harmful gut bacteria while promoting a healthy gut microbiome. It can also help ease diarrhea.

9. Ginger

A 2021 study looked at the effects of ginger juice on study participants. It found that ginger juice could promote gut health by helping modulate the gut microbiota composition. This ability means that ginger could also help manage obesity.

You can take ginger in the form of pills or juice or by incorporating it into your meals.

10. Wormwood

Wormwood, or Artemisia, is known to be effective in helping manage gastrointestinal conditions and indigestion. This is due to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.

Different types of wormwood have different properties, according to traditional medicine. For example, Artemisia princeps, or Japanese mugwort, may help treat inflammation and diarrhea.

11. Moringa leaf powder

Moringa leaf can have positive effects on the gut microbiota, thereby promoting healthy gut bacteria. The researchers behind a 2018 study involving mice suggested that it can help reduce levels of inflammation in the body and help manage obesity due to its positive effects on the gut.

It may also help reduce the effects of leaky gut syndrome, which affects the lining of the intestines.

12. Marshmallow root

Marshmallow root contains fluids with antioxidants, which may help reduce irritation from digestive problems such as ulcers by forming a coating over the digestive tract.

Researchers have suggested that it may be especially useful in preventing ulcers from the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Powdered marshmallow root could also be useful in protecting against acid reflux because it would allow for direct contact with membranes in order to form a protective coating on the throat and esophagus.

13. Psyllium

People often use psyllium to help treat constipation. This is because it retains water in the intestine, which can make for easier bowel movements.

Psyllium can also have positive effects on the gut microbiota, thereby promoting healthy bacteria. This is especially the case in people with constipation.

14. Artichokes

The positive effects of artichokes on digestive health have been evident in both experimental and clinical trials. Specifically, it can help with bowel issues and is especially useful for promoting liver health. It can also help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.

In terms of gut health, artichokes can improve digestion and relieve nausea and flatulence. However, it is important to check with your doctor before starting artichoke supplementation. This is because artichokes can increase bile secretion and may be dangerous for people with obstructive gall bladder disease.

15. Bentonite clay

Bentonite clay may be helpful for:

  • easing diarrhea
  • relieving constipation
  • promoting the growth of gut flora and thereby increasing nutrient absorption

Historical studies have suggested that bentonite clay can be especially helpful in easing diarrhea in people with viral infections, food allergies, colitis, and food poisoning.

Summary

Several supplements — including marshmallow root, chamomile, and psyllium — can have positive effects on gut health. For example, they can help boost healthy gut bacteria and relieve gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, flatulence, and constipation. By promoting gut health, they can also have positive effects on the wider body, helping protect you from certain illnesses and conditions.

Always check with your doctor before taking a supplement. Not all of them are appropriate to take if you have certain health conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your doctor can also help you understand the safest and most effective dosage.

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Medical Reviewer: Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN
Last Review Date: 2022 Jan 24
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.