A wise saying goes: “When in doubt, start with the gut.” In other words, if you’re struggling with health symptoms, you can take comfort in knowing that healing the gut is the right place to start. We’re not just referring to digestive symptoms, either. Chronic low energy, joint pain, acne, eczema, depression, low immunity, and difficulty losing weight have all been linked to an imbalanced gut microbiome.
Many people also suffer from chronic gut conditions. Twelve percent of Americans are said to have irritable bowel syndrome, and it’s believed even more cases go undiagnosed. (1) Leaky gut syndrome, SIBO, celiac disease, gut dysbiosis, and autoimmune conditions are rising, reminding us that caring for gut health is a priority.
What Is a Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The intestinal lining determines which substances can enter the circulation via the digestive system. The intestines are resistant to hazardous chemicals in a normal gut. Those hazardous compounds may begin to seep through the intestinal wall and into the circulation in someone with the severe leaky gut syndrome. A leaky gut condition is when the intestines are excessively permeable.
Many chronic diseases are associated with the leaky gut syndrome, including food allergies and intolerances, skin problems, autoimmune illnesses, and mental health disorders. Many supplements and other strategies may help you feel better if you have a leaky gut.
What Are the Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Stomach discomfort is something that everyone experiences at some point. However, persistent and painful stomach upset might be more than a minor inconvenience. The following are additional frequent symptoms of the leaky gut syndrome:
- abdominal pain
- digestive issues
- frequent food sensitivities
Other ailments can produce these indications.
How Is Leaky Gut Syndrome Diagnosed?
Whether leaky gut syndrome is an actual disease or not is still a contentious issue in medicine. However, a recent study has suggested intestinal hyperpermeability may have systemic ramifications. If you believe you have leaky gut syndrome, see your doctor for a diagnosis.
The intestinal permeability test (lactulose mannitol) is one of three tests that your doctor may use to diagnose the leaky gut syndrome. The levels of lactulose and mannitol, two undigestible sugars, are measured in the urine as part of the intestinal permeability assessment. These compounds might indicate a weakening of the intestinal wall, which would lead to increased gut permeability.
The zonulin test measures the amount of zonulin family protein (ZFP) antigen. ZFP has been linked to the breakdown of intestinal tight junctions.
The Best Natural Health Supplements for Gut Health
Where should you begin? There’s no arguing the path to a healthy microbiome is eating more plant foods and making positive lifestyle changes, like replacing happy hour with a yoga class. However, studies have shown that certain herbs, amino acids, and a group of antioxidants in tea can be supportive for improving symptoms and restoring gut health. Let’s take a look at which supplements made a list.
Disclaimer: For dosage and safety, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare practitioner before adding any supplement to your diet, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing.
A high-quality probiotic is probably the most important of all the supplements you could take. These beneficial bacteria are found all over the human body and lay the foundation for a healthy gut.
You can think of probiotics as the highly intelligent and high-functioning housekeepers of the digestive system— they do so much to keep our health in check.
Probiotics fight bad bugs, keep harmful pathogens away, promote a healthy bacterial balance, and boost immunity and infection resistance. Some strains of probiotics have even been linked to preventing obesity. They break down food, promote healthy bowel movements, aid in nutrient absorption, and help produce specific B vitamins— all in a day’s work.
Sadly, the modern-day diet and lifestyle tend to be unsupportive of these guys. Processed foods and refined sugar, antibiotics, excessive alcohol, and high stress can all contribute to wiping out your good bacteria. It leaves your microbiome highly susceptible to allowing bad bacteria and harmful pathogens to take over.
Having more bad bacteria than good— a condition known as gut dysbiosis— sets the stage for developing chronic health conditions. This is why it’s often necessary to take a probiotic supplement for gut repair and maintenance.
You can also get probiotics in your diet by eating fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, coconut milk yogurt, beet kvass, kimchi, and water kefir.
Caution: If you’re not used to eating fermented foods, start small and work to the recommended serving. It will prevent gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms that can show up as you begin to rebalance your gut bacteria.
How to Choose a Probiotic Supplement
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidus are two of the many strains of probiotics with names that sound very serious. They all have different health benefits.
For example, some strains of bacteria work best for acne, while others are known for fighting yeast and fungal infections. This area is where you’ll need to research or speak with a healthcare practitioner to find the right strain(s) for your needs.
As a general guideline for choosing a probiotic, you’ll want to:
- Check the expiration date on the probiotic supplement.
- Ensure your probiotic is not close to expiring. As living cultures, you want to make sure you’re ingesting these bacteria while they’re alive.
- Choose an enteric-coated probiotic
- Enteric coating on a probiotic supplement increases the chances of the bacteria surviving a long journey through the stomach acid, all the way to the intestines (2).
- Choose a probiotic supplement with 10-20 billion CFU strains (or more).
- The potency of a probiotic is measured by its CFU or colony-forming unit number. This number can range anywhere from 1 billion to 100 billion. For adults, the daily recommendation is 10-20 billion CFUs (3). A high-quality probiotic also will guarantee a CFU at expiry. It will contain at least the amount of bacteria stated on the label when it’s on its last legs.
- For long-term supplementation, choose a multiple strain probiotic.
- Even though we don’t know which probiotics are better, we know that a diverse microbiome with many different types of bacteria is essential for good gut health. (X)
You’d think prebiotics are the same with a nearly identical name to probiotics, but they’re not. They’re more like the “precursor” to probiotics.
Prebiotics are found in the fiber of plant foods and act as food for healthy gut bacteria. After all, probiotics are living cultures and need to be fed a healthy diet! Sometimes called gut fertilizer, prebiotics is necessary for growing a colony of beneficial gut bacteria.
Isn’t it crazy to think that we wouldn’t have probiotics without prebiotics, and neither you nor I would be here?
There are many different types of prebiotics. The most common are inulin, oligofructose, fructooligosaccharides (aka fructans), galactooligosaccharides, and resistant starch. You may have also heard of the prebiotic pectin, which your Grandma used to make strawberry jam.
Since the body doesn’t digest these fibers, they reach the small intestine still intact and head straight to the colon to be “digested” or fermented by healthy gut bacteria. Although this sounds like a recipe for flatulence, prebiotics can help control strains of bacteria that cause excessive gas!
There are two types of prebiotics: capsules and powdered supplements. You can also get them into your diet by eating more of these foods:
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Bananas (and unripe bananas)
- Green banana flour
- Dandelion greens
- Wild blueberries
- Beans and lentils
It’s recommended to get at least five grams of prebiotics daily for optimal gut health. In addition to these foods, a prebiotic supplement can help you meet your intake.
Why do regular tea drinkers live longer? It may have to do with the connection between the active ingredient in tea, called polyphenols, and their positive effect on gut bacteria.
Polyphenols have been most discussed as supportive of the cardiovascular system and healthy blood sugar levels. But a lesser-known fact is that they may also increase healthy gut bacteria.
One animal study found that green and black tea increased the number of healthy gut bacteria associated with lean body mass. It reduced the number of gut bacteria associated with obesity. (4) Whaaat? How could this happen?
Since the molecules in tea are too large to be absorbed in the small intestine, they must remain in the digestive tract for extended periods to be broken down. During this “waiting period,” they feed healthy gut bacteria. In this sense, the polyphenols in black tea act as a prebiotic. But, get this: polyphenols have also been shown to inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, suggesting they also take on a similar quality to probiotics.
Who knew that drinking tea could be one of the most influential and enjoyable rituals for gut health?
While black tea is the richest source of polyphenols, all green and herbal tea varieties will contain moderate amounts.
How to Choose a High-QualityPolyphenol Rich Tea
When it comes to getting polyphenols from tea, quality matters, the polyphenol content will largely depend on how the tea was grown, harvested, processed, and brewed.
To maximize the gut health benefits, you’ll want to look for a tea that meets these requirements:
- Made with leaves from the first flush (harvest) yields a higher polyphenol content.
- Ensure the leaves were minimally processed and not exposed to high heat, damaging the polyphenol content.
- Triple Toxin Screened for pesticides, heavy metals, and toxic mold.
- Otherwise, you risk ingesting anti-nutrients that are counter-productive to gut healing.
In addition to black and green tea, you can regularly eat plenty of other polyphenol-rich foods. You probably already have some of them in your kitchen: olive oil, black olives, raw cacao powder, and red wine (small amounts, in moderation). Here’s an in-depth list of polyphenol-rich foods.
Licorice Root Extract
Licorice root extract is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that can be used to improve a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms. Not only does it help soothe and support the repair of the gut lining. It can also be taken to reduce stomach pain, heartburn, ulcers, and indigestion. (18)
Because licorice root can be used to help the adrenal glands and lower stress levels, it may help people whose symptoms are triggered or worsened by stress.
How to Take Licorice Root
Licorice root can be brewed in tea or taken as a chewable tablet or capsule.
Licorice contains glycyrrhizinic acid, an immune-boosting acid that can negatively interact with certain medications (including those that lower potassium levels and increase hypertension).
In Chinese medicine, reishi mushrooms have been used for over 2000 years for energy, vitality, and fertility. (5) However, it may be another best-kept secret for reversing gut dysbiosis and positively altering healthy gut bacteria.
A study on mice showed that taking reishi mushroom extract with foods high in saturated fat could reverse harmful bacterial overgrowth induced by a high-fat diet.
Additionally, the reishi mushroom reduced fat tissue development and gut inflammation and prevented harmful bacteria in the bloodstream (6)
How to Take Reishi Mushroom
You can take Reishi mushrooms in powdered form, add them to smoothies, tea, or coffee, or use dehydrated reishi mushrooms for cooking.
Our ancestors consumed collagen from animal bones for hundreds of years by making bone broth. It wasn’t until recently that collagen protein supplements (sourced from cattle or fish bones) took the world by storm for promoting gut health.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. L-glutamine, proline, and glycine are anti-inflammatory amino acids that can help with a leaky gut syndrome, IBS, and your immune system. It makes it one of the most talked-about supplements for these things.
It helps heal irritated tissue in the digestive tract, which could be suitable for people with IBS or irritable bowel diseases, like Crohn’s disease, who need to eat a lot of food. It’s also believed that collagen helps seal the holes in the gut lining that cause a leaky gut. However, more clinical trials are needed to confirm this.
How to Take Collagen:
Collagen mixes well with smoothies, juices, and soups as a tasteless powder. You could add it to a gut-supportive, polyphenol-rich dessert-like avocado cacao mousse. Collagen dissolves well in virtually anything, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
A note on quality: Always source bones and collagen supplements from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows to avoid growth hormones and antibiotics.
Caution: If you experience digestive symptoms after taking protein supplements, you may want to start adding collagen to your diet by making a bone broth instead. Collagen is readily absorbed when released from simmering bones and connective tissue for long periods, with added vegetables and herbs to create a tasty, healing broth.
Berberine is an alkaloid found in the roots and stems of potent antibacterial herbs, such as tree turmeric and goldenseal. It’s commonly used as a natural antibiotic in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for GI tract infections and to destroy harmful pathogens, such as H.Pylori, candida, and staph infections (which often go undetected)
Berberine is safe to take daily. Studies show it can lower blood sugar levels and fight obesity by activating a metabolism-boosting enzyme called AMPK. (26)
The unique benefit of berberine is that it’s as powerful as an over-the-counter medication for killing bacteria— but unlike pharmaceuticals, it only destroys harmful bacteria and leaves the good bacteria intact. It is a significant win for gut health, as just one course of antibiotics can negatively impact your gut bacteria for a year.
Of all the botanicals, aloe vera is one we see most. It’s in everything from skincare products to bottled juices in corner stores. When taken from the pure gel or liquid of the plant beneath the leaf, you’ll discover a powerful natural remedy for improving digestion, relieving constipation, and soothing intestinal inflammation.
Aloe vera, an alkaline plant, can help balance the detrimental effects of acidic meals like refined sugar and animal protein, which foster the growth of undesirable germs and diseases.
How to Take Aloe Vera
If you have an aloe vera plant, you can take the juice directly from the plant and add two tablespoons of the gel to any juice or smoothie recipe. It’s refreshing when mixed with cucumber, filtered water, and lime juice.
Caution: Aloe vera should be used sparingly. A high dose of this herb will result in a laxative effect.
It may also interact with certain diabetic and diuretic medications. If you have health concerns, talk to your doctor before taking aloe vera.
When purchasing aloe vera juice, ensure it’s pure aloe with no sugar or other additives.
Curcumin, the ingredient in turmeric, also falls under the gut-supportive polyphenol umbrella. It’s a natural pain killer for its ability to fight inflammation. It may help improve symptoms of digestive disorders. (7)
In the past, an issue with curcumin supplementation was that despite all of its fantastic health benefits, it had an abysmal absorption rate. Clinical trials used unrealistic and large amounts of turmeric for their findings, which weren’t doable for people at home— however, a solution has been found.
You can now find supplements combined with phospholipids to form “curcumin phytosome,” allowing a much greater delivery to the bloodstream. This highly absorbable form of curcumin is much more effective in pain relief and the natural treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. (7)
As you can see, nature has provided an excellent pharmacy for healing and supporting the gut. While taking certain supplements regularly (such as probiotics) is ideal, not all supplements will need to be taken long-term. You can even begin improving your gut health right now by sipping on a strong cup of black tea.
Pique Tea is an excellent tea drink – a convenient, pure, high-quality tea with superior testing. When you’re drinking something every day, you want to ensure it is pure. Pique Tea is the only tea company to Triple Toxin Screen for heavy metals, toxic mold, and pesticides.
So you’re getting the most out of each brew. It uses a Cold Brew Crystallization method (which eliminates all heat and extracts the total antioxidant capacity of tea leaves) to create unique Tea Crystals.
You can use warm or cold water to make a robust and clean cup of tea on the go.
Other Treatment Options to Improve Gut Health Naturally
It is possible to treat leaky gut with dietary adjustments such as.
- Increase the amount of fiber you consume. Improve the gut microbiome by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Increasing fiber intake by eating more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains is one way to do so.
- Reduce sugar intake. Those fed a high-sugar diet exhibit epithelial barrier dysfunction. Keep your daily sugar intake below 37.5 grams and 25 grams for men and women, respectively. (13)
- Reduce inflammatory meals. Inflammation and intestinal permeability may be linked. Eat less red meat, dairy products, fried foods, and processed foods. (14)
- Definition & Facts for Irritable Bowel Syndrome | NIDDK (nih.gov)
- Enteric coating of granules containing the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Probiotics – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Black tea may help with weight loss, too | UCLA
- Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi) – Herbal Medicine – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Ganoderma lucidum reduces obesity in mice by modulating the composition of the gut microbiota – PMC (nih.gov)
- Therapeutic potential of curcumin in digestive diseases – PMC (nih.gov)
- Glutamine supplementation reduces markers of intestinal permeability during running in the heat in a dose-dependent manner – PMC (nih.gov)
- Glutamine and intestinal barrier function – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Gelatin tannate reduces the proinflammatory effects of lipopolysaccharide in human intestinal epithelial cells – PMC (nih.gov)
- Gastroprotective and gastric motility benefits of AD-lico/Healthy Gut™ Glycyrrhiza inflata extract – PMC (nih.gov)
- Intestinal Dysbiosis, Barrier Dysfunction, and Bacterial Translocation Account for CKD–Related Systemic Inflammation – PMC (nih.gov)
- Intestinal Barrier Function and the Gut Microbiome Are Differentially Affected in Mice Fed a Western-Style Diet or Drinking Water Supplemented with Fructose – PubMed (nih.gov)