Chalkboard depicting fermented superfoods, gut-friendly foods, and a colorful meat and vegetable dish by The Healthy RD

Gut-Healing Diet Tips + Helpful Supplements

A gut healing diet can be easy and empowering.

You can take many steps with your diet to improve your digestion, absorption, and these will help your whole body in the process.

A huge key for a gut-healing diet is to improve the type of food and the number of healthy bacteria that live in your digestive tract.  You should also make sure the lining of your digestive tract is healthy and strong.  This blog will describe the structure of the digestive tract and give you easy ways to keep you, your digestive tract, and your healthy bacteria -happy.

You can start one-by-one by increasing foods in the gut healing diet food list or do all of these at once for maximum impact on your digestive health. 

Keep in mind, we are all a bit different, so sometimes when one doesn’t help, try several other tips included here. You can download the free food list PDF below and also get tips on recommended brands and a gut-healing smoothie recipe.

Gut Healing Diet Food List

The following foods are great for gut healing. You can also get a free downloadable PDF here :

  • Bone Broth
  • Mushrooms
    • Specifically, chaga and reishi are known to help support gut health, mood, and immunity.
  • Polyphenols
    • Spices, fruits, vegetables, seeds
  • Fermented foods– vegetables and cultured foods
    • fresh sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, unsweetened yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, honey kefir, water kefir, coconut yogurt, fermented cheeses like gouda, cheddar, swiss, blue cheese, gorgonzola, buttermilk, aged goat cheese
      • *only include dairy if you have ruled out sensitivity
  • Coconut shreds, unsweetened
  • Sprouted seeds
    • Broccoli, chia, flax, bean, mustard, onion, pea shoots, clover, alfalfa, sunflower seeds, and more. Learn how to sprout seeds here.
  • Healthy Fats
    • coconut milk, nuts (if not sensitive), egg yolks, ghee, avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil — all coconut products are especially good for your gut because they are easier to digest and help deter “bad bugs.”  Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics.
  • Fish
    • Wild salmon, light tuna, sardines, scallops, clams, shrimp, oysters, anchovies, squid, and other mercury-safe fish
  • Meat
    • Grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, organic turkey, chicken, and other natural meats, eggs, if not sensitive
  • Fruits
    • blueberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, barberries, blackberries, papaya, mango, kiwi, pineapple, bananas, strawberries, grapes, coconut, figs, dates, apricots, peaches, nectarines
  • Fresh, non-starchy vegetables
    • Broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, carrots, arugula, eggplant, beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach, ginger, parsnips, zucchini, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, kohlrabi, squash, turnips, rutabaga, parsley, cilantro
  • Root vegetables
    • Sweet potatoes, beets, yams, carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes
  • Gluten-free grains
    • Buckwheat, amaranth, gluten-free oats, gluten-free pasta, brown rice, wild rice, sorghum, teff, and gluten-free oats.
  • Herbs and spices
    • All herbs and spices are encouraged.  Include ginger and turmeric frequently. Caution with hot peppers if you are sensitive to nightshade vegetables. Fennel seeds for digestion as well as coriander and caraway are some of my favorites.
  • Beverages
    • Bone broth, teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water, and kombucha.
  • Nuts
    • Nuts contain healthy fats and are ideal if sprouted.  It is best to vary your intake of nut types. Can include peanuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, chestnuts, and nut-based products, such as nut milk.
    • Make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of the above.  If you have a thyroid disorder, it is best to cook nuts to reduce goitrogens.

Related: SIBO diet plan pitfalls + how to eat to feel better

List of Foods to Avoid or Limit

Allergens, sensitivities, and chemicals can worsen your digestion as described above.  Here is a list of foods to consider avoiding when you are following a gut-healing diet:

  • Wheat containing foods
    •  Bread, pasta, cereals,  crackers, wheat flour, tortillas, couscous, etc.
      • Labels now require products to list if they contain wheat
  • Other gluten-containing grains and foods
    • Barley, rye, bulgur, Kamut, spelt, seitan, triticale, oats, beer, most packaged foods
  • Processed meats
    • Cold cuts, deli meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, charcuterie
  • Packaged baked goods
    • Cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, pastries, tortillas, buns, and pizza
  • Condiments with added sugars
    • such as barbecue sauces, teriyaki, hoisin, salad dressings, and more
  • Snack foods
    •  potato chips, most crackers, candy bars, sweetened snack bars, such as granola bars, most gum
  • Fast foods
  • Dairy
    • Milk, half and half, and ice cream
  • Processed and refined oils
    • Peanut, canola, vegetable oil, sunflower, soybean, and safflower oils
  • Artificial sweeteners
    • Aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame K, and saccharin
  • Sauces
    • Salad dressings, as well as soy, teriyaki, and hoisin sauce; these can contain numerous additives and common sensitivities unless salad dressings are homemade
  • Beverages
    • Alcohol, carbonated beverages, and other sugary drinks.

Why Gut Healing is So Important

Research has exploded in this area, and all signs point to the idea that your gut is the window to your health.  This means that if your digestive tract is healthy, you have less risk of all diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, mental health disorders, and more [R].

Functional medicine is based primarily on healing your gut with food.  How do we do this?

We need to consider the following factors for gut healing [R]:

  • The health of the gut lining
  • Factors that can cause a leaky gut
  • Bacteria and microorganism content, also known as the microbiome
  • Exposures to toxins
  • Nutrients that heal gut tissue
  • Stress levels
  • Our daily environment

Structure of our Digestive System

The lining of the digestive tract is made up of cell types called epithelial cells [R]. 

Our gut lining is only one cell thick of these cells!

This lining of the gut is called the brush border.  The brush border protects us from the outside world, from unwanted bacteria, toxins, viruses, and more.

The digestive wall is like our skin, only much thinner and much more vulnerable. This digestive lining completely turns over every week [R].

This is faster than any type of cell turnover in the body.  While very vulnerable, it is also very receptive to repair for this very reason!

The following factors help provide support for this digestive structure:

  • Tight junctions
  • Mucin
  • Goblet cells
  • Food polyphenols
  • Dietary nutrients
  • Short-chain fatty acids from foods
  • Healthy bacteria and microbes

The digestive wall also makes enzymes called brush border enzymes [R].  Why is this important?  Brush border enzymes help break down your food into usable forms for the body.

What are Tight Junctions?

The tight junctions of our intestinal tract are a protein complex that dictates what gets inside your body. 

This junction is partially and selectively open between intestinal cells. Mostly, gut cells remain tight to protect us from unwanted compounds from getting into the body.

The tight junctions are the boundaries between you and the world.   If the tight junction is impaired, it becomes more porous, or permeable.  This is also referred to as increased intestinal permeability.

This results in your body’s immune system response and often results in inflammation in the entire body as well as in the intestine [R].

When this happens, you can feel bad and your risk of most diseases, if not all, goes up.

Your food and substances you put in our body are critical to our health, and a gut-healing diet can go a long way to making us healthy.

This is the functional nutrition approach to healing.

What is a Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut pictorial by The Healthy RD

A leaky gut happens when the tight junctions of the intestinal tract lose their function.  The barrier function of the tight junctions is required to block the entry of diverse exterior antigens while absorbing nutrients [R].

The cause of leaky gut can be due to numerous factors. Currently, there are no tests available to diagnose this.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proactive and try to heal from it.

Healing a leaky gut can include diet, lifestyle, stress, exposures, medications, and more.  The good news is that you can turn towards many diet tips and supplements to help you heal.

Symptoms of a Leaky Gut

A leaky gut may contribute to one or more of the following symptoms or health issues:

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn or bloating
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Food sensitivities and allergies
  • Mood and memory issues
  • Skin issues like acne, rashes, or eczema
  • Seasonal allergies and asthma
  • Hormonal issues
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain and inflammation
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Celiac disease
  • Other autoimmune diseases

What is Mucin?

On the wall of the digestive tract is a protective substance called mucin.  Mucin is a gel-like substance, similar to nasal mucus.  Your stomach and colon have two layers of mucus.  The inner layer is attached to the intestinal wall and the outer layer is not attached. In the colon, the outer mucus layer is home to your resident bacteria.

The inner layer of mucin is re-made every hour by the goblet cells in your body.  That is an important task of our immune system.  Why?  The mucin protects us from dangerous bacteria.

However, certain types of bacteria and “bugs” can break down this lining.  Certain diseases can also result in a compromised mucin lining, such as colitis and cystic fibrosis.

The breakdown of this barrier also reduces your ability to absorb nutrients. Why?  The breakdown reduces the production of the digestive enzymes that are made by the body [R].

What are Digestive Immune Cells?

Goblet cells are key to immunity because they produce the mucin lining as described above, which protects us from the rest of the world.  Our innate immune system and even some of our adaptive immune system lives in our digestive tract as well. 

Here, unhealthy bacteria are destroyed and healthy bacteria are fostered [R].

Immune tissue and cells in the gut include:

  • Peyer’s patches
  • mesenteric lymph nodes
  • activated T cells
  • plasma cells
  • mast cells
  • dendritic cells
  • IgA plasma cells
  • macrophages
  • bacteria

Neuron signaling chemicals are made here too,  including serotonin and peptide hormones.  These chemicals act on neurons and the gut lining.  These hormones regulate the growth and digestive activities of cells of the gut and other tissues.

Many gut molecules function as signal molecules in the nervous system, including serotonin.

Vast amounts of research are starting to be dedicated to probiotics as antibiotics begin to lose their effectiveness due to resistance and overuse.

Some research is even finding that probiotics are helpful in treating nasty gut infections (R). As with anything that has benefits, there also are some small risks.  Ask your doctor about probiotics if you have a compromised immune system.

Gut Healing Foods to Eat Every Day

Besides breathing and sleeping, the largest impact on our health is the foods we eat and what we are exposed to every day. 

Think about it:  the food you eat is the building blocks of life!

{Please note that this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.}

1. Fermented Foods

Fermented (probiotic) foods have been used for at least 9000 years to help preserve and increase the nutritional qualities of foods. They are a cornerstone of functional nutrition.

The industrialization of food has dramatically reduced the intake of fermentation, but a recent grassroots effort to re-explore these in our food supply is with good reason. Fermented foods may have countless health benefits (R). This includes a high content of probiotics and pH balancing effects on the digestive tract.

As with anything, fermentation takes a bit of knowledge and skill, so research this before taking it on at home.

Some foods that you can readily buy with fermentation/probiotic effects are:

Fresh sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, unsweetened yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, honey kefir, water kefir, coconut yogurt, fermented cheeses like gouda, cheddar, swiss, blue cheese, gorgonzola, and kombucha.

  • Want to ferment your own foods?  It can be easy, inexpensive, and rewarding.
    • Here are some culture starter kits that come with easy instructions and supplies:

2. Add Food Polyphenols

Polyphenols are plant compounds that give vibrant color and nutrition to our diets. Polyphenols in whole plant foods also positively influence the health of gut bacteria [R].

Over 8000 types of polyphenols have been identified in foods.  Needless to say, we are only beginning to understand the complex effects and benefits of polyphenols in the body.  According to Nutrition Advance, there are 4 main categories of polyphenols, including:

  • Flavonoids
  • Lignans
  • Phenolic Acids
  • Stilbenes

Some of the richest food sources of polyphenols include:

  • Cloves
  • Peppermint
  • Star Anise
  • Cocoa
  • Mexican oregano
  • Celery seed
  • Black chokeberry
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Black elderberries
  • Chestnuts
  • Sage

Many polyphenols aren’t digestible [R]. In the colon, they interact with gut microbes and change their amounts and types. In turn, the microbes break down polyphenols and then release more active and better-absorbed compounds.  The health effects of polyphenols depend on the existing gut bacteria amount and type, however.

3. Reduce Exposure to Toxins

Toxins are anything that has a poor effect on our health.  This can be everyday foods in excessive amounts or it can be chemicals in foods that our body doesn’t handle correctly.  It is estimated that our digestive tract is exposed to more toxins than any other organ of our body.

Here are some tips to reduce toxins for your gut health.

Experts suggest that environmental exposures may be more important than just about anything for our gut health [R]. These exposures include:

  • Air quality-inside buildings and out
  • Use of chemical cleaners in the home
  • Food chemicals
  • Food additives

Gut healing diets will be mostly unprocessed and will be free of added chemicals.  The air you breathe affects your gut! In addition, you can take the following steps to keep your gut environment more healthy.

 4. Judiciously use chemicals at home

Food additives, including carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, are known to affect gut bacteria [R]. Eating highly processed foods will increase your intake of these chemicals.

Additionally, skincare products, household cleaning products, and environmental chemicals are grossly understudied as little to no regulation is involved in their use or approval.

Yet what we do know is that many chemicals are not good for your gut bacteria (R).  When given a choice, always use natural cleaners and skin products, as well as toothpaste.

Be mindful of “Green” products.  They can be full of chemicals too. 

I recommend only using products that are tested to be 100% pure.  You can find household products at Doterra.  They are the most rigorously tested products on the market today.  They are free of all hexanes and solvents, pesticides, herbicides, and other added contaminants.

You can find Doterra products here.

Gut healing infographic by The Healthy RD

5. What Nutrients Improve Leaky Gut?

Many foods and nutrients can affect the gut barrier wall-some can help and some can harm this lining. A balanced diet including adequate protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals is a key to recovery.

Early research shows that the following nutrients and food extracts may help enhance the strength of the tight junctions. These nutrients include [R] [R]:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Quercetin
  • Boswellia
  • These nutrients improve intestinal barrier function and reversed intestinal barrier damage by increasing the expression of tight junction proteins in cell studies.

6. What Foods Cause Leaky Gut[R]?

Some foods, particularly highly-processed foods, can contribute to leaky gut symptoms.  The following foods and additives can cause leaky gut and are thought to contribute to health problems for many today:

  • Glucose
  • Salt in processed foods
  • Emulsifiers
    • Mono-and di-glycerides
    • Sodium/calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
    • Lecithins
    • Trans fats
    • Microbial surfactants
    • Soy lecithin
    • polyglycerol
    • Sorbitan
    • Sugar esters
    • Monoglyceride
    • Acetylated Monoglyceride
    • Lactylated Monoglyceride
  • Organic solvents
  • Gluten
  • Microbial transglutaminase (from whey protein)

To heal a leaky gut, it is best to limit or avoid these additives as much as possible and consider a gluten-free, low added sugar diet. While some people do tolerate Kamut gluten better than modern gluten, it is best to try to eliminate all gluten to see if it is a culprit in your leaky gut symptoms.

7. Who is Gluten Sensitive?

You can have 3 different types of reactions to gluten.

  • Celiac disease
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • Wheat allergy
  • Temporary leaky gut, even in healthy people

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity results in improper digestion of the protein in some grains called gluten.

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity are more likely to have anemia, skin rashes (atopy), and IgG to gluten than those who have celiac disease or irritable bowel disease [R].  Estimates suggest that around 30 percent of the population has this disorder.

The only way to know if you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity is to fully eliminate gluten for 3-4 weeks.

Enzymes in the gut often are not able to completely digest gluten.

Even in healthy people, gluten can cause an immediate increase in gut permeability or leaky gut.  Gluten causes an increase in zonulin, which then causes the tight junction to open up more [R].

Gut healing diets almost universally try an elimination period of gluten for at least 3-4 weeks.

Vital Proteins

8. Immerse yourself in nature and be outside daily

The opposite of toxins is nature and fresh air.  Nature is the true antidote to unhealthy environments that are inside of buildings [R]. Imagine, if you will, that bacteria in our digestive tracts help to detoxify the body, making us less likely to get colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more.

A serene outdoor walk with fresh air, sunshine, and exposure to countless microbes just maybe what the doctor ordered. In fact, experts suggest that our air and environment may be the biggest predictor of our bacteria content.

People living in urban environments spend a staggering 90% of their time indoors (R), and this is a contributor to a change and also likely a reduction in gut bacteria diversity (R).

Even the air we breathe indoors (or outdoors) and around us affects our bacterial diversity to a large extent (R).

Natural environments also de-stress the body, allowing for more healthy bacteria to thrive.

9. Dig in the dirt

Could gardening and exposure to soil make us happy?  Several research studies point to yes.   Garden soil is teeming with its own ecosystem of bacteria, yet it is likely that different regions and exposures of soils to different treatments vastly affect the quality of the soil organisms.

The bacteria in soil may make us in a better mood, even when the bacteria is isolated away from the soil as studied by Dr.Brien and colleagues [R].

The bacteria in this particular study was Mycobacterium vaccae, and it was a dead variety.  To learn more about soil bacteria and mood, click here:

10. Limit or Avoid Fast Food and Highly Processed Foods

10 days of fast food could ravage gut health.  Food additives in fast foods and junk foods are related to increased food sensitivities and a reduction in beneficial bacteria. Take this example [R].

A student at the University of Aberystwyth underwent an experiment where he subsisted on McDonald’s food for ten days.

Over this time frame of 10 days, he lost an astounding 40% of his gut bacteria. I am going to assume that heavily processed foods from anywhere devastate the gut potentially.

11. Eat a diverse variety of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.

Our gut bacteria need a diverse source of fiber-rich foods to help to keep them healthy and thriving (R). A gut healing diet will include multiple servings of vegetables and fruits per day.

We now have the capability to measure the types and amounts of bacteria in the gut through DNA testing; it is clear that the variety of fresh produce in the diet contribute to gut health and diversity of gut bacteria.

12. Include sprouted foods

Whenever possible, sprout your foods. This reduces anti-nutrients in plants and makes foods more nutritious. Choose organic grains and legumes whenever possible.

Crops can be sprayed heavily with glyphosate herbicide at harvest time [R]. Herbicides like glyphosate change gut bacteria.

Sprouted Seeds — chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds that have been sprouted are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria.

But if you have a severe leaky gut, you may need to start out getting your fiber from steamed vegetables and fruit.

Choose whole grains; however, if you are sensitive to gluten, wheat, barley, and rye may contribute to dysbiosis or bacterial imbalance and leaky gut[R].  This can be true of any sensitivity for that matter.

How to Soak and Ferment Grains

Both soaking and especially fermenting grains and legumes make them more nutritious and easy to digest.

Methods to ferment and soak grains are easy, and details can be found at fermented rice and Whole Health Source.

13. Add probiotics

A healthy bacterial content, also known as your microbiome, creates most of the immunity in your body. These bacteria send signals to all tissues in the body to convey messages[R]. This means that the microbiome is playing a role in heart health, cancer risk, brain health, diabetes, mental health, and more.

Each individual’s gut bacteria is more like a fingerprint than a generic commonality between people, so it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. I get asked all the time, “What probiotic should I take?” We can glean a lot from the huge body of research on gut bacteria, so the steps below are legitimate ways you can likely enhance your gut health and overall health.  They can even help with weight loss and weight maintenance.

The Human Microbiome Project has found that thousands of different types of bacteria may inhabit the gut of human populations collectively. A huge variation exists between and among people.

Despite this complexity, many bacteria types have common functions in the metabolic effects on the body and the signaling to various systems. Because of these commonalities, some of the same techniques for enhancing your microbiome will work for most people.  

However, keep in mind; not every kind of bacteria is friendly in every circumstance. Digestive health depends on the best balance for your unique needs. Don’t get discouraged and confused.  The health benefits of probiotics will be worth just a little time and consideration.  I will provide you with some brand suggestions below.

How to Find Good Probiotics

On the shelf, you will find hundreds upon hundreds of different types of probiotics, so it takes a little investigation to learn about each kind.

The US Probiotic Guide has information about individual bacteria strains and researched benefits.  This is a partial list.

Many supplement companies have their own variety of probiotics, and one may suit you better.

As a general rule, choose probiotics with at least 5-20 billion colony forming units (CFUs) with multiple strains for a more broad benefit.

Should you refrigerate probiotics?

Even dead bacteria may help the body’s immune system because they contain the information that the bacteria carries.  Think of immunization injections as an example of how dead bacteria and viruses can work.  That is why many brands of probiotics are now not requiring refrigeration, or partly why.

Look for probiotics with strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bacillus clausii, Bacillus subtilis, Saccharomyces boulardii, Bacillus longum, and Bacillus coagulans.

Best Probiotic Supplements

If you want to take a probiotic, but don’t know where to start, you aren’t alone.  There are hundreds of brands on the market today.  No wonder it is confusing!  The criteria I am using for the supplements are if the strains used in the brands have scientific support for digestive benefits and if they are from a reputable source.

I list which brands are most effective for different digestive conditions.

Visbiome

Visbiome, formerly VSL3,  has the most clinical research backing its effectiveness for improving biomarkers in liver cirrhosis and gut inflammation [R] [R].

Visbiome is a high potency probiotic medical food, containing 8 strains of live bacteria with a concentration of 112.5 billion bacteria per capsule. It is also non-GMO.

You can buy it here.

Pure Encapsulations Probiotic GI

This probiotic contains 10 billion bacteria per capsule and is specially formulated for the immune function of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue.  It may help protect the intestinal mucosa from allergy exposures and toxins.

You can buy it here.

Florastor

Saccharomyces Boulardii lyo CNCM I-745

Strengthens digestive balance and support a healthy immune system.
Helps the body produce IgA (Immunoglobulin A).  This helps the body’s defenses against certain kinds of infections, including C. Difficile [R]. It also reduces inflammatory compounds in the gut, like TNFα.

Florastor may also help increase the production of digestive enzymes as well.  Note that the manufacturers do not list the bacterial content amount.

From the sellers:

All ingredients are gluten-free, non-GMO, require no refrigeration, and are available in vegetarian capsules; Appropriate for those with lactose intolerance.

Continues to work during antibiotic use, unlike many bacterial probiotics you’ll find marketed in capsule form or in foods such as yogurt.

You can find Florastor here.

Bio K+

Bio K+ has research showing that it can help with irritable bowel syndrome, C-difficile infections, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.  It has 50 billion CFU per serving.  It is probably the most expensive brand, but is backed by good research [R].

You can find Bio K+ here.

14. Eat raw produce

As it turns out, the “probiotic” from the soil hitch-hike on to the vegetables and snap.  You got probiotic.

When you eat raw produce, you get some probiotic effect as well as prebiotic fibers. To date, no one has figured out amounts and types of probiotics that come from raw produce.

Certainly, there is an infinite possibility of the type and amount of bacteria you might get.

15.  Have a furry friend.

If they weren’t delightful enough on their own, pets make you healthier.

This may be in part because they keep the body supplied with a steady source of bacteria (R).

You don’t have to ask me twice.  I will always have a furry friend by my side.

16. Breastfeed and give natural childbirth if possible

Pay it forward to the next generation if possible.  Infant’s guts are inoculated through the birthing process, and then further enriched with gut bacteria by breast milk and contact with the skin during breastfeeding.

The breastfeeding itself contributes almost a third of the total bacteria in the gut of breastfed babies(R).

17. Reduce your stress

Short-term exposure to stress can impact the bacteria content of our gut by altering the relative proportions of the main types of bacteria ().  Bacteria are required for normal brain development as well.

Early research shows that gut probiotic also influences ():

  • stress responsiveness
  • anxiety-like behavior
  • activation of the neuroendocrine hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) stress axis

Stress increases histamine production, which can have an inflammatory effect on the gut [R].

You can help de-stress with:

18.  Add supplements

Supplements can increase the speed of healing time, especially if you have had impaired digestion for a long while.  Remember, nutrients are the building blocks of your digestive tract.  Both quality and quantity matter.  Herbs and spices listed here can also help speed healing time.

A word of caution: some supplements can interact with medications. Some medications may make you low in some nutrients as well.

You can get the downloadable version of supplements and probiotics here:

Ginger and turmeric

Ginger and turmeric are related.  They are rhizomes that can be useful for many digestive ailments.

Ginger helps to increase the absorption of nutrients and reduces inflammation in the digestive tract.

Turmeric is related to ginger and helps reduce gut inflammation.  It is also effective for pain relief for many people.  Turmeric can increase the healthy bacteria in your gut as well. It helps support liver detoxification as well.

Try both for enhanced digestive health. Amounts found in foods and directed amounts on supplements are safe.

I like to use fresh ginger or ginger teas with honey.  Fresh ginger and turmeric are great in smoothies too. See the Gut Healing Smoothie recipe below.

CPTG ginger essential oil is a convenient way to get ginger into your diet.  You can find ginger essential oil here.

My favorite supplement with turmeric is Deep Blue Polyphenols. It also contains Boswellia, which helps heal leaky gut. You can find it here.

L-glutamine

L-glutamine is an amino acid that is responsible for the growth and repair of the intestinal lining.  It is a key nutrient designed to heal leaky gut. It helps repair the cells that line the gut, reduces inflammation, and helps soothe the gut by helping create a protective coating.

Suggested dose: 5-10 grams per day, of a micronized L-glutamine powder or capsules.  You can dissolve it in water, juice, or smoothies. Divided doses are preferred.

Read about how to find the best glutamine powder.  L-glutamine powders I like can be found here and here.

Fish Oil

Omega-3s work to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the digestive tract.  Fish oil is the most concentrated way to increase omega 3 fats in your diet.

Most people fall short in omega-3’s so it is a reasonable addition to any healthy lifestyle.

Suggested dose: will vary depending on your needs and your diet.  Aim for at least 1000 mg of DHA and EPA combined. Higher doses may be needed to correct deficiencies.

Caution if you have allergy or sensitivity to fish.

A fish oil supplement that I like is this one. The best overall fish oil I have found is called xEO Mega and it can be found here and in the Lifelong Vitality Pack. 

Natural vitamins and minerals

Nutrients involved in the repair of the gut include vitamin D3, vitamin A, quercetin, zinc, and more. 

Many people with poor digestion don’t absorb nutrients like vitamin B12 well either.

Try to find all-natural brands and tips for brands are included in the Best Natural Vitamins.

Licorice Root

Licorice root can help balance stress cortisol levels and balances the pH of the stomach. Licorice root helps maintain the mucosal lining of the stomach and duodenum.

For in-depth details about licorice, visit Healthy Hildegard.

Caution with licorice

Doses of 100 milligrams of glycyrrhizic acid daily can cause mineral balances.  This can result in water retention, muscle weakness, hypertension, and cardiac arrhythmia.

For this reason, use licorice for no more than four consecutive weeks. You can get de-glycyrrhizinated licorice to reduce any potential side effects.

You can find a good de-glycyrrhizinated licorice root supplement here.

Marshmallow Root

The antioxidant, prebiotic, and antihistamine properties of marshmallow root are great for digestion, especially leaky gut.  It is one of my personal favorites to ease digestion. Early research shows that it helps reduce gastric ulcers [R].

Marshmallow root may stimulate the growth of epithelial cells and support a healthy mucin layer according to cell study [R].

While more research is needed, marshmallow root is generally well-tolerated.

You can use marshmallow roots in teas, capsules, and powders. Marshmallow root is also very inexpensive, and you can find Nature’s Way marshmallow capsules here.  Marshmallow root powder is easy to add to smoothies and shakes. You can find it in bulk here.

Collagen

One of the beneficial components of bone broth is called collagen. While it is great to make homemade bone broth, it is not always realistic. You can add collagen to the diet in powder form.

Collagen may help strengthen the gut lining because it contains an amino acid called glycine [R]. Glycine also may help reduce joint pain and increase skin quality.

Dose:  you can use 10-20 grams per day of quality, powdered supplement can be added to smoothies, tea, soup, and even bone broth.

A brand I like is Orgain Collagen Peptides and you can find it here. I also like Sports Research Collagen Peptides derived from grass-fed cows and you can find it here.

Digestive Enzymes

Indigestion is really common.  Lack of digestive enzymes occurs due to damaged mucin as above and also due to leaky gut and toxins.  If you take digestive enzymes with meals, there is a lower chance of undigested food.  This may help reduce the damage and irritation caused to the gut and lowers risk of undigested proteins to enter the body.

Suggested dose: 1-2 capsules of a plant-based digestive enzyme with each meal.

Many digestive enzymes are also vegetarian and vegan.  The best vegan digestive enzymes that I have found are called Terrazymes and can be found here.

If you have long-term diarrhea, I brand I like is called Now Super Enzymes and you can find it here. It contains bile acids that are often loss with ongoing diarrhea symptoms.  Bile acids help the body absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

N-Acetyl Glucosamine

N-acetyl glucosamine is a sulfur-containing amino acid supplement that is similar to glucosamine. Proponents of this supplement state that it the most effective form of glucosamine.

A small clinical study found that n-acetyl glucosamine helped reduce symptoms and improved gastrointestinal structure in children with inflammatory bowel disease [R]. Some nutrition experts think that the reason glucosamine supplements are beneficial is that they provide sulfur, which is a necessary nutrient that can fall short.

I have had clients that respond very well to glucosamine for digestive pain.

N-acetyl glucosamine is generally safe.  Do not take it if you are allergic to shellfish.

A brand I like is Source Naturals and you can find it here.  For the best value, you can buy it in bulk as a powder from Bulk Supplements here.

Quercetin

Quercetin is a polyphenol found in fruits and vegetables, including onions, apples, berries, buckwheat, and more. Quercetin for leaky gut may be useful. It may also help reduce inflammation by stabilizing mast cells and histamine in the gut.

It is one of my favorite natural antihistamine supplements.

It is important to eat quercetin-rich foods and consider supplementation.  You can find good quercetin supplements here and here.

Gut Healing Smoothie Recipe

This simple recipe can help balance the gut, provides gut-healing ingredients, and can help calm inflammation in the body. You can change the proportions of ingredients to suit your tastes.

Healing gut smoothie by The Healthy RD
Print Recipe
3.67 from 6 votes

Gut Healing Smoothie

With the flavors of pineapple and banana, you won't even realize this is a green drink!
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Gut healing smoothie, smoothie recipe
Servings: 1
Calories: 208kcal
Cost: $2 per recipe

Equipment

  • Blender
  • Knife
  • Cutting board

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Add all the ingredients to the blender and process until smooth. Feel free to add kale or other vegetables that you enjoy.

Nutrition

Calories: 208kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 58mg | Potassium: 560mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 2815IU | Vitamin C: 14.9mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 2.9mg

For more details about healing a leaky gut, visit my Autoimmune Protocol Diet post.

Summary

Your digestive tract is complicated, but a gut-healing diet and supplements can be used as simple strategies for improving your digestive health. Always check with your healthcare provider before making changes to your diet or adding supplements. Want more help? My email address is [email protected]

The information on this website is not intended as medical advice.  Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.

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