Scientists don't call your gut the 'second brain' for nothing. After all, your gut microbiome–which contains about 100 trillion bacteria (both good and bad)–affects every aspect of your health, from hormone balance to skin health, from energy levels to sex drive (1, 2, 3). And arguably more crucially: researchers now believe that an unhealthy gut may contribute to other serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and some cancers. In fact… An out of whack gut health has been linked to various debilitating mental issues, like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and dementia (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)! The consequences of poor gut health are dire, indeed.
Of course, the first step to restoring your gut health (and putting you on the path to optimal wellness) is always to rethink some of your dietary choices (9, 10). Replacing highly processed high- fat and sugar foods with a variety of whole foods can help encourage healthy, diverse gut microbiome. Foods like bone broth and salmon will help protect the intestinal wall, while high-fiber foods, including oats, broccoli, and bananas, help digestion. But the truth is the beneficial effects of making these dietary changes can take some time to manifest. Is there any way to quicken the process–and safely? There is! Below, find a list of natural supplements and herbs that'll support (and boost) your efforts at improving gut health.
#1 – L-glutamine
L-glutamine, also known as glutamine, is an amino acid (11). Even though it's the most abundant amino acid in your blood and other body fluids (making up nearly 30 to 35% of the amino acid nitrogen), there are times when your body's need for glutamine far exceeds its ability to produce it naturally (12, 13). This is why L-glutamine is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid–meaning you have to pay extra attention to getting adequate amounts of it under certain conditions, such as injury or illness. That said… If you’re interested in boosting your gut health, you should focus on getting adequate L-glutamine even if you’re perfectly healthy (i.e. not injured or ill).
That's because research shows L-glutamine to be an essential molecule for intestinal health (14). A 2015 study published in Amino Acids, for instance, showed that L-glutamine could improve the growth and survival of intestinal cells (enterocytes) (15). As a result, scientists believe that the amino acid could also be critical in regulating the intestinal barrier's function during stress. These findings are supported by a recent 2017 study as well, where participants experienced an improvement in intestinal permeability after strenuous exercise (16).
#2 – Turmeric
If you've always been interested in natural health remedies, chances are you've heard of turmeric. Study after study shows that it has major benefits for both body and brain (17, 18). So, honestly, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that turmeric can also improve your gut health. Just a note: the primary active component of this bright yellow, flavor-filled spice is curcumin. Many of turmeric's evidence-backed health benefits can be traced back to curcumin; it's a natural antioxidant that shows promise in slowing the aging process and preventing Alzheimer's disease and potentially depression (19, 20, 21, 22, 23).
And it’s precisely curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory properties that help boost gut health. Research agrees (24). According to a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, curcumin shows potential as a treatment option for several digestive tract issues (25). It’s said that the active ingredient protects the gut from damage from long-term NSAIDs usage–and has a role in keeping the bacteria associated with gut ulcers in check. More impressively, curcumin is supposedly able to actively ‘kill’ cancer cells in the gut.
#3 – Collagen Peptides
As collagen is the major component of your connective tissues (e.g. tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles), you probably already know that collagen supplementation could give you healthier skin, joints, and even hair. But here’s something you might not have suspected. Getting those collagen peptides down can also get your gut health in tip-top condition! Research shows healthy collagen levels crucial in supporting proper gut acidity, which goes a long way in managing painful heartburn and digestion issues (26). Other studies also show that collagen is essential for your intestinal wall's health (27).
A 2017 study published in Food Function, for example, highlighted that the ingestion of collagen peptides helped prevent further breakdown of the intestinal lining (28). Another 2012 study published in Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology also demonstrated collagen’s anti-inflammatory properties in the gut–in turn, regulating the function of the intestinal barrier (29).
#4 – Probiotics
Ah, of course, it's impossible to discuss improving gut health without mentioning probiotics–living microorganisms that exert various health benefits when taken into the body. You can think of these as 'friendly bacteria'; they help shore up your defenses against the 'harmful bacteria' population living in your digestive system (30, 31, 32). And there's plenty of research showing just how beneficial probiotics can be for various digestive issues. For instance, a 2017 study published in Antibiotics suggests that probiotic supplementation can help cure antibiotic-associated diarrhea (33).
Several studies also suggest that the frequent ingestion of probiotics could help combat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)–reducing its symptoms, including excessive gas, constipation, and bloating (34). Other studies also note that probiotics could be a potential, complementary treatment option for inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (35).
#5 – Licorice Root
Wait a minute… Licorice? Isn’t that a chewy black candy? Well, it kind of is, as licorice is commonly used as a sweetener in candies–but it’s also a potent herb that people have used for thousands of years to treat a variety of health conditions, including constipation, bronchitis, heartburn, and menstrual cramps (36, 37, 38). And guess what? It appears that our ancestors had the right idea about licorice. Particularly about its ability to positively impact gut health.
A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, for instance, showed that participants suffering from indigestion who’d taken 75 mg licorice capsule twice daily experienced significant improvements in symptoms compared to those who hadn’t (39). Research also suggests that licorice root extract could alleviate symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive disorder that occurs when acidic stomach juices, or foods and fluids, back up from the stomach into the esophagus (i.e. your food pipe) (40, 41). There’s even evidence highlighting licorice’s potential in treating peptic ulcers (42, 43)!
#6 – Aloe Vera
If you've ever had too much fun in the sun–and suffered from sunburn, then you'd have heard of aloe vera. It's often used to treat burns due to its soothing, moisturizing, and cooling properties (44). But here's another benefit of aloe vera that might come as a surprise to you: it can also benefit your digestive tract and soothe various digestive ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome.
A 2018 review published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility lends credence to this (45). The studies showed that this cooling plant significantly improved IBS symptoms compared to a placebo. Another study also showed aloe vera's potential in inhibiting H. pylori bacteria's growth, which can lead to stomach ulcers (46).
#7 – Arabinogalactan
Arabino… What? Relax. As much as it sounds like a human-made, chemical compounds, arabinogalactan is one of the most natural compounds out there; you can find it in many plants–and it’s even a key ingredient in plant gums (e.g. gum arabic) (47). As for why it's so good for your gut health, well, one only needs to take a look at how the compound works. It’s basically dietary fiber. And by now, you must be well-familiar with just how important getting enough fiber is for a happy, healthy gut.
But what about the research? Where’s the evidence? Don’t worry–there’s plenty. Several animal studies have shown that arabinogalactan can reduce stomach ulcers (48, 49, 50). A 2014 study published in Molecules found that this natural compound can block H. pylori (a type of bacteria that may cause inflammation and ulcers in the stomach) from attaching to stomach cells (51).
Take These Natural Remedies In The Right Amounts
Knowing which natural herbs and supplements are truly effective for improving gut health is only the first step. Next, you need to ensure you're taking them in the right amounts; and more importantly, in the correct forms. Let's take licorice root, for instance. Large doses of licorice root products may lead to glycyrrhizin accumulation in your body–which may trigger several dangerous symptoms, including high blood pressure, muscle weakness, and abnormal heart rhythms (52, 53, 54). That’s why, whenever possible, you should opt for licorice root that’s been treated to remove glycyrrhizin. All of the gut health benefits, with none of the adverse effects.
That said… How would you ever know which supplements out there contain de- deglycyrrhizinated licorice root? Well, you’d need to do lots of time-consuming research. But if you’d like to skip all that? Then go for Dr. Danielle’s Gut Assist. It contains just the right amounts of natural herbs and supplements (in the right combination and forms!) that’ll rebalance your gut microbiome and support the mucosal lining of your gastrointestinal tract.