The human gut is a complex ecosystem that can be affected by numerous factors such as age, genetics, stress and diet.1 The gut is made up of a 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells, which are predominately bacterial cells.2 This is often referred to as the gut microbiome. It’s been reported that the better the composition and diversity of your gut microbiome, the healthier your gut will be.1
A healthy gut is important for overall health as it will increase the absorption of nutrients from the diet, potentially reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues and may improve immunity. There are a variety of different ways to ensure that your gut stays healthy and the following article will discuss the different types of supplements that may be beneficial.
Best supplements for gut health
Supplementing probiotics can help improve both the composition and diversity of your gut microbiome. Your gut is made up of both harmful (bad) and health promoting (good) bacteria The more ‘good’ bacteria you have, the healthier your gut will be and a probiotic supplement may help with this. Choosing a probiotic with as many strains of bacteria or live cultures as possible will increase the diversity of your microbiome.
Probiotic supplementation can also have a positive impact on your immunity. The mucosal lining of your gastrointestinal tract is your body’s first line of defence and is an important part of your immune system. It’s been reported that 70% of your body’s immune system is located in your gut and probiotic supplementation has been shown to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of upper respiratory tract infections.1
Probiotics have also been researched for their potential to improve sporting performance. Recent findings have shown that 4 weeks of probiotic supplementation in long distance runners helped reduce the number of gastrointestinal symptoms (bloating, gas, nausea etc). during a marathon.3
Prebiotics are a type of fibre that provide the nutrients that your healthy gut bacteria thrive on and a healthy gut is dependent on both prebiotics and probiotics. Not all fibre is considered to be a prebiotic and whilst some prebiotic fibre can be found in high fibrous foods, it’s also possible to supplement them.4
A good example of a prebiotic fibre that can be supplemented is inulin. The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics recommends a dosage of 5g a day of prebiotics.5
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that helps maintain the integrity of your intestinal lining. The intestinal lumen is lined with a single layer of epithelial cells sealed together via tight junctions.
Glutamine helps to regulate the production of these epithelial cells and tight junctions.6 If the intestinal lining is not functioning properly, it will lead to an increased permeability of the gut where harmful bacteria in the gut can enter the bloodstream.6 This is often referred to as ‘leaky gut’ and has linked to numerous health issues.
Supplementing glutamine helps to improve the intestinal lining of your gut due its role in the regulation of epithelial cells and tight junctions. Whilst there is currently a lack of standardised research for the use of glutamine for intestinal diseases, evidence has suggested that glutamine supplementation may help reduce gut permeability following endurance exercise in the heat.7
Zinc is an essential mineral found throughout the body and plays a key role in the immune system and metabolism function. Like glutamine, zinc also helps to maintain the integrity of your gut lining via its role in the regulation of tight junctions.8
Caution should be taken with the supplementation of zinc as too much has been reported to cause abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhoea.9 The recommended daily amount of zinc is 11mg for men and 9mg for women.10
Take home message
Maintaining a diverse, well-balanced microbiome can help maintain the health of your gut. A healthy gut has been linked to a number of reported health benefits including reduced gastrointestinal symptoms and improved immunity.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are important for a healthy gut microbiome and glutamine and zinc can help maintain the integrity of your intestinal lining.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
Liam is a certified sport nutritionist with the International Society of Sport Nutrition and is enrolled on the British Dietetics Association’s Sport and Exercise Nutrition register. He has a Bachelor’s of Science in Sport and Exercise Science and is graduate of the ISSN Diploma in Applied Sport and Exercise Nutrition.Liam is an experienced personal trainer, helping clients reach their health and fitness goals with practical, evidence informed exercise and nutrition advice. In his spare time Liam has competed in numerous powerlifting competitions and enjoys hill walking, football and expanding his recipe repertoire in the kitchen.
Find out more about Liam's experience here.