How to Find the Best Gut Health Supplements for You
by Jelena Vulevic on Dec 07, 2022
People start looking into gut health supplements for a myriad of reasons, from experiencing regular digestive discomfort, to simply being curious about new ways to improve their health. While the reason behind one's interest may vary, what most people would agree on is that choosing a gut health supplement can be a daunting task.
In this article, we are going to answer the most common questions that come up when you start researching gut health supplements and offer you the tools to sift through the mounts of products you will find online and in stores, and find your ideal supplement.
Why Gut Health Is Important
Before jumping into the subject of supplementation, let's take a moment to understand why gut health matters in the first place.
The gut hosts 70% of our immune cells, 500 million neurons, 100% of our body fuel and our microbiome. What this means is that, much like our brains, the gut holds a wide network of connections throughout the entire body, making it virtually impossible to have a healthy body without a well-working gut.
Extensive studies have shown that, going far beyond digestion and nutrient absorption, the state of our gut health has an impact on nearly all aspects of our body, such as sleep patterns, mood, energy levels, the ability to fight and prevent disease and even ageing processes. All of this makes a healthy gut a critical step towards good overall physical and mental health and something that should be a priority for everyone.
How Can Supplements Help Improve Gut Health?
In a nutshell, supplements can help improve gut health by fostering a balanced environment within our gastrointestinal tract and supporting its different microorganisms in performing their functions to an ideal level.
Each supplement has a different way of improving gut health, so it's important that you get familiar with a few terms that often appear on supplement labels. The most important concepts to understand are the different types of biotics found in gut health supplements, namely probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics, but if this is starting to sound complicated, don't worry. We have prepared a simplified explanation of what each of these terms mean, as you can see below.
The Difference Between Probiotics, Prebiotics and Postbiotics
Probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms that claim to provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora i.e. the beneficial bacteria. Once in the body, and under the right conditions, these microorganisms should produce the substances that enable a healthy gut function. Probiotics are present in most digestive supplements but are also found in fermented foods, such as kimchi, yoghurt and kefir.
- Prebiotics: Simply put, Prebiotics are the fuel which Probiotic microorganisms use to create and maintain a healthy gut. This type of biotics can be found in common ingredients we use and consume daily, including onions, garlic and beans, as well as in fruits like bananas, watermelon and grapefruit.
- Postbiotics: Postbiotics are dead microbes and/or parts of dead microbes and/or their metabolites, which provide numerous health benefits to the digestive system without the need to change the environment that already exists inside our gut or the chemical reactions that occur in it. All fermented foods contain postbiotics as well as probiotics.
Finding the ideal supplement can be tricky essentially because each person’s body and lifestyle is different. What you need to ingest in order to support the balance we mentioned earlier, depends on the type of microorganisms you already have in your digestive system, the type of diet you already consume and other aspects of your lifestyle, so it can certainly often be a bit of a hit-and-miss.
Understanding Your Symptoms And What Kind of Supplement You Need
Most people will experience some kind of digestive issue eventually in their lives, due to specific events, such as infections, stress, diet changes, etc. If they have a balanced gut microbiome, which is the environment inside the intestines composed of different types of microorganisms, the person should be able to recover fairly quickly, even if some kind of medical intervention is required. However, individuals with poor gut health, not only could have trouble recovering from such events but potentially experience uncomfortable symptoms on a regular basis.
When speaking of symptoms associated with gut issues, most of us would be able to list a few, such as bloating, cramps, diarrhoea and constipation. What many would probably fail to recognise as signs of poor digestive health are some lesser-known symptoms including fatigue, disruptions in sleep, skin issues, mood fluctuations and brain fog, and not surprisingly, understanding your symptoms is essential to solving them.
Determining The Ideal Supplement For You
If you are interested in gut health supplements because you regularly find yourself having to deal with one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, the first step would be consulting a doctor to confirm that these are indeed a consequence of poor gut health and not of some other condition. Different types of ingredients are used to treat specific symptoms, so be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations when choosing your ideal supplements.
The same rule applies to those who do not experience any of the issues mentioned but wish to use gut health supplements as a way to improve their overall health. Reaching out to a doctor can help guarantee that what you are ingesting is indeed boosting your digestive health, and not accidentally disrupting the fine balance present in a well-working gut microbiome.
What Makes For a High-quality Gut Health Supplement
Considering that different microorganisms have different abilities and functions within our digestive tract, having a diverse gut microbiome is important to maintaining good overall health. That being the case, as a rule of thumb, the ideal supplements will contain a combination of ingredients, including prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.
Although most products on the market will contain a mix of prebiotics and probiotics, many don't include the very important postbiotics we talked about earlier. Their presence in your supplement of choice is key because, while probiotics require certain conditions to do the work that will result in substances beneficial to your gut health, postbiotics directly deliver some of those substances, as it has been found in a number of studies on the topic of postbiotics-parabiotics. That being said, remember to always consult your doctor to determine which ingredients are ideal for your specific needs.
Understanding Typical Gut Health Supplements’ Ingredients
While medical advice is the ideal way to choose the best product for you, it's not a bad idea to familiarise yourself with the ingredients commonly used in gut health supplements. Understanding what these elements are can assist you in choosing specific types of food, for example, which naturally support the human digestive function. Here's a short list of the ingredients most frequently found in gut health supplements and their benefits.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of bacteria naturally found in our digestive tract and other parts of the body which are also used as probiotics. This microorganism helps balance the environment within our gut and promotes the growth of good bacteria. It may also support the treatment of a number of digestive issues, as well as other conditions such as eczema and yeast infections.
- Bifidobacterium spp. (species): Bifidobacterium is a group of bacteria commonly found in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract which, used as a probiotic, can provide several health benefits, improving conditions such as diarrhoea, constipation, and eczema. Research has also found bifidobacteria to be effective in boosting our immunity and in supporting the treatment of patients who are already suffering from infection or inflammatory diseases.
- Galacto-oligosaccharides: Galacto-oligosaccharides, also known as GOS, are a type of prebiotics found in dairy products and human milk. Among other benefits, they will serve as food for the probiotics in the gut, supporting the development of good bacteria and strengthening our gut barrier function.
These are just a few examples of the elements which you can find in well-rounded gut health supplements, such as the ones from The Y Collection. The Y GUT sensitive supplement, for example, is derived from bifidobacteria probiotics, contains galacto-oligosaccharides as prebiotics, and also includes Glucomannan which helps regulate gut motility.
What Sources and Advice Should You Trust?
As we know, the internet is a space full of great insights but equally filled with misleading information, so when it comes to medical advice it's important to proceed with caution. If you’re trying to educate yourself on the topic of digestive health and would like to find out more about the ideal supplements for your needs, we would recommend consulting trustworthy sources of information like the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and NHS websites. Platforms such as Prevention.com and Healthline.com are also good options, as they are easy to navigate and offer science-based content, including links to the studies which support any information shared.
Consulting With Your Doctor: What Questions to Ask
As we have mentioned before, getting professional advice from your physician is the best option to understand your symptoms and select the ideal supplements for your particular needs. If you do choose to speak to a doctor about your digestive health and supplement options, there are a few things you can do to make sure that you get the most out of that consultation.
Preparing For Your Consultation
One thing that can often be of great use to doctors in understanding symptoms that are potentially related to our gut health is paying close attention to the issues you have been experiencing. If possible, observe and make notes of how often you experience each symptom, if they seem to be present at a certain time of day or month or connected to a certain stressful situation, and exactly what they feel like. A great idea is also to keep a food diary, logging in everything you eat and when, which will be useful in establishing correlations between the consumption of certain ingredients and any bodily reactions.
Questions For Your Doctor
Although the suggestions above are great ways to start your doctor's consultation on the right track, it's important to also think of the questions you can ask them, which will ensure that you leave your physician's office with all the information you need. Specifically on the topics of digestive supplements and probiotics, we would recommend you consider the following questions:
- Are gut health supplements a good option for you?
- Which ingredients are the best for your specific needs?
- How should you take your supplements and for how long?
- Are there any potential risks involved in taking supplements considering your current health state or conditions?
- What can you expect in terms of effectiveness towards solving your specific symptoms?
Naturally, these are only a few suggestions of what to discuss during your visit to the doctor's office, and you would ideally voice all of your concerns before starting a new treatment.
How to Tell If Your Gut Health Supplements Are Working
While health supplements can certainly have noticeable positive effects on your body, there will most likely be no overnight miracles. The ingredients ingested need some time to do the work inside your digestive system, so you probably won't feel anything before the third day after your first intake.
With well-developed gut health supplements, such as Y GUT sensitive, by day four you may start noticing a few changes, such as a bit of gurgling in your tummy. This might continue until around the seventh day after initial intake and is actually a good sign. Is this gurgling what you should be looking for to know if your supplements are working? Not really. Some individuals might actually feel nothing after beginning to take gut health supplements, and that's perfectly normal too. As we mentioned before, each body is absolutely unique and supplements will simply quietly do their work within some people's intestines.
So how do you know that your digestive supplements are working? Well, from day eight onwards your gut microbiota should be consistently reaping the benefits of the ingredients ingested, which is around when you can start noticing the following benefits:
- Increased regularity in bowel movements;
- Better digestion;
- Reduction in abdominal pain;
- Improvement of symptoms like bloating, gas and cramps.
All of the above are signs that your supplements are working, and other positive effects which can be expected, but generally require around 1-3 months, include a boost in your overall immunity and energy levels, improvements in mood and sleep, and even of your cognitive function.
As we can see, there are a number of benefits in integrating gut health supplements into our diet, but picking the right one might not always be so straightforward. The ideal product will depend on your specific needs and underlying conditions, which should ideally be discussed with your doctor. Knowing more about the ingredients present in these supplements is also helpful in determining the best one for you but, as a general rule, you should prioritise those made by science-backed brands, and which include a good mix of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.
Looking for the right gut health supplement doesn’t have to be a struggle. Find out what Y GUT sensitive can do for you.