Supplements for an Irritable Bowel
One of the most common recommendations for people dealing with gas, bloating, or other irritable bowel issues is to follow a low-FODMAP diet. A low Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols diet eliminates carbohydrate foods that are short chain sugars and difficult to digest. These types of foods absorb water and ferment in the colon leading to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
🍏 I agree that dietary changes are powerful for gut health! This table shows you the effect of different foods on gut health.
While we work on sorting out food triggers and dietary changes, we can also support the gut with supplements. None of this should be taken as medical advice, and it’s always best to work with a healthcare professional. These are simply some of the evidence based supplements I’ve seen to be most helpful for gut healing.
🌱 Peppermint Oil
Enteric-coated peppermint is one of the most researched supplements for an irritable bowel. It contains essential oils that ease muscular spasms and intestinal pain.
Iberogast is a combination of 9 herbs to support gut health. It was originally popular in Europe but is now available worldwide. Iberogast was first formulated in Germany in 1961.
Supplements to Aid Digestion
🌱 Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes can be supplemented to help process difficult to digest foods and reduce gas and bloating. Taken prior to every meal, they typically contain a variety of enzymes to help digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
These are foods for healthy gut bacteria. They regulate glucose absorption and contribute to a feeling of satiety since they are easy to digest. The full feeling you get with these foods reduces your potential to overeat. Prebiotics are found in leeks, onions, bananas, and asparagus but a supplement will ensure you’re getting regular intake of these foods.
Ginger helps to combat nausea and is an antioxidant as well. It can be taken prior to a meal to provide ease of digestion and reduce stomach discomfort. You should not take a ginger supplement if you are on any medication that thins blood such as NSAIDS, aspirin, clopidogrel, coumadin, or any other blood thinners.
Supplements to Aid Absorption
For the most part, digestion of food occurs in the small intestine. Some begin in the stomach but then finish down the line. The only substances absorbed from the stomach are NSAIDS and alcohol. Absorption of nutrients into your body is one of the main functions of the gastrointestinal system.
🌱 Vitamin C
A first responder to viral infections, Vitamin C is more than just a nutrient. It is an antioxidant and improves absorption of iron by 90%. If you are on iron supplements, add Vitamin C to get rid of any constipation that may occur. Vitamin C also fights ulcer infections from H. pylori and other stomach problems. The recommended dose from experts is 3000mg per day. You have to work up to that dose to avoid intestinal discomfort and diarrhea. The supplement source should be from tapioca and not corn.
🌱 Vitamin D
The sunshine hormone is not just important for bone health. It is required for intestinal absorption of calcium and is important for mental health, immune support, and muscle function. Vitamin D researchers take much more of this supplement than the recommended intake from the FDA (400 IU). Check out this chart:
The supplement turmeric contains curcumin and addresses inflammatory gut disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Curcumin also prevents issues from acid reflux (GERD), reduces colorectal cancer risk, and decreases damage to the lining of the gut. This supplement should be paired with black pepper and should not be taken without health professional guidance for those on blood thinners.
Supplements for Microbiome Health
Probiotics are complicated. They can aggravate digestive issues if there is underlying SIBO, and different strains have different effects. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium may offer some benefits. Probiotics balance out good gut bacteria to counteract bad bacteria. They reverse the gut effects from taking antibiotics and prevent diarrhea.
🌱 Psyllium Fiber
Psyllium is a source of soluble fiber that might benefit irritable bowel issues (be forewarned that some fibers can make issues worse!). Psyllium is recommended by the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology. This supplement can relieve diarrhea, act as a prebiotic to support good intestinal bacteria, and helps with constipation without being habit forming.
An essential amino acid for gut health, glutamine provides structural integrity of the intestines. Glutamine maintains and prevents damage to the intestinal lining and also helps repair any damage that may occur. As a supplement, it can be taken 1-3 times daily as directed by a health practitioner.
Collagen is a family of proteins that provides the connective tissue framework that make up the body’s organs. It also has gut healing properties. Collagen deficiency is associated with aging, illness, trauma, and nutrient deficiencies. In the gut, collagen helps maintain tissue integrity, assists in healing/repair of tissues, and moderates inflammation.
Everyone is different! Just because these supplements worked for somebody else doesn’t guarantee they’ll work for you. We like to test for underlying causes and create a customized plan for each person. Again, the best advice is to work with a healthcare professional for supplement selection.
Here is a supplement protocol from our dispensary on Fullscript where you get professionally formulated, vegetable based, nonGMO products from a variety of nutraceutical companies.
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Black CJ, Yuan Y, Selinger CP et al. Efficacy of soluble fibre, antispasmodic drugs, and gut-brain neuromodulators in irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020; 5: 117-131. [ link ]
Moayyedi P, Andrews CN, MacQueen G et al. Canadian Association of Gastroenterology Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). J Can
Assoc Gastroenterol. 2019; 2: 6-29. [ link ]