Suspect you may have a leaky gut and on the hunt for the best leaky gut supplements to help you heal? You’ve come to the right place! Miranda, our resident physiology expert, has everything you need to know about the leaky gut syndrome, how to cure it, and the supplements that can help!
Last Updated: June 16, 2019
You’re always tired. Your stomach hurts more often than not. You feel bloated a lot and your digestion is all over the place. Sometimes at work or school, you simply can’t focus.
Other times, you get angry, or sad, for no reason at all. Your skin is frequently a mess, even though you try to take good care of it. To top it all off, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to lose any weight.
You just do not feel good.
You were pretty sure that it was just because you hadn’t taken perfect care of yourself for a little bit.
If you went to bed a little earlier, exercised a bit more and found a better face soap, then you’d be back to yourself in no time!
But that was a couple of months ago (or a couple of years ago!) and you still aren’t feeling better.
Now, you’re really not sure what might be wrong with you.
Clearly, something is just not quite right, but what is it?
It turns out, it might be a leaky gut.
What is Leaky Gut?
Researchers have recently discovered strong links between the types of symptoms you are experiencing and a condition called leaky gut.
If you have a leaky gut, your gut lining has developed microscopic little holes that let toxic molecules get into your body. This is a phenomenon doctors and researchers call “increased intestinal permeability.”
Increased intestinal permeability means that the toxins leaking into your body can do all kinds of damage to your health. This causes the miserable symptoms you’re all too familiar with.
Worse yet, if left unchecked, long-term increased intestinal permeability can lead to a host of very serious conditions. These can include:
- autoimmune disease
- cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke)
- type 2 diabetes
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- mental illness (depression, anxiety)
What Causes a Leaky Gut?
Scientists believe the key problem in a leaky gut is a breakdown of the proteins that normally seal the intestinal lining together.
These proteins work kind of like the reinforcing steel rods of cement walls. They run through the entire wall, making sure every part of the structure is stable and secure.
When they start falling apart, the whole structure of your intestinal wall becomes weak and unstable.
This allows holes to form. And then you have a leaky gut.
Can You Heal a Leaky Gut?
Once the holes of a leaky gut are there, are they there forever? Are you stuck with these symptoms for the rest of your life?
Thank goodness, researchers think the answer to these questions is a resounding: no!
Your intestines can build new proteins, close up the holes, and put your symptoms out to pasture.
Studies show your the health of your intestinal tract can improve if you:
- fill your diet with nutrient-rich foods
- avoid cigarette smoke
- stop taking gut-damaging medications
- minimize your exposure to pollutants and pesticides
- avoid gut-damaging foods
- take gut-healing supplements
5 Best Leaky Gut Supplements
|Align Digestive Care Probiotic Supplement||Culturelle Digestive Health Daily Probiotic Formula||Biogaia Gastrus Stomach Health Probiotic Supplement||BioCodex Florastor Maximum Strength Daily Probiotic||TrueNature Digestive Probiotic|
How Do Probiotics Heal a Leaky Gut?
Number one on our list is probiotic supplements!
Probiotic supplements are capsules or powders containing live, healthy human gut bacteria. (Usually, this is a strain of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria).
Healthy gut bacteria play an important role in your intestines.
They send special signals tell your intestinal cells to keep building the proteins that hold the wall together. Usually, these signals come in the form of a group of molecules called “short-chain fatty acids” (SCFAs).
If you lose these signals because your healthy gut bacteria are replaced by unhealthy bacteria (a condition called “dysbiosis”) your intestinal lining can start breaking down!
By putting new healthy bacteria into your digestive tract, probiotics can help your intestines build new proteins. This can help close the holes in your leaky gut and help get you feeling back to normal sooner!
Choosing the Right Probiotic
There are hundreds of probiotic products on the market! Does it matter which one you pick? Or will any probiotic work to heal your leaky gut?
Unfortunately, it looks like you do have to be careful which one you choose.
There are a relatively small handful of products that have been proven to actually get healthy bacteria all the way into your intestines. Many products break down in your stomach and the bacteria are killed by your stomach acid!
Luckily, I did some digging on products that have actually been shown to work for you!
The products that you should be on the lookout for when you hit your local health food or grocery store are summarized in the table above!
|MicroIngredients Pure Organic Inulin FOS Powder||Kirkland Signature Optifiber Natural Fiber Supplement||Benefiber Fiber Supplement||NOW Psyllium Husk Capsules||Puritan’s Pride Psyllium Husk Capsules|
How Do Prebiotics Heal a Leaky Gut?
The next best leaky gut supplements are prebiotics!
Prebiotic supplements are usually capsules or powders made from non-digestible fiber (often inulin or oligofructose).
These non-digestible fibers are the natural food for your healthy gut bacteria. Of course, having extra food for your healthy gut bacteria helps these microorganisms grow and thrive, boosting their numbers even further!
What’s more, healthy gut bacteria actually use fiber to make those key molecules I mentioned above, the SCFAs.
That means that having lots of non-digestible fiber in your intestines does more than increase the number of healthy bacteria. It also helps make the bacteria that are already there more effective at repairing gut damage!
Learn More: Why is Gut Health Important?
Choosing the Right Prebiotic
If you thought the number of probiotic supplements was bad, wait until you see how many prebiotic supplements there are!
While it is not quite as important which specific prebiotic brand you buy, there are still some things to look out for!
- Make sure that the label of your supplement states that you will be taking at least 500 mg of fiber per serving. Doses containing less than this might not be effective!
- Make sure you will not be taking more than 20 g per day if you take the recommended dose. Doses larger than this have not been proven safe.
- Make sure the fiber on the ingredient label is a fiber shown to have prebiotic effects: wheat dextrin, inulin, galacto-oligosaccharide, or fructo-oligosaccharide.
Some products that check all these boxes are listed in the table above!
|Butycaps||Healus Advanced Tri-Butyrate||Body Bio Cal-Mag Butyrate||Biome Equal Butyrate||Ecological Formulas Butyric Acid|
How Do Butyrate Supplements Heal a Leaky Gut?
Sometimes also sold as butyric acid, butyrate is one of those SCFAs I’ve been talking about.
Related Article: The Best Short Chain Fatty Acid Supplements for Leaky Gut Remedy?
Choosing a Butyrate Supplement
While it is better to get the SCFAs from healthy gut bacteria, taking a butyrate supplement has been shown to be helpful, as well!
It might take a couple of weeks to really start seeing any significant effects on your symptoms. So, don’t become discouraged if nothing changes right away!
Many butyrate supplements come in much higher doses than 300 mg, even though this dose has been proven effective.
I was able to find a few supplements that provide close dosages.
They are listed for you in the table above!
|Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate||Pure Encapsulations Liquid Zinc Supplement||Jarrow Formulas Zinc Balance||Douglas Laboratories Zinc Lozenges||Good State Liquid Zinc|
How Do Zinc Supplements Heal a Leaky Gut?
Next up – zinc!
Zinc is a very important mineral in your body. It affects the function of your cells in many different ways. So, it is likely that no single effect is responsible for zinc’s ability to help heal a leaky gut.
That said, researchers know that zinc, like SCFAs, is able to boost your intestines’ ability to make stabilizing proteins, directly helping heal holes in a leaky gut!
Studies that have shown healing effects on a leaky gut from zinc supplements providing around 25 mg of zinc sulfate per day.
How much zinc you need to supplement with, however, will be unique to you. It will depend on factors such as:
- your age
- whether or not you have a clinical zinc deficiency
- your gender
- how severe your leaky gut is
Since you can overdose on zinc, we recommend speaking to your nutritionist, doctor, or another health professional about getting personalized recommendations.
Your doctor may even give you a prescription strength zinc supplement! That would take all the guesswork right out of choosing for you!
Choosing a Zinc Supplement
If you decide to take an over-the-counter supplement, make sure:
- the supplement will give you no more than 10-15 mg per day
- you follow the instructions on the packaging carefully
- you stay on the look-out for side effects
We’ve listed several excellent zinc supplement options in the table above!
|Testa Omega-3 Algae Oil DHA + EPA||Nordic Naturals Algae Omega||Omnibiotics Vegan Omega DHAx||Amala Vegan Omega-3 DHA + EPA||Ovega-3|
How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Heal a Leaky Gut?
The long chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are special types of fat that have been shown to help keep your digestive system healthy.
Researchers found that EPA and DHA help your intestines keep those key proteins that hold everything together all lined up in the right formation.
Basically, rather than helping boost the number of proteins, they help the proteins you have work more effectively.
Choosing an Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement
The lowest dose has been shown to raise omega-3 levels from deficient to normal is 250 mg per day.
I recommend starting at this lowest dose to see how your body responds.
If you aren’t seeing much improvement, it is likely safe to increase your intake to up around 750 mg per day. This dose should get you close to the daily average intake in areas that eat diets rich in fish and algae, like Japan.
If you feel like you are still deficient taking this dose, I recommend you speak to your doctor or nutritionist.
Clinical studies have used doses around 6 g per day without serious side effects. But larger doses really need to be taken under the supervision of your doctor.
Are there any guidelines to keep in mind when choosing an omega-3 supplement? Yes!
There are three key things to keep in mind:
- Make sure the supplement’s daily recommended dose will give you 250-750 mg per day. (Unless your doctor has told you otherwise.)
- Check that the supplement contains pre-formed DHA and EPA, not ALA or just generic “omega-3s”.
- Choose algae-based supplements over fish oil-based supplements; fish oil supplements are more likely to be contaminated with heavy metals and industrial pollutants.
Use this guide to build your own leaky gut supplement regimen!
Compared to our top-5 list, digestive enzymes have less scientific evidence supporting their use for treating a leaky gut. The evidence we have so far, though, is definitely enough to give them an honorable mention!
|Swanson Papain Papaya Enzyme||Nature’s Life Bromelain & Papain from Pineapple & Papaya Vegetarian Capsules||KAL Bromelain Chewable Tablets||Lactaid Original Strength Lactase Enzyme Caplets||Integrative Therapeutics Lipase Concentrate-HP|
How Do Digestive Enzyme Supplements Heal a Leaky Gut?
Digestive enzyme supplements are, exactly as the name suggests, purified enzymes that help break down food for you.
While not overwhelming, there is some evidence that digestive enzymes may be able to help calm your immune system, similar to omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
Additionally, by helping break down food, digestive enzyme supplements may be able to help ease your symptoms. They may be able to reduce your indigestion, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain while the other supplements work their magic.
Choosing a Digestive Enzyme Supplement
What should you look for in a digestive enzyme supplement?
First, I recommend sticking to one of four types of digestive enzymes: papain, bromelain, lipase, or lactase. These enzymes are the most well-studied and have the most evidence supporting their use in inflammation and/or indigestion.
Second, look for moderate dosages.
Digestive enzymes can have serious side effects, including burning stomach pains, allergic reaction and esophageal perforation (i.e. the enzymes can eat a hole in your throat). So, keeping doses on the lower side is a good idea.
The exact safe dose depends on the type of digestive enzyme you want to take.
For papain, you should not exceed 1,500 mg per day.
For bromelain, the limit is even lower. The daily recommended dose is no more than 400 mg.
Any supplement you buy should have you take less than 400 mg per day.
Lipase doses aren’t measured in mg, rather in generic units.
A good starting dose is around 25,000 lipase units per meal, or slightly less (around 75,000 units per day total).
One brand I found that offered such low doses is Integrative Therapeutics Lipase Concentrate.
Lactase, like lipase, is measured in lactase units. Studies have shown that 9,900 lactase units per lactose-containing meal are effective at easing symptoms in those with overt lactose intolerance.
For people without lactose intolerance, slightly lower doses are probably effective.
One supplement that provides individual doses directly in this range are the easy-to-find Lactaid brand lactase capsules.
Take Home Message
The symptoms of a leaky gut can make you feel miserable. Luckily, the condition is treatable through dietary and lifestyle changes! Adding supplements to your daily routine may be able to speed up the healing process so you feel better sooner. According to the most up-to-date research, the top 5 supplements for leaky gut are: probiotics, prebiotics, butyrate, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids!