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The 8 Best Supplements To Help With Bloat and Digestive Needs

The Probiotic Experts Swear By For a Healthy Weight and Less Bloating

Digestive needs are personal. We're talking about digestion, bloating, gas, and regularity, to name a few. Any of those sound familiar? Probably so, since according to the American Gastroenterological Association, 60 to 70 million individuals in the United States alone live with gut imbalance or have distinct GI needs. While the underlying causes vary and every person's gut is unique, research shows that certain supplements can support your gut needs:*

1. Probiotics 

When it comes to the best supplements for digestion, probiotics always top the list, and there's a good reason for that.  

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How they work:

The gut microbiome is intricately connected to digestive health. Gut bacteria help break down certain carbohydrates, like starch and fiber, that we cannot digest ourselves. Through this fermentation process, they produce byproducts called short-chain fatty acids (or SCFAs), which have been shown to help support digestive health.*

So, what's the problem? Another byproduct of this fermentation process is gas, which is normal and fine in moderation, but some strains of bacteria produce more gas than others. When these gassy bacteria outnumber the good bacteria in the gut, too much gas can build up and contribute to bloating and abdominal discomfort. 

That's where probiotics come in. Probiotics are good bacteria that you can take in supplemental form to tip the numbers back in your favor and help keep the numbers of bad bacteria in check.*

How to take them:

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Each strain of bacteria is unique and performs different jobs in the gut, so you'll want to look for a targeted supplement.* 

For example, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium lactis can help support regularity, while Lactobacillus acidophilus can ease bloating.* When you combine strains of probiotics with complementary mechanisms, they have a synergistic effect and can help target a variety of digestive needs.* That's why the best choice is typically a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement that combines several different targeted species at clinically tested doses.

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What to expect:

Although probiotics are generally considered safe, check with your doctor if you have any health conditions or are immunocompromised. Also, it's normal for a new supplement regimen, especially probiotics, to take several weeks of daily use to deliver their gut support benefits.*

2. Prebiotics

Another gut microbiome supporting option: prebiotics.* 

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How they work:

Prebiotics are specific types of fibers that feed the good bacteria already living in your gut, so that they can grow and multiply on their own.* While it may take a little longer to support your good bacteria this way, over time, prebiotic supplements can give you some of the same gut benefits as probiotic supplements.*

How to take them:

Certain foods, like Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, and onions, leeks, asparagus, apples, and oats are examples of prebiotic foods, but if you need an extra dose, then you can also get them from supplements, like flaxseed or extracts of inulin fiber from chicory root or the agave plant. According to research, inulin is especially helpful for regularity and supporting normal bowel movements.*

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What to expect:

Fiber is a common nutrient gap in the U.S. While the right amount of prebiotic fiber for you depends on your digestive makeup and needs, there's some evidence that 4 grams per day may be a sweet spot. Prebiotics are considered safe for long-term use, but, as with probiotics, taking too much at once can cause gas or tummy ache. If you experience any of these issues when taking prebiotics, then scale back how much you're taking and talk to your health care provider. It's best to start low and go slow, incorporating more fiber over time to your nutrition life!

3. Digestive enzymes

When you eat, there are digestive enzymes in your mouth, stomach, and pancreas that help break down the macronutrients in your food. These specialized digestive proteins fall into three major categories: amylases (which help digest carbohydrates), proteases (which help digest proteins), and lipases (which help digest fats).

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How they work:

With optimal levels of digestive enzymes, your food in its wonderful variety can be optimally digested. And digestion is important because this allows the "building blocks" of the macronutrients to be absorbed in the gut and enter our bloodstream, for use in organs and complex biological processes all around the body.

When digestive enzyme levels are not optimal, your clues may be gas, bloating, and more. Digestive enzyme supplements are a targeted, controlled way to support your enzyme needs to help properly break down your food.

Studies show that supplementing with digestive enzymes can be especially helpful for individuals with sensitivity to lactose, and there's some promising research that a specific digestive enzyme, called AN-PEP, might help those with gluten sensitivity.

In one small human clinical trial, researchers compared the effects of digestive enzyme supplements containing high or low doses of AN-PEP to a placebo in gluten-sensitive participants. They found that the supplements containing AN-PEP broke down most of the gluten before it reached the small intestine (which is where gluten can enter the blood, creating most of the issues associated with a gluten sensitivity).

How to take them:

When it comes to digestive enzyme supplements, there are two major categories available: plant- or microbe-based (these are vegan) and animal-based. According to one review, supplements that combine both forms of digestive enzymes seem to have the positive effect on digestive issues too. That same review notes that typical daily intakes fall somewhere between 200 and 2,000 milligrams, depending on the reason you're taking them.

What to expect:

In general, digestive enzymes are considered safe and don't typically cause surprises; however, if you take too many, some people may experience nausea, loose stools, and stomach cramps, so ease into it until you find your ideal amount.

4. L-glutamine 

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the human body. Although it's used everywhere in your body, 30% of it is found in your gut. 

How it works: 

One of glutamine's most important jobs is to help maintain the integrity of the cells that line your small intestine. It keeps intestinal junctions tight so that large, undigested particles can't pass through from your small intestine to your blood. In other words, it helps your gut not be leaky, which can manifest as gas, bloating, regularity issues, and even tiredness (remember, the gut and brain are connected!).

Glutamine is so important that one review calls out the amino acid as "the most important nutrient" for supporting the health of your gut's tight junctions.

How to take it:

There are two forms of glutamine: L-glutamine (the usable version) and D-glutamine (which your body can't use). Glutamine supplements come as L-glutamine, usually in the form of a powder that can be mixed into water or a beverage.

What to expect: 

When taking an L-glutamine supplement, the right amount for you depends on your specific condition and medical history, but safe uses generally fall between 1,000 and 3,000 milligrams per day. Be careful not to take too much, though. High doses of L-glutamine can cause unwanted side effects like constipation, nausea, headache, stomach pain, cough, and pain in the extremities.

5. Slippery elm

Slippery elm extract, which is made from the bark of the slippery elm tree, is a botanical supplement.

How it works:

Although there is not a ton of research on this plant bioactive, there is some evidence that slippery elm helps support a normal inflammatory response and soothes the digestive tract.

In one study, researchers gave participants with gut needs a supplement containing slippery elm. After taking the supplement, the participants experienced improvements in gas, bloating, and abdominal comfort. Participants also had more regular, healthy bowel movements and didn't have to strain as much when going to the bathroom.

Another study pointed out that, due to its carbohydrate structure, slippery elm might also act as a prebiotic, helping to support good bacteria in the gut.

How to take it:

Slippery elm comes in both powdered and capsule form.

What to expect: 

Although there's not enough research to recommend a specific usage, supplements generally contain anywhere from 400 to 1,800 milligrams of slippery elm for daily use. The most important side effect of slippery elm extract to call out is contact dermatitis (if it comes into contact with your skin).

6. Ginger root

Ginger could be the most versatile of the digestive supplements, aiding in everything from soothing your stomach, to easing bloating and supporting regularity. Because ginger contains more than 400 unique biochemical compounds, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly how ginger helps promote good digestion, but one review credits its intrinsic antioxidant properties.

How it works:

Marvin Singh, M.D., an integrative gastroenterologist, adds that ginger acts as a prokinetic, which is a substance that speeds up emptying of the stomach and helps move things forward. Because of this, Singh often recommends ginger for individuals who need support "keeping things moving" in the GI tract (from the top to the bottom).

How to take it:

Most of the studies that looked at the effects of ginger used 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams per day. Because of its potent nature, many supplements offer ginger in capsule form, but there are also powdered supplements available. While ginger teas are great and can also help aid in digestion, they're not as concentrated as supplements with pure ginger extract.

What to expect:

Although ginger supplements have very few known side effects, it's possible they can cause heartburn or stomach discomfort, especially if you take too much at once. Again, each individual responds differently.

7. Psyllium husk

If regularity is your need, then psyllium husk can be a simple, but effective, strategy. Psyllium husk is a type of fiber that humans can't fully digest. This might seem problematic, but it's actually the reason it is so helpful.

How it works:

When you take psyllium husk, it forms a gel in your intestines that traps water, increasing the bulk of your stool and making it easier to go to the bathroom (i.e., easier for your bowels to move). Psyllium can also positively affect your gut microbiome by acting as a prebiotic and supporting the number of bacteria that produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

In one study, researchers compared the effects of one week of psyllium supplementation with a placebo. They found that the psyllium supplements supported good bacteria, and the effect was most significant in those who had regularity needs at baseline.

How to take it:

Psyllium husk is most often available as a powder that you can mix into a drink or beverage, but it also comes in capsule form. While lower amounts of psyllium (7 to 14 grams per day) are beneficial, the greatest improvement seems to come from taking at least 20 grams daily with 16.9 ounces (the size of a standard water bottle) of water.

What to expect:

Most people tolerate psyllium well, but some mild side effects, like stomach discomfort, or even nausea and vomiting, can occur in individuals who are sensitive to the fiber.

8. Vitamin D

Although gut health isn't the first thing most people think of when they hear "vitamin D," this micronutrient might be an overlooked piece of the digestive health puzzle. But let's take a closer look.

How it works:

Vitamin D is an immunomodulator, and the majority of our immune system resides in our gut! So, it makes sense that consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D (a very common nutrient gap) daily is a smart nutritional strategy to support our overall immune health and gut immunity.

What to expect:

The amount of vitamin D need to achieve and maintain healthy levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) in your blood is thought to be a minimum of 3,000 IU per day. You simply can't get this amount of vitamin D from the diet alone. And by the way, the vitamin D3 form (cholecalciferol) is 2-3x more effective than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), so avoid the latter.

You can't get this from the diet alone. Supplements can vary widely in dose (from an ineffective 400 IU to 10,000 IU vitamin D3) and delivery format (capsule, tablet, softgel, gummy, liquid, etc.). Vitamin D has a high safety profile and is completely safe for most people.

Although digestive needs are widespread and personal, they don't have to become your normal. While all of these supplements can help digestion on their own, some of them are even more effective when taken together.*

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Four targeted strains to beat bloating and support regularity*

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Four targeted strains to beat bloating and support regularity*

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(52)
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