The 8 Best Supplements To Help With Bloat and Digestive Needs*
Digestive needs are personal. We're talking about 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 Americans 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, like those we've compiled below, can help ease bloating and support healthy digestion:*
When it comes to the best supplements for digestion (read: bloating, gas, and regularity) probiotics always top the list, for good reason.*
The gut microbiome is intricately connected to digestive health. Gut bacteria help break down certain carbohydrates, like starch and fiber, that we cannot fully digest ourselves. Through this process, called fermentation, gut bacteria produce byproducts called short-chain fatty acids (or SCFAs), which have been shown to help support digestive health1.
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 gas2 than others. When these gassy bacteria outnumber the good bacteria in the gut, too much gas can build up and contribute to bloating and occasional 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 bad bacteria in check.*
How to take them:
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, strains from the genus-species combinations Lactobacillus3 3casei3 and Bifidobacterium lactis4 can help support regularity, while Lactobacillus acidophilus5 can ease bloating.* And when you combine certain strains of probiotics with complementary functions, the net effect is even greater, 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 doses with scientific research to back them. (Here's a list of our favorite probiotic supplements, if you're not sure where to start.)
Although probiotics are generally considered safe, check with your doctor if you have any specific health concerns or considerations, especially pertaining to your gut or immune system.
Also, it's normal for a new supplement regimen, especially probiotics, to take several weeks of daily use to deliver their gut support benefits.*
Another gut microbiome supporting option: prebiotics.*
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, onions, leeks, asparagus, apples, and oats are examples of prebiotic foods, but if you need an extra dose (like much of America, who fails to consume recommended levels of fiber daily), then you can also get them from supplements, like flaxseed or extracts of inulin fiber from chicory root or the agave plant.
Fiber is a common nutrient gap in the U.S. Depending on your age and gender, the daily recommendation for overall fiber is 21 to 38 grams. While the right amount of prebiotic fiber for you depends on your digestive makeup and needs, there's some evidence that five to eight grams grams per day7 may be a sweet spot for prebiotic effects in the gut.*
Prebiotics are considered safe for long-term use, but, as with probiotics, taking too much at once can cause gas or tummy upset.8 If you experience any of negative issues when taking prebiotics, 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!
When you eat, digestive enzymes in your mouth, stomach, and intestines (via your pancreas) play a critical role in breaking down the macronutrients in your food into smaller compounds.
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).*
With optimal levels of digestive enzymes, your food in its wonderful variety can be, well, 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. Research shows that when digestive enzyme levels are not up to par, your clues may be gas, bloating, and more9.
Digestive enzyme supplements are a targeted, controlled way to support your enzyme needs to help properly break down your food.*
Studies show10 that supplementing with digestive enzymes can be especially helpful when digesting lactose,* and there's some promising research that a specific digestive enzyme, called AN-PEP, might improve digestion of gluten, too.11
In one small human clinical trial11, researchers compared the effects of digestive enzyme supplements containing high or low doses of AN-PEP. 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), and led to greater outcomes for people who are typically more sensitive to gluten.
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.
Research shows there is no standard dosage for digestive enzyme supplements, so if you're going to supplement with digestive enzymes, follow the directions on the label. In general, digestive enzymes are considered safe and don't typically cause surprises; however, if you take too many, some people may experience queasiness and loose stools, so ease into it until you find your ideal amount.
One of glutamine's most important jobs is to help maintain the integrity of the cells that line the small intestine. It keeps intestinal junctions tight13 so that large, undigested particles can't pass through from your small intestine to your blood. This helps maintain regularity, abdominal comfort, and even energy levels (remember, the gut and brain are connected!).
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.
When taking an L-glutamine supplement, the right amount for you depends on your specific health needs and goals, but safe uses generally fall between 500 and 3,000 milligrams per day.
Be careful not to take too much, though: High doses of L-glutamine can actually lead to issues with regularity, queasiness, and more.
Slippery elm extract, which is made from the bark of the slippery elm tree, is a botanical supplement. 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 individuals a multi-ingredient botanical 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.
How to take it:
Slippery elm comes in both powdered and capsule forms. 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 notable side effect of slippery elm extract to call out is potential for skin irritation (i.e., if it comes into contact with your skin).
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 compounds15, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly how ginger helps promote good digestion, but one review credits its intrinsic antioxidant properties16.*
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:
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.
Although ginger supplements have very few known side effects, it's possible they can cause stomach discomfort, especially if you take too much at once. Again, each individual responds differently.
7. Psyllium Husk
If regularity is where you need support, then psyllium husk can be a simple, but effective, strategy.
Psyllium husk contains both soluble and insoluble fibers. The latter 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.
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 bacteria17, and the effect was most significant in those who weren't as regular 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. The most meaningful doses (i.e., several grams) are more likely to be found in powder 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 about 16 ounces (the size of a standard water bottle) of water.
Most people tolerate psyllium well, but some mild side effects, like stomach discomfort or queasiness, can occur in individuals who are sensitive to the fiber.
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. Let's take a closer look.
How to take it:
The amount of vitamin D needed 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.
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 concerns like bloating and gas 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.*
Lindsay Boyers is a holistic nutritionist specializing in gut health, mood disorders, and functional nutrition. Lindsay earned a degree in food & nutrition from Framingham State University, and she holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition Consulting from the American College of Healthcare Sciences.
She has written twelve books and has had more than 2,000 articles published across various websites. Lindsay currently works full time as a freelance health writer. She truly believes that you can transform your life through food, proper mindset and shared experiences. That's why it's her goal to educate others, while also being open and vulnerable to create real connections with her clients and readers.