Best Supplements for Gut Microbiome Health — Types, Benefits, UsageOct 24, 2022
In this article, we will break down all the main and most effective types of supplements for your gut health and healthy microbiota.
Read also our previous article, in which we've covered 9 Best Tips and Hacks for your Gut Microbiome Health.
What are Prebiotics
Prebiotics are food for your gut microbes (microbiota).
The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) determines a Prebiotic as “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit”. [1, 2]
The best prebiotics for humans is plant-based fiber.
In this article, you can find the 6 main types of natural prebiotics in foods and the best prebiotics foods needed for a diverse and healthy microbiome.
In addition to fiber from food, prebiotics supplements can also be taken. Prebiotic supplements often contain a mix of various types of plant-based fiber.
Health Benefits of Prebiotics
Prebiotics and Fiber in general have lots of health benefits for human health. For example, they:
- Improve gut motility [3, 4, 5] and reduce constipation [6, 7]
- Help to eliminate toxins and to ‘clean’ the gut 
- Modulate a healthy immune system [9, 10]
- Reduce inflammation and risk of allergy [9, 10, 11]
- Improve mineral absorbtion [12, 13]
- Promote metabolic health (reduce insulin resistance and improve healthy blood lipid levels) [14, 15, 16, 17]
What to look for on Prebiotics Labels
- A mix of different types of plant-based fiber:
- fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)
- pectic oligosaccharides (POS)
- galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)
- non-carbohydrate oligosaccharides (polyphenols & flavonols)
- resistant starch
- beta-glucans from mushrooms and algae.
- Fiber from onion, garlic, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, psyllium, leeks, asparagus, apple peels, citrus peels, acacia, and others.
- No artificial colors, and sweeteners [18, 19, 20]
- A good addiction to fiber may be added spices, like ginger [21, 22], turmeric & curcumin [23, 24], curry , pepper, cinnamon, oregano, and others.
When to take prebiotics
The timing is not as important as the regularity. Prebiotics work best when they are taken consistently. Take them with every meal, especially with the first and the last ones.
What are Probiotics
Probiotics are live microbes in a form of supplements, that can be used to enhance your gut health.
The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) determines Probiotics as “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. [26, 27]
Many foods and supplements contain live microorganisms, but only strains with a scientifically proven effect on health should be referred to as probiotics.
Probiotics are known by their genus, species, and strain. For example, Lactobacillus (genus) acidophilus (species) ABC (strain). Products should display each strain’s designation. That’s important, because different strains of the same species may have different effects.
Probiotics for Gut Health
The idea that probiotics must influence your gut microbiota composition is a common misconception. Generally, probiotics usually do not settle in your gut and do not alter the microbes that are already there.
Probiotics (and the substances they produce) change the environment — they interact with immune cells, gut cells, microbes that live in the gut, and dietary components in the gut — that is how they exert their benefits .
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics improve the gut microbiome ecosystem health and the gut cells' health, but they usually do not take up residence in the gut. The main benefits of supplementing probiotics are [26, 28, 29, 30]:
- Help the immune system function properly — improve immune balance, increase antioxidants, and decrease inflammation.
- Aid your digestion by breaking down some foods you can’t digest
- Keep harmful microorganisms in check and promote a healthy microbial ecosystem. This indirectly supports the proliferation of good microbiota.
- Produce vitamins, short-chain fatty acids, organic acids, peptides, amino acids, and aid in nutrient absorption.
- Support gut cells' health and an effective gut barrier.
- Relieve some gut symptoms (diarrhea, constipation, and bloating).
- Decrease respiratory, gut, vaginal and urinary tract infections.
The minimum effective dose is ~10-20 billion (1x10^9) microbes. It varies from strain to strain.
The dosage is often called CFU (Colony Forming Units).
Avoid products with CFU “At time of manufacture” — such labeling does not account for the decline of CFU during storage.
When to take Probiotics
The best time to take prebiotics is 30 minutes before a meal . Probiotics are most effective when taken on an empty stomach, especially in the morning.
Probiotics given 30 minutes after the meal don’t survive in high numbers.
Probiotics Side Effects & Safety
Probiotics are safe for most people, but ask your doctor if you have some immune disorder, serious underlying illness, or short gut, or before giving probiotics to a young infant or during pregnancy.
Don’t overtake the recommended dosage! Too many probiotics can cause brain fog and diarrhea.
And always read 'STORAGE INFORMATION'! Each probiotic requires specific store conditions to ensure product quality and safety.
What are Synbiotics
Synbiotics are a mix of prebiotics and probiotics.
The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) determines a Synbiotic as “a mixture comprising live microorganisms and substrate(s) selectively utilized by host microorganisms that confers a health benefit on the host”. [32, 33]
There are 2 types of synbiotics supplements:
- Complementary Synbiotics — when prebiotic and probiotic components have different effects and benefits.
- Synergetic Synbiotics — when bacteria from the probiotic component can digest the prebiotic component and therefore live longer, thrive better, and do more benefits.
A great example of natural synbiotics is breast milk — a combination of oligosaccharides (prebiotics) and Bifidobacteria (probiotics).
The only thing that you should remember about synbiotics — their probiotics and prebiotics components have been studied and tested together, and given benefits in the results.
Not every combination of prebiotics and probiotics would give benefits. Moreover, some can be even harmful!
So look on the label, if such a combination was tested and declared as beneficial!
What are Postbiotics
Postbiotics are inactivated microbes (whole or in fragments) with all the beneficial substances produced by them.
The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) determines a Postbiotic as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefits on the host”. [34, 35]
Since the production and especially storage of live probiotics are often problematic, postbiotics have great potential. In fact, postbiotics have all the beneficial molecules that we need from probiotics and do not require the presence of living probiotics themselves.
Beneficial molecules can be produced by microbiota in different ways:
- fermentation of carbohydrates (fiber) and producing short-chain fatty acids [36, 37]
- synthesis of enzymes
- synthesis of various peptides and amino acids
- synthesis of vitamins and organic acids
To make postbiotics manufacturers gather beneficial microbes and then inactivate (kill) them with heat, UV light, sonication, or any other deliberate treatment.
The inactivation may also break microbial cells into fragments and open access to useful substances.
Of course, it is much better to have your own healthy microbiome, that synthesizes all of this. But in many cases, postbiotics, as well as probiotics, could be very useful.
Although research on postbiotics supplements is still very new and limited, they can be a new big thing in supplements for gut and general health in the near future!
Additional Supplements for Gut Health
In addition to prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, and postbiotics, there are some other supplements that also positively affect gut health and the healthy gut microbiota.
A 2021 study  published in Nutrition Research concluded, that:
- vitamins A (and beta-carotene), B2, D, and E in beneficially modulate the gut microbiome;
- vitamins A, B2, B3, C, and K increase microbial diversity, and richness (vitamin D);
- vitamin C increases short-chain fatty acid production — one of the main beneficial substances, produced by gut microbiota;
- vitamins B2, and E increase the abundance of the producers of short-chain fatty acids;
- and vitamins A and D modulate the gut immune response and barrier function, thus, indirectly improving gut health and microbiome health.
Another study  also concluded the positive effect of Vitamins C, B2, and D on the modulation and improvement of the gut microbiome. Vitamin C had the most significant effect, increased microbial diversity and short-chain fatty acids in feces over placebo.
Collagen is good for gut health for several reasons.
- Collagen has anti-inflammatory properties due to its high glycine content . Glycine helps to reduce inflammation in the gut and prevent diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
- Collagen is also rich in Glutamine. It is the most abundant amino acid in the collagen protein. Glutamine also has a positive effect on the health of intestinal cells, reducing their stress and apoptosis, reducing inflammation, and promoting the growth and proliferation of new cells .
In addition, glutamine helps to improve the composition of the microbiota in favor of healthy bacteria, especially in people with obesity, and constipation and helps restore the microbiota after chemotherapy .
- As collagen moves through the gastrointestinal tract, it is surrounded by water and stomach acid, which assists in the breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates in the gut. Furthermore, collagen hydrates the intestine, which allows wastes and toxins to be excreted more quickly (and more regularly).
BUT one more study  on rats has shown that too much collagen (2g/kg of body weight, that's >0.7g/kg for humans ) could alter the gut microbial community and higher the amount of potentially bad microbes.
So, take collagen, but do not exceed recommended daily intake!
Turmeric & Curcumin
Turmeric, and especially its component curcumin, can significantly increase the diversity of the gut microbiota [23, 24].
A 2021 study , in which 123 healthy people consumed fresh ginger juice or placebo, has shown, that ‘short-term intake of ginger juice has substantial effects on the composition and function of gut microbiota in healthy people’.
Another study  in rats showed that ginger extract helped to significantly improve the diversity and health of the intestinal microflora in rats with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Curry & other spices
A 2021 study published in Nature Scientific Reports has shown, that just one serving of curry can significantly change the composition of the gut microbiota, for the better .
In general, flavonoids and other spice polyphenols act as prebiotics and nourish many beneficial microbial species . Eat as many different spices as you can while growing a healthy, diverse, and prolific microbiome in your gut.
Read also our previous article, in which we've covered 9 Best Tips and Hacks for your Gut Microbiome Health.
🔥 Here you can find product codes with discounts for some great biohacking products that can help you and your microbiome stay healthy and thrive!
⭐ And here are some amazing Beautifully Broken Podcast Episodes related to this topic:
- #14 Kiran Krishnan — The Ultimate Gut Health Guru (Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify)
- #67 Viruses and the Gut Biome Connection with Kiran Krishnan (Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify)
- #76 Dr. Ted Achacoso on smart drugs, methylene blue, and community (Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify)
- #79 Wade Lightheart on enzymes, digestion, and optimized health (Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify)
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.