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The Best Gut Health Vitamins To Improve Digestive Issues

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The Best Gut Health Vitamins To Improve Digestive Issues

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Though much of the research is preliminary, studies have linked numerous vitamins and supplements with improved gut health, which may extend to helping other health conditions, like type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. 
  • Examples include vitamin A, vitamin D, probiotics, and psyllium husk supplements.
  • Remember to discuss any gut health vitamins and supplements with your doctor before starting them.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a digestive condition or have chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, you may be curious about the benefits of vitamins on gut health.

Research has identified that specific vitamins and supplements can improve the balance of healthy gut bacteria, reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, and benefit immune function. 

Continue reading to learn more about the gut microbiome and the best gut health vitamins to discuss with your doctor.

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Why Is Gut Health Important?

Numerous research studies have identified how a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut can influence your health status–from digestive to immune to metabolic health. 

Your gut microbiome is made up of many different types of bacteria or microbes.

Certain species of bacteria are beneficial, and others can be detrimental to health. 

Gut health is defined as having a greater proportion of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine.

Another sign of a healthy gut is “high bacterial diversity,” meaning many different species of gut microbes are present. 

Having “low bacterial diversity” and lacking the presence of sufficient healthy bacteria species has been linked with many conditions, including:

How Do I Improve Gut Health?

Many factors impact gut health–some outside our control, like genetics.

Others, we can change, including diet and lifestyle. 

Habits that may help improve gut health include: 

  • Increasing fiber intake.
  • Reducing intake of red meat, processed meat, and saturated fat.
  • Reducing intake of added sugars and refined grains.
  • Eating probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt and kefir.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Increasing physical activity.
  • Managing stress. 

Research suggests that the gut microbiome can shift to a more favorable balance within just one day of switching from a Western diet to a high-fiber diet.

However, this is likely temporary and requires adherence to the diet over time. 

How Vitamins Impact Your Gut

Vitamins are essential nutrients, meaning you must get them from your diet.

However, certain vitamins, like vitamin K, can be produced by your gut bacteria in small amounts. 

Research shows that specific vitamins have a favorable impact on gut health, increasing levels of healthy gut bacteria and decreasing harmful bacteria. 

However, vitamin supplementation has been shown to increase the number of detrimental gut bacteria in some cases.

More research is needed to fully understand how each vitamin impacts gut health.

7 Best Gut Health Vitamins to Aid Digestive Issues

The vitamins that may positively impact gut health are summarized below. 

Much of the research on vitamin supplementation has shown benefits when a person is deficient in a specific vitamin.

More is not always better when it comes to vitamins, and there are risks to over-supplementation.

Talk with your gastrointestinal doctor before starting vitamin supplements to support gut health. 

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin commonly known for its role in vision and eye health.

Vitamin A also plays an interesting role in gut health. 

Vitamin A increases the amount of Lactobacillus, a beneficial gut microbe.

In high amounts, Lactobacillus also has antiviral properties.

Studies show that people who take vitamin A supplements have better outcomes from infectious gastrointestinal diseases like norovirus. 

Some research also suggests that supplementing infants with vitamin A could positively impact their gut microbiome and health status throughout their lives. 

2. Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in energy metabolism. 

A 2023 study found that riboflavin supplementation improved gut health by increasing the production of a beneficial compound called butyrate and decreasing the amount of certain harmful gut microbes. 

3. Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is another water-soluble vitamin.

Niacin has been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation.

Additionally, people with vitamin B3 deficiencies may experience more relapses of inflammatory bowel disease. 

However, preliminary research suggests that niacin supplementation may contribute to higher levels of harmful gut bacteria.

More research is needed to understand the impact of vitamin B3 on gut health.

Talk to your doctor about whether a vitamin B3 supplement is right for you.

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that is essential to immune function.

Vitamin C may positively impact gut health, but research is preliminary. 

A small 2021 pilot study gave healthy individuals a high-dose vitamin C supplement for two weeks.

Analysis of their stool samples showed an overall increase in beneficial bacteria and a decrease in potentially harmful bacteria. 

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that comes from foods and is also synthesized in the skin with sunlight exposure.

It plays a major role in bone health, but research has identified many other functions of Vitamin D, including in the immune system and gut microbiome.

Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to positively impact gut health as well as outcomes in many conditions linked with gut health, including: 

6. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another fat-soluble vitamin, and it has antioxidant properties.

Research shows that vitamin E may help reduce inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract.  

While much of this research has been on mice, a few human studies have confirmed that vitamin E can help increase levels of beneficial bacteria and decrease harmful microbes in the gut. 

7. Vitamin K

Vitamin K has various functions, from blood clotting to bone health. 

Like other fat-soluble vitamins, it’s common for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to have vitamin K deficiency. 

Research suggests that low levels of vitamin K resulting from malabsorption can negatively impact gut health, worsening the IBD disease process and leading to more inflammation and symptoms.

Other Supplements to Consider

In addition to the vitamins discussed above, other supplements may also benefit gut health. 

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Prebiotics

Prebiotics can be taken in a supplement form and are naturally present in whole grains, artichokes, and onions.

These foods contain types of fiber that are not well digested by the small intestine.

As a result, they move to the large intestine, where the gut bacteria break it down. 

Consuming prebiotics can improve the gut microbiome by feeding beneficial bacteria and helping it grow. 

Research shows that prebiotics may help protect against many conditions, including type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

Prebiotics may also improve bowel movements and immune function. 

Probiotics

While prebiotics are food for gut bacteria, probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial for gut health.

Probiotics are found in many fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir. 

Probiotic supplements vary greatly regarding the types and amounts of bacteria present, which makes studying them difficult.

The most common bacteria present in probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. 

Overall, probiotics can help strengthen the gut lining and improve immune function.

Depending on your health condition, specific strains of probiotics may be more beneficial.

Talk to your doctor or dietitian about the best probiotic supplement for you.  

L-Glutamine

L-Glutamine, also known as glutamine, is an amino acid that has many functions throughout the body, from immune function to gut health. 

Research shows that glutamine can reduce inflammation and improve the integrity of the gut lining.

Some studies suggest glutamine supplementation may be a potential treatment for impaired gut permeability or “leaky gut syndrome.”

However, research on using glutamine supplements for improving various digestive conditions is preliminary and has conflicting results. 

Butyrate

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) naturally produced in the large intestine.

It’s one of the byproducts of carbohydrate fermentation (i.e. when gut bacteria breaks down fiber that isn’t digested in the small intestine).

Butyrate is also available in the supplement form.

Butyrate provides energy for the cells that line the colon, which helps strengthen this lining and helps prevent colon cancer.

It can also improve immune function and inflammation throughout the body. 

Research is mixed on whether butyrate supplements are able to reach the colon and have similar effectiveness to natural butyrate produced in the body.

Psyllium Husk

Psyllium is a type of soluble fiber commonly used as a supplement to manage constipation because of its ability to draw water into the intestines and soften stool.

It’s also classified as a prebiotic. 

In addition to relieving constipation, psyllium supplements have been shown to increase the amount of healthy gut bacteria and butyrate production. 

Finding the Right Supplements for Gut Health

Before starting any supplements for gut health, talk with your doctor or dietitian about the best options for you based on your medical history and current concerns. 

When shopping for products, remember that the FDA doesn't regulate dietary supplements in the same way as medications.

Look for third-party quality testing seals on the supplement label to ensure the product contains the ingredients it claims to have. 

Examples include:

  • Consumer Lab.
  • NSF International.
  • US Pharmacopeia.

Takeaway

Improving gut health is of interest to many people because of how it can impact digestion and other health conditions, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. 

Though research is preliminary, specific vitamins and supplements, such as vitamin A and probiotics, have been shown to positively impact gut health by increasing the amount of beneficial gut bacteria. 

How a Dietitian Can Help

Gut health is a complex topic with lots of conflicting information online.

A registered dietitian specializing in digestive health can guide you in making evidence-based dietary changes to improve your gut health. 

Depending on your symptoms and medical history, your dietitian may also recommend vitamins and supplements to benefit your digestion. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What vitamins are best for gut health?

Many vitamins have been linked to improved gut health, but research on the benefits of vitamin supplementation is limited and conflicting.

Vitamin A supplements may encourage a healthy gut microbiome in infants and improve outcomes from infectious digestive diseases like norovirus in adults. 

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) may increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut and the production of butyrate, a compound with numerous health benefits.

Vitamin D can improve gut health and is linked to improvements in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

What is the best vitamin for gut inflammation?

Vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin E have been shown to reduce inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract.

Vitamin K may also play a role in modulating inflammation. 

However, research on vitamin supplementation for gut health is limited and conflicting.

Talk to your doctor prior to starting any gut health vitamins or supplements.

How do I reset my gut?

Many lifestyle factors can help improve your gut health.

Quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, and managing stress have been shown to have a positive impact. 

The following dietary changes can also benefit gut health:

  • Increase fiber.
  • Eat probiotic-rich foods. 
  • Limit saturated fat.
  • Limit added sugars and refined grains.

References

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