Do gut health supplements work?
The long and short of it is: yes, a thoughtfully-formulated, targeted gut health supplement does work. So what do those classifications mean? “Thoughtful means these formulas are typified by science-backed doses of active ingredients, a clean excipient profile, and a tendency towards plants and botanicals,” Ferira explains. “Targeted means that the supplement is designed in a way to hone in on a specific gut health support function.”
Put simply, if your area of focus is gas and bloating, a targeted strain of probiotic can help those issues when taken consistently.* And then there’s poop: “If a person wants to infuse more fiber into their life (something all of us should strive for) to help with regularity, then a supplement that provides several grams of dietary fiber can promote healthy bowel movements when taken routinely,”* she adds.
The benefits of a gut health supplement are wide-reaching as we’re working to support an active and quite large organ with a number of important functions. Among these benefits are supporting gas and bloating, helping promote regular bowel movements, maintaining the integrity of your intestinal lining, and even simply allowing your belly to feel more comfortable.*
Knowing the potential side effects of any given supplement can make it easier to select your best option, especially when it comes to your gut health. “Some people report minor GI side effects when easing into a new prebiotic or probiotic routine. Things like slight stomach discomfort, gas, or increased bowel movement frequency can occur,” notes Ferira. “Of course, for some, the latter ‘side effect’ is exactly what they were seeking in the first place (i.e., regularity).”
That being said, it’s common for the gut to need to adjust when adding in more fiber, so be patient with your body and check in with a healthcare professional if you want a more personalized route.
“While gut health supplements (e.g., fiber, probiotics, botanicals, and other bioactives) from high-quality brands are safe—any pregnant or lactating individual, or folks with other specific health considerations, should partner with a doctor to personalize their supplement regimen,” she adds.
Best time to take gut health supplements
There’s a good chance that the supplement you’ve purchased will already provide instructions as to the best time to take it, but it’s also important to be realistic about what time you’ll be able to make this routine stick most effectively.
“Some probiotics are better to take before a meal, when stomach acid levels are lower, but that is still an area of active scientific research,” explains Ferira. “If you’re taking a fiber supplement that helps with laxation, some people might not take that right before bedtime, while others might find it’s totally fine to do so.”*
Once again, your gut health supplement of choice will likely have instructions for the dosage, but this all boils down to science. “The dose of each ingredient is specific to the science and intended support area for that ingredient. For example, probiotics are studied at the strain level, so the CFU amount (often 1 billion or more) should echo that researched dose to be effective,” says Ferira.
If fiber is your supplement of choice, Ferira explains that it’s a good idea to look for an option that “offers 3 grams or more of functional fibers in order to support bowel movements in a meaningful way.”* Remember, if a product is simply “sprinkling” in ingredients, they’re likely not going to do much.