A burning question that comes up a lot is “what are the best supplements for leaky gut?”
The answer to this question isn’t simple because it depends on your bio-individuality and your underlying root causes of leaky gut.
But generally the best supplements for leaky gut are those which have been shown to reduce gut inflammation and promote healing and repair in the intestinal cells.
There are also some important ancillary supportive supplements that can go a long way to help repair a leaky gut indirectly by optimizing your gut microbiome, nervous system, and digestive secretions.
In this article I’ll pull back the curtain and show you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the different types of leaky gut supplements can work together holistically and synergistically to promote healing.
- This article was written for general education purposes, but it should not replace medical or nutritional advice from your treatment team. Make sure you’re working with a gut health dietitian who is trained in functional nutrition to receive custom advice tailored to your individual needs!
- Gut repair supplementation is only one branch of a holistic, multi-dimensional gut repair protocol. You can never out-supplement an unhealthy, unbalanced diet. Make sure you’re making the right diet and lifestyle changes alongside taking the right leaky gut supplements, to optimize your chances of success.
Affiliate disclosure: This article contains affiliate links* for products that I love, have tried, and recommend for clients. As an Amazon Associate and affiliate of Amy Myers MD, I may make a commission on qualifying purchases.
Table of Contents
In short, the 16 best types of supplements for leaky gut repair include but aren’t limited to:
Best supplements for leaky gut repair
- Collagen peptides
- Demulcent herbs
- Astringent herbs and vulnerary herbs
- Zinc carnosine
- Vitamin D
Best ancillary supplements for optimizing your digestion and gut microbiome
- Antimicrobial herbs
- Digestive enzymes
- Herbal bitters
- Adaptogenic mushrooms
You most likely won’t need ALL of these – less is more!
The key is to find your best allies and take them consistently in the right therapeutic doses, for enough time to make a positive impact on your leaky gut healing journey.
It’s also important to remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts in that no supplement can work as a stand-alone intervention.
First of all, most supplements won’t work without a solid nutrition foundation in place.
Also, supplements are more powerful and more effective when combined with one another to promote synergy and balance.
Now, let’s dive in!
What is a leaky gut? (Quick review)
To clarify, “leaky gut” is not a medical condition – but still, it’s most definitely not an optimal state for your gut to be in!
When your gut is “leaky” it means your gut barrier is compromised and “hyper-permeable”.
(Everyone’s gut is supposed to be “semi-permeable” or “selectively permeable” which means our gut allows only the beneficial, completely digested, elemental nutrients, antioxidants, and water into the bloodstream, while keeping everything else OUT.)
A leaky gut allows for unwanted substances like pathogenic gut microbes, pesticide spray residues, heavy metals, undigested food particles, lipopolysaccharides (inflammatory substances released by bad microbes), and other particles to “leak” into your bloodstream through your gut – and wreak havoc on your system.
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalance
- Heart disease
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Chronic fatigue
- Metabolic endotoxemia (a little-known root cause of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- And lots more.
While there isn’t any research showing that reversing a leaky gut is enough to reverse the chronic health issues associated with it, it certainly doesn’t hurt – and can potentially help! (I believe it’s better to address leaky gut than to leave it unchecked either way.)
Since modern-day societal norms encourage choices and habits that lead to the onset of functional gut imbalances like dysbiosis (which can be a common root cause of leaky gut), I’ve seen a massive up-tick in gut issues in the last decade or so.
(Read more about leaky gut here!)
What are the best supplements for healing leaky gut?
(It all depends on your bio-individuality and root causes.)
However, there’s some common ground: all leaky gut supplements fall within the “Repair” pillar of the 5R protocol for gut repair.
For example, there are dozens of different supplements that directly help to heal and repair your gut lining.
But these won’t work if you aren’t also addressing the ancillary stuff which also significantly impact the state of your gut lining:
- Your gut microbiome
- Your ability to properly digest and break down nutrients from food
- Your sleep, nervous system, and stress response
7 best supplements for leaky gut repair
Colostrum, or “first milk”, is the nutrient-dense breast milk that newborn mammals receive from their mother for the first few days after they’re born.
Aside from being very high fat and calorie-dense, colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins and micronutrients (like vitamin A) which have shown to be essential for growth and repair, at the cellular level.
As it turns out, the growth factors in colostrum – such as lactoferrin and “epidermal growth factor” (EGF) – also benefit the gut lining by combating inflammation and strengthening the integrity (boundaries) of the gut barrier at the cellular level. (3, 4)
The immunoglobulins (specifically IgG) in colostrum have also been shown to help protect the gut barrier from damage caused by pathogenic microbes.
- How it works: Gram-negative microbes commonly found in the gut (like strep, staph, klebsiella, and more) release inflammatory endotoxins called “lipopolysaccharides” from the cell walls as they are dying off. (5)
- Colostrum’s “bovine IgG” has been clinically shown to bind these substances, preventing them from causing damage to your gut or from leaking into your bloodstream according to newer research including but not limited to a 2018 study by Frontiers in nutrition. (6)
Bovine IgG may also help restore balance in a dysregulated immune system, which we often see in cases of leaky gut, food sensitivities, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (6)
There are lots of wonderful colostrum supplements on the market, available in capsule or powder form. I recommend opting for an organic and/grass-fed version of colostrum that has been third-party tested and ordering it from a reputable source such as FullScript (or the company’s website).
Just make sure you’re working with a practitioner to help you determine the appropriate product and dose!
In the last decade, collagen peptides (a powdered form of Types I & III collagen) have become a hot commodity in the wellness industry.
Aside from benefiting joints and skin, newer studies are also suggesting that collagen supplements (which are naturally abundant in gut-nourishing amino acids like glutamine, proline and glycine) may help promote gut healing and repair and/or reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in many cases. (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Adding 10 to 20 grams of 100% grass-fed collagen peptides (or about 1 to 2 scoops) of collagen peptides in your morning coffee, oatmeal, or soup can potentially go a long way to nourish and support your intestinal cells.
- Full disclosure: I actually take ~20 grams of collagen peptides most days as a part of my gut health maintenance regimen. (I’ve been in remission from IBS and leaky gut since 2014!)
Best collagen supplement for leaky gut
- Most recently I’ve been taking Thorne’s Collagen Fit powder* (and loving it) but I’ve also alternated this with Ortho Molecular’s CollaGEN. and Designs for Health Whole Body Collagen*.
We need more research on benefits and best practices for supplementing with collagen for leaky gut, but so far it’s looking promising in my opinion!
Either way, make sure you’re working with a qualified healthcare provider to help you navigate this terrain. (Especially since collagen isn’t for everyone.)
For example, I’ve witnessed unfortunate adverse reactions to collagen among folks with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and/or IBS-D who self-prescribed collagen. This happened because they turned out to have a glutamate sensitivity and/or beef sensitivity.
To learn more about the potential benefits, side effects, contraindications, and the best types of collagen for leaky gut, feel free to check out the following related articles:
- Collagen for Leaky Gut: Potential Benefits & Contraindications
- The Best Collagen Supplements for Gut Health & Leaky Gut
L-glutamine is an amino acid (one of the 20 types of building blocks of protein) which gets metabolized by intestinal cells as a primary fuel source.
This supplement is one of the most well-researched types of leaky gut supplements on the market.
On paper, some research-backed benefits of l-glutamine for the gut include, but aren’t limited to:
- Nourishing and strengthening for the intestinal barrier (13, 14, 15, 16)
- Anti-inflammatory and restorative (17)
However, on my gut-healing journey I took l-glutamine powder and found it didn’t do anything for me – most likely because I hadn’t yet identified which foods my body could and couldn’t tolerate. I also hadn’t yet figured out how to eat in congruence with my gut microbiome.
- I was eating foods that I was sensitive/intolerant to, and I was eating foods that were feeding the overgrowth of Candida albicans in my gut. This is an example of why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I’ve also noticed that some of my clients don’t feel better when they take l-glutamine.
All of that said, I don’t work with l-glutamine in my practice a whole lot – because this amino acid is naturally present in bone broth and collagen peptides.
But it is more effective in these functional foods because it is paired with other gut-loving amino acids like cysteine, proline, and arginine to name a few.
Best l-glutamine for leaky gut
I prefer l-glutamine supplements that are third-party tested and which integrate gut-healing botanicals (like demulcent herbs and vulnerary/astringent herbs).
That said, my top three favorite go-to l-glutamine supplements for leaky gut are blended with botanicals
Learn more: The Low-Down on L-Glutamine for Leaky Gut Repair
Demulcent herbs are slippery, slimy, mucilaginous herbs which help to soothe and lubricate raw, inflamed tissues of the body.
There are certain types of demulcent herbs which have been well studied and used in clinical settings for soothing and supporting leaky gut.
I also find this class of herbs to be especially beneficial in cases of gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Some examples of demulcent herbs shown to have gut-healing properties include:
- Licorice root and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)
- Marshmallow root
- Aloe vera
- Slippery elm
Best demulcent herbal supplement
My favorite go-to demulcent herbal supplement for my clients with leaky gut is OrthoMolecular’s DGL.
This specific product is third-party tested, is made with great quality ingredients, and contains a proprietary blend of DGL as well as marshmallow root, aloe vera leaf, and slippery elm for optimal outcomes.
You can order this demulcent herbal proprietary blend directly from the Ortho Molecular company website, or via FullScript.
Avoid demulcent herbs if you have or suspect small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) since they can sometimes trigger or worsen symptoms of gas and bloating in these cases.
Astringent and vulnerary herbs
Herbs that are astringent help to tone and tighten “leaky” tissues of the body, making them wonderful candidates for restoring balance in a leaky gut.
Vulnerary herbs are herbs that have an anti-inflammatory, wound-healing effect – whether taken internally (for the gut lining) or applied topically (for the skin).
The most potent and well-studied herbs with astringent and/or vulnerary herbs for leaky gut include, but aren’t limited to:
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
- Green tea (Camelia sinensis)
- Plantain leaf (Plantago major)
Best astringent vulnerary herbal supplements for leaky gut
My favorite astringent turmeric supplement is Turiva by Ortho Molecular.
(I prefer to blend calendula and green tea in tea infusions, versus in capsules or herbal tinctures!)
- Turmeric for IBS and Leaky Gut: Is it Helpful?
- 39 Best Herbs for Leaky Gut & Digestive Health
- Gut-Healing Tea Recipe
Zinc carnosine is a newer nutraceutical, which combines zinc with L-carnitine.
This is a very simple and easy leaky gut supplement which almost anyone can take.
The only contraindication of zinc carnosine would be if you have an excessive mucus-producing condition such as collagenous colitis or cystic fibrosis.
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin which we can make from sunlight – but most of us arne’t getting enough, and need to take supplements.
While not everyone needs or benefits from vitamin D3 supplementation for leaky gut, research is showing us that vitamin D deficiency is common among people with leaky gut. (20)
Get a vitamin D blood test to determine whether or not you have a vitamin D deficiency.
For reference, from an integrative, holistic and functional nutrition perspective, your vitamin D level should fall within the range of ~35 to 65.
If you aren’t absorbing vitamin D even when taking high-dose vitamin D3 supplements, you may also want to run a GI MAP test to assess whether or not you’re properly breaking down fats. y
Best types of ancillary supplements for supporting leaky gut repair
Gut repair supplements are important and necessary for healing leaky gut – but there are other factors to consider!
Ancillary supplements for leaky gut can help to optimize the environment in your gut by reducing inflammation and improving the digestion and break-down of nutrients, so it will be easier for your gut to heal.
Below is a round-up of my favorite go-to ancillary gut repair supplements for healing leaky gut.
Probiotics are the good microbes that are supposed to live in the gut. They’re supposed to form a thick slab over the gut mucosal membrane, serving as a first line of defense.
In cases of dysbiosis (a common root-cause of leaky gut), levels of probiotics are lower than optimal – so it creates an opportunity for the ‘bad’ stuff to overgrow and release inflammatory endotoxins which damage the gut wall and leach nutrients from us.
Taking a good quality probiotic supplement can go a long way to help protect your gut from damage caused by overgrowth of harmful, pathogenic microbes.
The best probiotic supplement for you will depend on what is going on in your gut. Consider running a comprehensive stool analysis such as a GI MAP test to get a better idea of which probiotic microbes you need to supplement and replete!
Some people do better with probiotic foods. And not everyone tolerates probiotic foods or supplements, especially if you have SIBO – so make sure you’re working closely with your treatment team to determine what’s best for your bio-individual needs.
- How to Choose the Best Sauerkraut for Probiotics and Gut Health
- Free Downloadable Probiotic Foods List PDF
- Iron Supplements and Probiotics: What You Need to Know
Probiotics can’t survive without prebiotics – aka the food and fuel source that sustain the growth and survival of those healthy microbes living in your gut!
Prebiotic supplements aren’t usually necessary, if you’re eating a diverse enough diet which incorporates prebiotic foods and/or herbs.
- Can You & Should You Take Prebiotic and Probiotics Together?
- Prebiotic Foods and Herbs List PDF (Free Download)
- Prebiotics vs. Probiotics – What’s the Difference?
Post-biotics (short-chain fatty acids)
Short-chain fatty acids, or “post-biotics”, are the bi-product or metabolite of what gets produced by probiotic microbes when they consume and ferment the prebiotic constituents in our gut.
These substances are what make probiotics so beneficial. Post-biotic are nourishing and protective for the gut barrier. (22)
A few examples of post-biotics are Enterovite and Butyrate.
These supplements can be expensive and not always helpful/necessary.
But they can be helpful in some cases of SIBO and/or when you aren’t tolerating probiotic foods/supplements but need the extra support!
Herbal antimicrobials such as (oregano and oregon grape root) are sometimes helpful and necessary to eradicate certain types of stubborn pathogenic gut microbes that are wreaking havoc on your gut barrier.
There are dozens to choose from, but I generally find blends to be exponentially more effective than single-dose herbs.
I find antimicrobial herbs also generally tend to be less harmful for probiotic gut microbes, compared to their pharmaceutical counterparts.
But please don’t self-prescribe! There are SO many herbal antimicrobials out there, with lots of safety considerations and specific dosing guidelines to follow.
Make sure you’re working with a healthcare provider trained in integrative and functional medicine to get the right type, combination, and therapeutic dose of antimicrobial herbs.
I’ve seen these supplements unfortunately get overlooked – even among functional medicine practitioners.
IgG-based binders (like SBI Protect) and charcoal-based binders (like G.I. Detox*) or herbal binders can be helpful alongside an herbal antimicrobial protocol to help prevent “die-off’, which is essentially the release and absorption of endotoxins (lipopolysaccharides) into your bloodstream.
Die-off is no picnic and it’s something that, if left unchecked, can create other problems for you down the road.
Again, make sure you’re working with a qualified healthcare provider who can include binders in your leaky gut repair supplement regimen.
Learn more: Binders is something we discuss in Module 3 (“Microbiome Makeover”) of my Complete Gut Repair Roadmap online course.
Undigested food particles may seem like no big deal, but when you have leaky gut, the last thing you want is undigested food particles leaking into your bloodstream!
This is actually how a lot of modern-day food allergies and food sensitivities can develop.
Aside from making sure you’re chewing your food, you may also benefit from digestive enzymes (which will vary depending on the types of nutrients your gut isn’t properly breaking down).
While not everyone needs digestive enzymes, they can help in many cases.
Here are a few examples of digestive enzyme supplements to consider:
- Brush border enzymes like Digest Gold
- Lactase for lactose intolerance
- Ox bile for post-gallbladder removal
- FODMAP enzymes like FODZYME* (Enter my affiliate code WHOLEISTICLIVING for 15% off your first FODZYME order here*!)
- Sucrose-digesting enzymes like Sucraid (for sucrose intolerance)
- Maltose-digesting enzymes like Starchway (for congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency)
See what I mean? One size never fits all! But working with a gut health dietitian nutritionist will help you gain clarity on this.
If you prefer a more holistic approach to help you digest fats and proteins more optimally, and perhaps you’re prone to low stomach acid, digestive bitters (aka “herbal bitters”) may be of interest to you!
Digestive herbal bitters are essentially bitter herbs which have been extracted in alcohol, so you can take them in drop dose before meals.
(Bitter herbs have been shown to help increase digestive secretions like stomach acid and bile to name a few.)
Learn more: How & Why to Take Bitter Herbs for Digestion
Nervine herbs are a favorite stress-reducing herbal ally of mine, and I could spend all day raving about them!
We all know that stress wreaks havoc on the gut. A fight-or-flight response left unchecked over time can reduce circulation to your enteric nervous system – aka the part of your “rest and digest” nervous system responsible for digestion and gut motility.
Chamomile and lemon balm are a few of my favorite nervines for leaky gut since they can help to take the edge off and settle a nervous stomach; however, reducing stress is usually not enough as a stand-alone intervention t heal leaky gut.
Last but certainly not least, I love talking about and recommending adaptogenic mushrooms!
I take some kind of adaptogenic mushrooms or “functional mushrooms” pretty much everyday. There are dozens to choose from.
This class of herbal allies have been shown to help reduce inflammation, modulate the stress response, improve focus and stamina, balance the immune system, feed probiotic gut microbes, and so much more.
From a leaky gut repair standpoint, adaptogenic mushrooms can help support a healthier gut lining by combating inflammation, feeding the growth of probiotic microbes, and reducing the stress response (like nervines but in a different way).
Recap and final thoughts
Are you feeling overwhelmed? If so, I don’t blame you! This is a LOT to unpack.
Clearly, choosing the best leaky gut supplements for YOU is not simple. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You need to be supporting your gut from all angles – not just gut repair.
Remember that no individual supplement is going to be enough to heal your gut as a stand-alone intervention, and there is no such thing as a quick fix.
That’s because you’re unique, and your gut is COMPLEX! Not to mention, you didn’t develop leaky gut overnight – so unfortunately it won’t go away overnight, either.
All of that said, you aren’t meant to navigate this on your own! You need an expert who has been there, done that, and who can distill all of this down for you.
Healing your gut is figureuotable, when you have a roadmap and when you’re in the right mindset to keep going on your journey.
I’d love to continue supporting you in any way I can…
If you’d like to learn more, here are a few ways I can support you, depending on logistics and your level of readiness. You can do any or all of these things!
- Join my free Facebook group: Whole-istic Living for Better Gut Health
- Download my free gut health nutrition guide: 5 Common Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut
- Enroll in my signature online program, the Complete Gut Repair Roadmap
- Apply to work with me 1-1
- Schedule your next follow-up appointment here (existing clients only!)
Wishing you all the best in whatever path you choose!
XO – Jenna