70 million people
suffer from various digestive issues and poor gut health each day? These digestive issues include things like chronic heartburn, GERD, acid reflux, IBS, abdominal pain, and just general poor gut health.
There are a variety of medications that you can take to try and improve your gut health, but these medications often come with unwanted side effects. As an alternative, you can try a natural route and introduce more nutrients for gut health into your diet. If you're not sure which vitamins to use, you're in luck. We've rounded up the top seven minerals and vitamins for gut health, and we're going to give you science-backed reasons why they work so well.
Minerals and Vitamins for Gut Health
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
Minerals and Vitamins for Gut Health
More and more people are turning to more natural remedies to help improve their everyday lives and overall health, and this includes making sure they are getting adequate amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in their diets. We've researched and pulled the top seven nutrients for gut health you'll want to focus on.
1. Vitamin B12
First up on our list of vitamins for gut health is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12's
main functions are to keep your body's blood cells and nerves healthy and to regulate your gut health. It's also critical in the production of DNA, and it can help prevent a form of anemia known as megaloblastic anemia.
You can get this vitamin from the food you eat and dietary supplements. Foods rich in this vitamin
include liver, clams, fish, poultry, eggs, meat, yogurt, and some breakfast cereals.
How Vitamin B12 Helps Gut Health
One big way vitamin B12 can support a healthy gut is that it can help to rebalance the bacteria levels
that live in your digestive tract and help to break down food. Infections can cause the "bad" bacteria to overtake the "good" bacteria. When this happens, you can experience problems with breaking down and digesting food as well as abdominal pain and diarrhea. However, taking vitamin B12 can help eradicate high levels of the bad bacteria while giving your good bacteria everything it needs to thrive.
This vitamin also helps your body produce digestive enzymes
. These enzymes can then help to break down the food you eat. This means that you'll be able to extract more nutrients from everything you eat. You should see your energy levels improving when you include more vitamin B12 in your diet. This vitamin is also helpful in regulating your nervous system
function. This regulation of your nervous system can help to stimulate your appetite. In turn, this encourages healthy digestion.
Iron is a very important mineral that you can naturally find in your body in very low doses. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen from the hemoglobin in your red blood cells all over your body. This mineral is also critical for helping to remove carbon dioxide from your blood. Not enough iron can lead to anemia
You can get iron from the foods you eat, but for women in particular, this may not be enough. If you are having trouble getting enough of this mineral, iron supplements may be something your doctor will recommend that you take each day. Foods rich in iron
include liver, beef, eggs, shrimp, lentils, brown rice, and peanut butter.
How Iron Helps Gut Health
This mineral has powerful anti-inflammatory
properties, and it can help to calm any inflammation you may have in the lining of your gut. Conditions like leaky gut, an iron deficiency, or IBS can cause chronic widespread inflammation. This inflammation can lead to discomfort, diarrhea, and poor nutrient absorption. Iron goes to the inflammation and systematically starts to heal you
from the inside out.
Iron can also help combat high levels of bad bacteria
and give the good bacteria in your gut a boost. When this happens, the bacteria in your gut will slowly start to come back to healthy levels. As your bacterial levels get back to where they were originally supposed to be, you can have better nutrient absorption, less inflammation or discomfort, and an overall healthier digestive tract. You should start to have higher energy levels as well.
Another important nutrient
that you need to stay healthy is zinc. You can find zinc in the cells throughout your body. This nutrient serves several purposes including helping your immune system fight off infections from bacteria and viruses, ensuring you develop and grow properly, and it helps your body make DNA and proteins
A lot of people take supplements with this mineral in them to help them get the correct dosage. However, there are also a lot of foods that contain zinc, such as lentils, almonds, peanut butter, corn, broccoli, and clams.
How Zinc Helps Gut Health
Zinc is an essential nutrient when it comes to fortifying your GI tract's lining
. If you have a zinc deficiency, you'll most likely end up with a thin or cracked lining. If this happens, nutrients and bacteria can slip through your damaged lining and cause system-wide inflammation. Zinc encourages healthy cell growth
. It'll go to any damaged areas of your intestinal lining and jumpstart the healing process.
It can also help to alter the bacterial levels
in your gut. This is great news if you have a good amount of zinc in your system. However, if you have a deficiency, it can cause an overload of bad bacteria. They'll thrive in the unbalanced GI tract and good bacteria will struggle. A healthy level of zinc will help encourage bacteria diversity
in your gut as well. In turn, this can lead to increased bacterial activity and better nutrient absorption.
4. Vitamin D
is naturally present in a few food sources, it's added to a lot of everyday food sources, and it's a fat-soluble vitamin. When ultraviolet rays hit your skin from the sun, this triggers the natural vitamin D production response in your body. However, this usually isn't enough so a lot of people turn to vitamin supplements to get the recommended amount. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties, helps with bone growth and strength
, and regulates cell growth.
Foods that contain a good amount
of vitamin D include fish, fortified milk and orange juice, pork, mushrooms, eggs, and some variations of margarine. Because vitamin D isn't found in a great variety of foods, this is one of the more difficult vitamins for gut health to get enough of from diet alone.
How Vitamin D Helps Gut Health
This vitamin also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties
that help people who have chronic intestinal inflammation or system-wide inflammation like those with IBS or Leaky Gut Syndrome. Vitamin D can go to the source of the inflammation and help to neutralize it, and it can also help calm the nervous system response
that is causing the inflammation in the first place.
A good level of vitamin D in your body encourages it to create defensins
. Defensins are anti-microbial molecules. They're a key component to maintaining a healthy and balanced bacteria level in your gut. If you don't have enough of this anti-microbial molecule in your system, you'll end up with an imbalance
between the good and bad bacteria. In turn, you could see increased discomfort, diarrhea, and poor nutrient absorption.
Many people have never heard of this mineral before, but selenium
is an extremely important nutrient that is vital to your overall health and well being. You can find selenium in several different foods and it's an essential mineral that your body needs to function properly. It helps to protect your cells against oxidative damage, encourages thyroid hormone metabolism, and promotes DNA synthesis.
As we mentioned, you get selenium from your diet. However, the amount of this mineral that is in any of the following foods varies depending on how much selenium was in the soil or in the animal's food source. Selenium-rich foods include tuna, pork, chicken, beef, Brazil nuts, whole wheat pasta, shrimp, and tofu.
How Selenium Helps Gut Health
Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect your cells
from free radical damage. If you have a lot of stress in your life or are exposed to environmental factors like cigarette smoke, it can cause excess free radicals to wreak havoc on your gut, including triggering oxidative stress. Oxidative stress
damages healthy cells in your gut, and this can lead to inflammation, ulcers, and cracks in your intestinal lining.
This mineral also works to inhibit the compound NF-kB,
and to stop it from activating interleukin-6 and TNF-alpha production. These things are what cause an inflammatory response in your gut. Selenium can help stop inflammation by stopping this chain of events. Once this happens, your gut will slowly start to heal.
6. Vitamin C
Also called the sunshine vitamin
, vitamin C is a nutrient that we can't make naturally so we have to get it from our diets. Vitamin C's main roles in our bodies are to stimulate collagen production to strengthen skin and connective tissues, help regenerate antioxidants, and it helps with protein metabolism
Since we can't make this vitamin for gut health, you have to get it from your food or supplements. Foods
with a high amount of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, green peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, winter squash, watermelon, and pineapple.
How Vitamin C Helps Gut Heath
This vitamin is critical for helping your body absorb iron
from the food you eat. It does this by reducing the number of iron inhibitors in your body, including tannins and phytates, while increasing your cell's receptivity to the iron in your GI tract. When this happens, your body is able to get the most iron it can out of all of the food you eat. This can then prevent you from becoming anemic
and it will improve your energy levels.
Vitamin C also promotes cell healing
by reducing free radical damage to the lining of your GI tract. It encourages antioxidant regeneration, and these antioxidants work to protect your cells from further damage due to oxidative stress. This can reduce any cracks or fissures you may have in your intestinal lining, and it can also soothe any inflammation
you may have going on.
The final mineral on our list is magnesium
, and you can find this mineral in foods, dietary supplements, and in certain medications. Magnesium is very important for bone health, energy production, and for regulating your digestive system and improving the levels of stomach acid
that are present in your gut.
While you do have moderate levels of this mineral in your body, you will want to eat foods that contain high levels of it or take supplements to help keep your levels up. Foods that have higher levels of magnesium
include almonds, spinach, soy milk, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, kidney beans, and bananas.
How Magnesium Helps Gut Health
One thing that magnesium can do to help improve your gut health is to encourage your muscles along your digestive tract to relax
. When this happens, the food in your GI tract will start to move along at a quicker and more regular pace. You won't experience the typical abdominal pain and discomfort that comes from having too much food backed up in your intestines.
Secondly, magnesium can also help to balance your stomach acid levels. This is great news for people who have problems with chronic acid reflux or GERD. It acts like a natural antacid, and it can slowly reduce the amount of stomach acid
that your body produces if you have consistent levels of this mineral in your body. Once the acid levels are under control, your inflammation and damaged cell count should start to go down. This can lead to relief of your symptoms.
These seven minerals and vitamins for gut health have numerous health benefits as long as you are getting sufficient amounts. It doesn't matter if you take supplements or get them through your diet, as long as they're in your system, you should start to see an improvement in any problems that you may be experiencing.
As always, it's important that you talk to your doctor with any questions or concerns before you make any drastic dietary changes.