BiotiQuest® Gut Health & Probiotics Blog with Martha Carlin

Gut Detox Supplements: Are They Helpful For Gut Health?

Martha Carlin | May 17, 2024 |

Are you struggling with bloating or constipation, or simply want improved energy levels? Your digestive system processes a lot of foreign substances and over time, your gastrointestinal system and detoxification capacity may slow down and require some TLC. 

Are you curious about how you can support your digestive health and improved resilience? Let's talk about the science of detoxification, explore the benefits of a well-functioning gut, and identify the most effective foods and supplements that may help you get better health.

What is detoxification?

Detoxification involves the systematic removal of toxins and waste from the digestive tract. Your GI tract is adept at breaking down complex food molecules into simple nutrients, which are then used to generate energy. The system features multiple natural detox mechanisms, including expulsion of waste through stool, urine, etc., and the elimination of harmful substances like lipopolysaccharides (LPS) and reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Does gut health affect natural body detoxification?

Your intestines contain roughly 70-80% of your immune system and process a large amount of foreign molecules constantly. Regular bowel movements are one of the most important ways to keep the gut clear of waste like cellular and microbial debris, and remove toxins. 

A diet high in processed foods limits your body’s ability to combat oxidative stress and maintain regular bowel movements. Symptoms like bloating, constipation, and fatigue can be some of the early signs that something isn’t quite right. 

An unhealthy gut or dysbiosis has been associated with various metabolic, cardiovascular, and neurological health conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), atherosclerosis, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.


Benefits of a diverse gut microbiome

Your body contains more microbial cells than human cells and orders of magnitude (150-300x) more microbial genes than the human genome itself. The gut microbiome includes bacteria, fungi, archaea, etc. The collective microbial gene pool, or microbiome, is vital for digestion and overall human health.

Beneficial microbes participate in the metabolism of amino acids, lipids (fats), and nondigestible carbohydrates, enhancing nutrient absorption and synthesis. They also bolster your immune defense by protecting against pathogens.

The gut wall includes several protective layers, including the intestinal mucosal barrier held together by tight junction proteins, which are crucial for preventing pathogenic invasion and managing inflammatory responses. A robust gut microbiome maintains this barrier, competes with pathogens for resources, and produces antimicrobial peptides and antibodies to inhibit harmful bacteria and reduce inflammation.

Exploring the role of gut microbiota in disease prevention

Emerging research underscores the role of gut microbiota in preventing various chronic diseases. For instance, a healthy gut microbiome has been associated with reduced risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and even type 2 diabetes. This preventive capability is largely attributed to the microbiome's influence on metabolic pathways, immune modulation, and the gut-brain axis, communicating vital health signals between your gut and brain.

Effects of dysbiosis

Dysbiosis denotes a reduction in microbial diversity and an imbalance in the microbial population, altering their health impacts. A balanced microbiome supports regular bowel movements, satiety after meals, and mental well-being, whereas dysbiosis contributes to many disease states.

Dysbiosis disrupts your body's innate ability to detoxify. For instance, dysbiosis can disrupt gut motility (forward movement of the intestines) and thus bowel movements due to a reduction in gut bacteria by-products that aid the process. Loss of diversity can also reduce the genetic capacity of detoxification enzymes in your gut.  


Gut bacteria and gut detox

Your gut microbiota impacts your digestive and immune system in several ways by supporting immune function, reducing inflammation, strengthening the intestinal barrier, enhancing your ability to remove toxins, and combating oxidative stress. 

Numerous studies correlate a healthy and diverse gut microbiome with the following benefits: 

Maintaining the intestinal barrier

Gut microbiota help maintain the intestinal barrier. The gut wall is a selectively porous barrier (selective intestinal permeability) that allows nutrients to pass through while keeping toxic bacterial by-products like lipopolysaccharides (LPS) contained within the gut. Butyrate-producing bacteria help feed the gut lining and maintain this critical function. 

Mucus lines the intestinal cells and prevents pathogenic bacteria from sticking to the intestinal cells and triggering inflammation. Dysbiosis negatively impacts mucin production, while beneficial bacteria encourage mucus production and reduce inflammation. Dysbiosis often leads to decreased production of the short chain fatty acid butyrate. 


Regulating antioxidants

Antioxidants are essential to maintaining detox pathways (redox homeostasis). Free radicals are waste products produced during essential cellular processes. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing severe DNA, cellular, and tissue damage. 

Different types of antioxidants — dietary, microbial, and inherently produced — counteract the harmful effects of free radicals. Research regarding antioxidants (glutathione and hydrogen sulfide) reveals different microbial species impact the generation and availability of antioxidants, either directly or indirectly

Despite the benefits of hydrogen sulfide as an antioxidant, an increase in hydrogen sulfide bacteria in the gut has also been implicated in the progress of Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, research implies a negative correlation between probiotic Lactobacillus (L. plantarum) species and free radical production in the gut.

Producing anti-inflammatory metabolites

Beneficial bacteria feed on nondigestible carbohydrates, polyphenols, amino acids, bile acids, etc., and generate anti-inflammatory metabolites such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) — butyrate, acetate, and propionate, indole, secondary bile acids, etc.

Butyrate interacts with immune cells and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Additionally, it is the main energy source for intestinal cells, enhances the performance of tight junction proteins (strengthens the gut wall), and increases mucin production.

Food and supplements for healthy gut bacteria

A diverse gut microbiome leads to a healthy gut. In addition to supporting immune function and detox pathways, beneficial bacteria facilitate nutrient metabolism that allows you to get the most out of your diet. A diet rich in nondigestible carbohydrates (prebiotics), fermented foods, and probiotics can help you sustain a diverse gut microbiota. 

1. Prebiotics

Beneficial bacteria feed on high-fiber foods or foods rich in nondigestible carbohydrates (pectin, inulin, β-glucans, oligosaccharides, resistant fiber, soluble fiber, etc.) to generate by-products that help support gut health. 

Some foods and supplements rich in prebiotics are:

  • Seeds and nuts (flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Seasonal and organic fruit and vegetables (pear, prunes, dandelion greens, green bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, cabbage, etc.)
  • Aromatics (garlic, onions, leeks, celery, etc.)
  • Inulin (chicory root)
  • Psyllium husk 

Consumption of foods like seasonal fresh fruit rich in prebiotics will support the growth of beneficial bacteria and help increase bacterial diversity in the gut. 

Choose your produce wisely, since most commercially available products have likely been exposed to glyphosate (a commonly used herbicide and crop desiccant). Glyphosate has been linked with a negative impact on several health markers.

2. Fermented foods

Foods that undergo lacto-fermentation are a rich source of prebiotics, probiotic bacteria, and plant compounds such as polyphenols, antioxidants, and vitamins. Consumption of fermented foods has been associated with improved dairy and protein digestibility, lowered cholesterol and hypertension, weight loss, and an increase in gut diversity. Popularly consumed fermented foods are:

  • Vegetable-based — Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, etc.
  • Milk-based — Yogurt, kefir, etc.
  • Legume and grain-based — Miso, natto, idli, dosa, ogi, etc.
  • Fermented teas and vinegar — Kombucha, apple cider vinegar, etc.
  • Fermented meat and fish — Regional hams, sausages, etc.

Learn how to make some of my favorite fermented recipes here

3. Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that have a protective effect on gut health. Probiotic bacteria have been linked with several health benefits such as improvements in bowel movements, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, weight management, glucose metabolism, cholesterol, and hypertension, as well as enhancing gut bacteria diversity, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the gut. 

A recent systematic literature review evaluating the effects of oral probiotics on type 2 diabetes suggested that coadministration of metformin and probiotics may enhance glucose control.

Additionally, a randomized clinical trial studying the effects of our Sugar Shift® probiotic on parameters including fasting and postprandial glucose, HbA1c, lipid panel, insulin, creatinine, and serum lipopolysaccharide (LPS) levels detected a significant reduction in serum LPS. LPS is a microbial toxin that can trigger local and system-wide inflammatory cascades. 

Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri) has been associated with maintaining iron homeostasis and having a protective effect against iron overload. Gut microbes need iron to thrive, and excessive iron (either via diet or supplements) can lead to the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria that produce endotoxins like LPS. Iron homeostasis helps protect against pathogenic overgrowth and oxidative stress that can result from the presence of excessive iron in the body.

Our Sugar Shift® formula contains specific probiotic strains that perform as a community and enhance each other's functions. Key species in Sugar Shift® convert excess glucose and fructose in the gut into mannitol, which is a free radical scavenger and a prebiotic that supports gut diversity.

Our Sugar Shift® formula contains the following probiotic strains

  • L. reuteri (PCR7)
  • L. mesenteroides (LM-37)
  • P. acidilactici (PA-68)
  • L. paracasei
  • L. plantarum (LP-36)
  • B. subtilis (DE-111)
  • B. bifidum
  • B. longum

Key strains such as L. reuteri and L. plantarum have been associated with antioxidant activity in the liver, conferring antibacterial and antifungal effects and removing fungal toxins.

Diet and detoxification

Front view of glass bottle containing 30 capsules of Sugar Shift antibiotic supplment.A healthy diet effectively achieves health goals such as better digestive health, increased energy levels, and reduced inflammation. The right mix of prebiotics, fermented foods, probiotics, etc. can help you sustain a diverse and healthy gut microbiome and help support the body in maintaining its inherent detoxification processes. 

Want to learn more about how probiotics can further support you on your health journey? Check out how to rebuild the immune system after antibiotics.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best gut cleanse supplement?

High-fiber foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, psyllium husk, inulin, and probiotic supplements can be great to help achieve regular bowel movements and gut bacteria diversity. Including castor oil and Triphala (an ayurvedic herb mix) might also help ease bowel movements.

Are gut detoxes good for you?

Short-term colon cleanses are beneficial as a rest and reset of the digestive system, but for the long-term, a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics might be a more sustainable way to enjoy better health. 

How do you reset your gut bacteria?

Resetting your gut health might seem challenging at first, but a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, prebiotics and probiotics, adequate sleep, hydration, and exercise can provide the key to maintaining good gut health in the long run. Want to learn more? Dive into Super Gut and Wheat Belly, written by Dr. William Davis, for step-by-step guidance and information on how to reprogram the gut microbiome and the benefits of leading a wheat-free lifestyle.

With gratitude,

Martha Carlin photo Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.

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