Optimize Your Protein Intake For Better Gut Health

Protein is not only crucial for building and repairing tissues, but it also plays a significant role in supporting the health of your gut microbiome. Let’s dive in and explore the evidence-based recommendations regarding protein and gut health, including important amino acids found in certain foods that promote a thriving gut.

The Gut-Microbiome Connection:

The gut microbiome, a complex ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms residing in our digestive tract, plays a crucial role in maintaining our overall health. The composition and diversity of the gut microbiome are influenced by various factors, including diet. Research suggests that protein intake can significantly impact the gut microbiome and contribute to its balance and function.

Protein’s Impact on Gut Health:

1. Enhances Gut Barrier Function: Proteins help maintain a healthy gut barrier, which prevents harmful substances from crossing into the bloodstream. This protective barrier is essential for preventing inflammation and maintaining optimal gut health.

2. Supports Microbial Diversity: Protein intake affects the types and abundance of gut bacteria. A diverse gut microbiome is associated with better health outcomes, including improved digestion, immunity, and metabolism.

3. Promotes Short-Chain Fatty Acid (SCFA) Production: Protein fermentation in the gut produces short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. SCFAs are an important energy source for colon cells, contribute to a balanced gut environment, and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Key Amino Acids for Gut Health:

Certain amino acids found in protein-rich foods offer specific benefits for gut health, including intestinal barrier support. The disruption of gut barrier function plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of numerous gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease and infectious enterocolitis. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

1. Glutamine: Found abundantly in protein-rich foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, glutamine plays a vital role in maintaining gut integrity and promoting gut barrier function. In fact, L glutamine is the main fuel source for enterocytes, which are cells along the lining of the digestive tract that have a clear role in digestion by ensuring the uptake of ions, water, nutrients, vitamins and absorption of unconjugated bile salts.

2. Arginine: This amino acid, present in sources such as poultry, pumpkin seeds, and legumes, supports wound healing and enhances the production of nitric oxide, which contributes to healthy blood flow in the gut.

3. Tryptophan: Commonly associated with promoting relaxation and sleep, tryptophan is found in poultry, nuts, seeds, and dairy. It serves as a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in gut function and mood regulation.

4. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): BCAAs, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are abundant in foods like meat, dairy, legumes, and certain grains. They play a role in promoting gut health, muscle protein synthesis, and modulating the gut microbiota.

Evidence-Based Recommendations:

1. Choose High-Quality Protein Sources: Opt for lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. These provide not only high-quality protein but also a wide range of essential nutrients.

2. Prioritize Plant-Based Proteins: Plant-based proteins, such as legumes, nuts, and seeds, offer additional benefits due to their fiber content, which supports a healthy gut microbiome.

3. Aim for Adequate Protein Intake: The recommended protein intake varies based on individual needs, but a general guideline is to consume around 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day as a minimum. I tend to recommend higher protein intakes of around 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.55 to 0.91 grams per pound. Consult with a registered dietitian for personalized recommendations.

If you are struggling to meet your needs, protein powders can make it easy when used as a supplement to a balanced diet. I have chosen these options based on heavy metal testing and quality. Be sure to check the ingredients list as some do contain ingredients like gums that can exacerbate symptoms for sensitive individuals. 

Bone Broth and Collagen 

Ancient nutrition collagen Don’t assume that all items from each brand are recommended because for example Dr. Axe plant protein vanilla was found to have 5.7 mcg lead per serving.

Paleo Valley bone broth protein unflavored *I use this when I travel and even in my morning smoothies

Great Lakes collagen

Whey and Casein and Egg White 

Nutricost grass fed whey protein isolate unflavored

Nutricost Casein protein unflavored

Jay Robb egg white protein unflavored

Plant Based 

Now Sports pea protein unflavored 

Sprout Living vanilla lucuma (they will not share their COA for heavy metals but a lot of my clients tolerate them well digestive wise and I do enjoy the taste)

Truvani plant based protein vanilla  *I currently use this one for my smoothies or added to baked goods.

Vega all in one french vanilla

Nutiva hemp protein 

Pb&Me peanut butter

Plant fusion complete vanilla

Four sigmatic plant protein REWIRED for 10% off

Meal replacement

KaChava chocolate

Remember, a well-balanced diet rich in protein from various sources is key to supporting a healthy gut. Prioritize whole, unprocessed food more often. 

Other creative ways to add protein include:

Published On: July 4, 2023Categories: Gut Health, Diets, Hormones, Food, Healthy Habits, Testing

Share This Post, Choose Your Platform!

Notify of
Full name is not required for anonymity
Your email address will not be published
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments