Supplements for Digestive Issues that Persist

It's time to put some of my skills to the test.

Having worked in a health food store for nearly two years, taking numerous nutrition-related courses and living with Celiac Disease for over five years, I know a thing or two about how the digestive system works.

I feel (somewhat) qualified to write a post on natural supplements that may be beneficial for those who are on a gluten-free diet but still have digestive issues, like bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea, acid reflux, nausea or constipation.  The suggestions may also benefit others who do not have Celiac Disease but suffer from the symptoms mentioned.

Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor (obviously) and any recommendations mentioned should be discussed with your doctor prior to use.  Any mention of a specific brand was labelled gluten-free at the time of writing but ingredients can change.  Please check all labels.

It can sometimes take months or even years for a person with Celiac Disease to completely repair the small intestine and feel 100% again. Even so, digestive problems can linger.

These are some alternatives to harsh prescription medications that your doctor may suggest.


Essentially, probiotics mean "good life." Pro = Good. Biotic = Life.

Your natural gut flora can become out of whack from numerous factors, including the use of antibiotics, too much sugar in the diet, stomach virus, food poisoning and prescription medications.

Bacteria Probiotic

I'm sure you've heard of acidophilus before.  That's just one strain of the beneficial bacteria available as a supplement for your intestinal tract. Regular yogurt has a small amount of beneficial bacteria but the truth is, most yogurt does not have a sufficient amount of probiotics to have much benefit.  You can get probiotics in capsules and powder at much high doses.

One of my favourite probiotics is New Roots Acidophilus Ultra, pictured to the right.  It contains 11 different strains and 11 billion active cultures total.  It is also enteric-coated so the probiotics get to where they need to go and not destroyed in the stomach acid.

When you take antibiotics to treat that painful ear infection, throat infection or whatever it may be, the antibiotics don't know the difference between the good bacteria and bad bacteria in your body.  It kills off everything in its path.  That's why it is very important to supplement with probiotics, especially after long-term or strong antibiotic use.

Yeast Probiotic

While most people are familiar with the "good bacteria," there are also beneficial yeast supplements to neutralize the bacterial toxins in the body.

Saccharomyces boulardii is one of them and it is available through the company Florastor. It is usually marketted for people travelling to areas where traveller's diarrhea is common, but it can also be used for those who have diarrhea associated with acute gastroenteritis (stomach flu), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


Digestive enzymes are what break down the food we eat so our bodies can utilize the nutrients.  Their individual names usually include the suffix -ase.

Lactase = breaks down lactose
Protease = breaks down protein
Lipase = breaks down fat
(Plus many more)

Some digestive enzyme supplements contain a wide range of enzymes to help break down each part of the food you eat, including Organika Full Spectrum Plant Enzymes.

Yes, it is true that Celiac Disease can cause lactose intolerance.  The tips of the villi in the small intestine, which flatten from damage caused by the autoimmune Celiac reaction, produce lactase.  Lactase is what breaks down lactose in dairy products.  Sometimes the production of lactase will return when the villi grow back upon following a gluten-free diet but don't count on it.  Up to 90% of adults have lactose intolerance (of varying degrees), whether they have Celiac or not.   There are lactase pills that can help you break down just the lactose parts of dairy foods.


Fiber is not absorbed by the body - it is what helps to "get things moving" in your digestive tract.

There are two types of fiber:  insoluble and soluble.  Both are important in your diet. 

Soluble fiber is fiber that dissolves in water, as the name suggests.  It attracts water and turns to gel.  It includes psyllium husk (Metamucil), lentils, beans, chia seeds, carrots, insides of pears and apples, and orange

Insoluble fiber is that which does not dissolve in water and moves through the digestive system mostly intact.  It provides the roughage and bulk for your system to expel waste.  It includes leafy greens, fruit and vegetables skin (corn anyone?), celery and whole grains.

When going gluten-free, fiber is often in short supply because of the use of starches and sugar and fat used in gluten-free grain products.  Try to incorporate gluten-free whole grains in your diet to increase fiber.

Remember that too much fiber at once can be a shock to your digestive system.  If you decide to increase your fiber, do so slowly by adding the increased fibery foods over a couple of weeks.  


I know it sounds silly to suggest something as simple as water but your digestive system needs sufficient water to run smoothly - literally.  Consume at least 1.5 litres of water each day.  Try not to consume too much water with meals as it can dilute your body's natural digestive enzymes.

Other Supplements

L-Glutamine is an amino acid that helps to repair the intestinal lining.  Available in capsules and powder.

Peppermint may help with intestinal spasms and pain.  Beware that it has the opposite effect in some people and may trigger more symptoms.  Available in capsules, tincture (liquid to ingest) or tea form. 

Fennel is great for reducing bloating and calming the intestinal tract. Available in capsules, tincture and tea.

Ginger can help to soothe an upset stomach and ease nausea.  Available in capsules, tea and chews.

Bromelain is found in pineapple and papain is found in papayas.  They both have anti-inflammatory properties and also have enzymes that help break down protein.  You can eat pineapple and papaya on their own or they are available in capsules.  (Now you know why pineapple and papaya are sometimes used as meat tenderizers.)

More Tips
  • Sugar alcohols are evil.  Especially for those with a sensitive stomach.  Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, isomalt, mannitol and other -itols) are found in "sugar-free" products, like soda, candy and gum.  They are not digested by the body and attract water to the colon, causing bloating, diarrhea and cramps.  Cut this stuff from your diet if you suffer from any of those symptoms.
  • Sometimes other food intolerances and sensitivities can cause digestive upset. Some include dairy (all dairy products, not just the lactose portion), corn, soy, MSG and eggs. 
  • A high-fat diet can be hard on your digestive system.  Limit fried foods and animal products with high fat content.
  • When adding fiber to your diet, start slow.
  • Some prescription medication can cause digestive disturbance. 
  • Caffeine can speed up your digestive system.  Limit your intake of coffee and chocolate if diarrhea is an issue.
  • Eat fruit away from meals.  Fruit digests much quicker than other foods and can be slowed down when consumed with other food groups and left to ferment and cause bloating and cramps.
  • Chew well!  Digestion starts in your mouth.
  • Keep your diet as natural as possible.  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains (gluten-free of course), nuts, legumes, lean meats, eggs and dairy (if you can handle it).
  • Keep a food diary to identify foods that cause trouble for you.  Start with a simple diet - often rice and bananas - and then add food items or groups one at a time.  When you notice symptoms, cut the food out and try to reintroduce at a later time.  You don't want to cut out a food based on one day of stomach upset that could have been from another source.
  • For tips on how to deal with acid reflux, check out Best Health magazine.
Eat well.  Be healthy.


  1. This is unbelievably helpful! Thank you so much!

  2. Thank you for writing this article and sharing your knowledge! It's very, very helpful! :-D

  3. Fish oil can help as well. I went to my local health food store yesterday and the owner is a registered nutritionist. He set me up with a new probiotic, a fish oil, a good enzyme and magnesium to help with my sleep patterns. Since it just happened yesterday the jury is still out but I'm hoping I feel better fast. If not, I know where to find him! LOL

  4. This is so helpful. Thanks a lot. My 8 year old is back on gluten so that he can do the biopsy test for celiac. It is so horrible to watch but I'll make sure to get some of these things once his testing is over.

  5. Hi Jax, I'm having a hard time finding a lactase tablet that is gluten and soy free. Do you know of one? So thankful for all the info you share on here and FB.

  6. Hey Jax, this is a really great post! I have been looking into clinical research on gastrointestinal problems, and gluten seems to be a big topic. I never knew how helpful some of these supplements could be, but this has definitely expanded my horizon. Thanks!