Lately, gut health shots seem to be everywhere. But are they any good for your digestion. And are they actually worth your hard earned money?

As an IBS nutritionist, this is my specialist subject. So recently, the Sun newspaper asked me to spill the beans on gut shots.

5 glass bottles of yoghurt in a cluster on a dark wooden table. Bottles have green screw on lids.

What are ‘gut health shots’?

The article was prompted by the publicity of the Zoe and M&S gut shot.

Gut health shots are small bottles of probiotic or prebiotic drinks with the claim to improve your gut health.

  • Some of them work through adding live friendly bacteria into the digestive tract.
  • Others work by increasing the amount of prebiotic fibre.

Gut health is linked to overall health

There is mounting evidence linking gut health to various aspects of our well-being. From immune function to mental health and even the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s all seem to have a connection to the gut microbes.

So wouldn’t it be cool if we could take something to boost the goodness?

Basics of a healthy diet shouldn’t be overlooked

As I emphasized in The SUN article, while gut health shots may offer some benefits for our digestion and gut microbiome. But they shouldn’t take the place of the fundamentals of a healthy lifestyle.

Building the basics

We shouldn’t rely on drinking daily gut health shots over a balanced diet rich in whole foods, fibre, and nutrients.

While the marketplace teems with an array of gut-boosting products, from yogurts to supplements, the question is: do we actually need them to get gut health?

What to consider when looking at a gut health shot

If you’re tempted and want to try them, what should you look for in a gut health shot?


If they were claiming to include probiotic bacteria then which strains are in the drink, and how much of them are guaranteed to be in each product? Some drinks give the specific strains, and the amount of bacteria per serving.

Levels of sugar

Some drinks had a large amount of added sugars per serving. Some products were sweetened with fruit.

Any beneficial ingredients

Some drinks claim added antioxidants, or vitamins, so I looked at whether this was likely to be relevant in the context of your normal diet.

Fibre content

If the goal of the gut health shot is to feed the gut microbes what fibre is included. And is this relevant to you?

My summary analysis of gut health shots

Here’s my thoughts on a selection of products chosen by the journalist. To read my article https://www.thesun.co.uk/health/25449179/gut-health-shots-review-marks-and-spencer/

Some had high sugar

The Activia Gut health Yoghurt has 14g sugar per bottle, which is 15% of your daily recommended sugar limit. This equates to over 3 tsp per serving.

Whilst I’m not saying all sugar is bad, you could easily be adding to your free sugar intake without realising it with this one. Some of the sugar was from fruit pulp which would add a bit of fibre. Other products were sweetened with stevia, which doesn’t affect blood sugars.

Probiotic bacteria

Some products have named the bacteria, but it’s unclear how much will be in each pot, or the probiotic benefits it will have.

Yakult has just one strain of bacteria – L. casei Shirota at 20 billion per bottle.  It’s one of the only products to guarantee and name the amount per serving. This bacteria is known to be good for improving digestion and has been well researched.

Extra nutrients

Some of the products claim added vitamins and antioxidants to help boost your health. In general there isn’t really enough in most of these to make a difference to your health.

  • Activia Gut Health Yoghurt provides 18% of your daily calcium intake per 100g which is good for bone health.
  • Holland and Barrett Glow Kombucha contains added vitamin C, but only about the same as eating an orange, so unlikely to have a significant effect in your body. And actually, if you ate an orange it would be better for you as you’d also get the antioxidants and fibre!
  • The No 1 Living Gut Brain Kombucha Health Shot has 100% of the recommended intake of key B vitamins and iodine, which may help support brain health and energy. You shouldn’t drink more than one shot a day because of this.

If a product says it contains a nutrient like vitamin D, or C but doesn’t say how much, then I’d assume it’s minimal!


Fibre and prebiotics

Some of the products, like No 1 Living Gut Brain Kombucha Health Shot include prebiotic fibre. This one has 4.5g of a prebiotic, from chicory inulin. If you’ve got IBS you might already know that inulin is high FODMAP. Not everyone with IBS needs to avoid it, but it can cause issues for some of you. (read more about FODMAPS)
Inulin is a prebiotic which can improve your gut lining and feed beneficial bacteria. But it can also make you very bloated due to the fermentation by bacteria, so start with caution.

Deeply Gut Health Food Spinach and Kiwi contains 7.5g of fibre which is quite a lot. In fact, it’s around the equivalent of eating two extra portions of fruit / veg each day so could be helpful.

Are you on a low fibre diet? 

Start adding these prebiotic drinks very slowly if you are currently low in fibre. This will help you to avoid bloating. It’s also important to keep up your hydration as you add fibre to avoid constipation.

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Gut health shots aren’t really worth it

My thoughts on gut health shots I’d say:

  • Just because you’re drinking a daily gut health shot doesn’t mean you can and forget about the basics (e.g. wholegrains, getting your 5 a day, etc!).
  • One food or drink won’t make or break your gut health. These kind of products shouldn’t be seen as more than a ‘nice to have’ addition. Your overall diet is much more important than these products.
  • Adding in beneficial bacteria is more effective when taken in capsule form. This is because good probiotics have been formulated to survive the stomach acid, and reach the intestines where they have their effect. You also know how much you’re getting with the probiotic supplement.

In summary

I wouldn’t recommend these to most of my clients due to the cost. Also, there are more effective ways to increase your gut bacteria (see below for my tips). However I don’t see any harm to health for most people if they enjoy them.

Glass containing some orangey yellow liquid and a sprig of rosemary. The background is a white wall with sunlight in the coner.

Supporting your gut health

Here are some gut health tips that don’t rely on gut health shots.

Aim to eat 30 different types of fibre per week

There is evidence this helps build a diverse gut microbiome. Foods you can count in the 30 include all fruits, veg, pulses and legumes, grains (e.g. rice, oats, wheat, spelt), nuts and seeds. Start by counting how many different fibres you have and increase slowly from there.

Start increasing your fibre intake slowly

We should all aim to include between 25-30g of fibre a day. Most people in the UK are eating around 19g of fibre per day.

  • Just one extra portion of fruit or veg a day will contribute to this target.
  • Add nuts and seeds to your food.
  • Eat more pulses and beans.
  • A portion of veg/fruit is around 80g per veg.

Look after the gut-brain connection

We have a strong connection between the gut and the brain, the vagus nerve. Read more about the vagus nerve in my post. When we’re stressed over time it can lead to issues with digestion. To help engage your vagus nerve practice deep breathing, yoga, and walking.

Prioritise your sleep

Getting enough sleep can improve your gut health! Give yourself the opportunity to get 8 hours by going to bed on time. Focus on calm evening routine involving stretching, writing in a journal or listening to some calming music.

Get outside every day

Exposure to the natural world help diversify the gut microbiome. Stroke a pet. Do the gardening.

Daily movement helps create a healthy gut

People who exercise regularly have a more diverse set of gut bacteria. Although we don’t yet have a blueprint for a healthy gut, we can see some associations with certain strains and health. People who regularly move their body often have strains associated with better overall health.

I can help with your IBS diet

If you want help figuring out your IBS triggers, start your Gut Reset with me over 3 months to find a diet that works for you.

Just set up a free call to discuss what you need some help with. Email info@goodnessme-nutrition.com

Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.

I help people with IBS and SIBO get control of unpredictable gut symptoms to find long term relief from painful and embarrassing IBS without restrictive dieting.

I can help you to:

  • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
  • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
  • develop better digestion and more energy

Find more about my 3 month 1:1 Gut Reset programme

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