In this article, we compare two products in the digestive health space – Total Restore and Vital Restore. Both products are from respected natural product companies and formulated by physicians who are industry experts. The companies’ similarities, philosophies, and marketing strategies are remarkable. Their formulations make the products different, yet both promise to “restore” the healthy balance in your microbiome, eliminating many digestive health issues attributed to “leaky gut syndrome.”
Today, more than twenty million Americans suffer from chronic digestive issues. In a recent national survey, 72% of U.S. adults reported that they experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, or non-specific GI discomfort at least a few times each month. Most have lived with these symptoms for six months or more.
If you suffer one or more of these digestive issues, read on as we explain “leaky gut syndrome,” why a balanced microbiome is so essential, and dissect the formulations of our two subject products to determine which might best address your problem. Along the way, we identify ingredients you should seek in a digestive health product, clinically evidenced compounds to support gut health, and their role in the Total Restore and Vital Restore formulations.
Addressing Leaky Gut Syndrome – Restoring Microbial Balance
Given the prevalence of digestive health issues, there has been significant scientific research into balancing the microbiome and “leaky gut syndrome.” In an exhaustive study of this research, the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Institute) provides us an excellent explanation, in easily understood terms, of how the gut microbiome being out of balance leads to problems:
“When the microbial balance in your gut is right, your whole body functions the way it’s supposed to. But when that balance gets out of whack, the “bad” bacteria cut holes in the fence and some of them, along with food particles and toxins, leak into the bloodstream. When your immune system sees organisms where they don’t belong, it attacks, causing irritation and inflammation.”
The term “leaky gut” refers to intestinal permeability leading to various digestive health issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and cramps, to food allergies and sensitivities. Longer term, an imbalance and the resulting inflammation may cause more severe autoimmune conditions, mood disorders, diabetes, (IBS) inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Although the NCBI rightly advises that you consult with your medical professional if you suffer prolonged issues, they also provide insights on restoring your gut microbiome balance. Some of their functional medicine recommendations? Eliminate foods that may contribute to your problems, such as gluten, sugar, and dairy, and replace them with fermented foods, yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi. Repopulate your good bacteria with probiotics and supplement with L-glutamine, vitamin D, zinc, and fish oils.
To summarize the NCBI’s findings, you need to maintain a healthy gut microbial balance to optimize your digestion, immune system, metabolism, and overall health – the ideal lead-in to our two subject products.
Total Restore from Gundry MD
Total Restore from Gundry MD is a nutritional supplement formulated by the company’s founder, Dr. Steven Gundry, one of the industry’s leading microbiome and digestive health experts. Following a distinguished career in heart surgery, Dr. Gundry founded the Center for Restorative Medicine and Gundry MD, a company with a stated mission “to dramatically improve human health, happiness, and longevity through his unique vision of diet and nutrition.”
The product, delivered in vegetable capsule form, features a proprietary formula designed to address leaky gut syndrome and more – Dr. Gundry suggests the product will also help you feel energized, may aid in weight loss, and provide full-body wellness.
Total Restore contains sixteen all-natural ingredients, including two patented, proprietary blends. We provide a complete review of the ingredients in a later segment.
The product is manufactured in the U.S. in a cGMP-certified facility, is third-party tested for quality, contains no artificial sugars, and has a 90-day money-back guarantee (when purchased on the Gundry MD website).
Dosage: Three capsules each day, preferably at your largest meal. If that seems a bit onerous, taking a single capsule with each meal is permissible. Each bottle contains a thirty-day supply – ninety veggie capsules.
Vital Restore from Kara MD
Like the Gundry product, Vital Restore from Kara MD is a doctor-formulated, microbiome support dietary supplement in capsule form. With more than thirty years of experience in treating patients, Dr. Mahmud Kara pivoted to the functional medicine space. The doctor has been featured in Forbes, Parade, Men’s Journal, and other prominent health publications.
Vital Restore contains only five natural ingredients, plant extracts, and minerals, designed, as the website states, “to prevent the harmful effects of leaky gut syndrome.” More regarding that statement a bit later.
The product is produced in an FDA-registered facility and is third-party tested for quality. Vital Restore is gluten-free, vegan-friendly, non-GMO, formulated with science-backed, natural ingredients. Vital Restore is safe for those with sulfa or shellfish allergies – a differentiator from the Gundry product made with shellfish. The Kara MD product also has a ninety-day money-back guarantee.
The dosage is identical to Total Restore with three capsules per day, best taken with food and eight ounces of water. Each bottle of Vital Restore contains a thirty-day supply – ninety veggie capsules.
Back to the Kara MD website’s statement, “to prevent the harmful effects of leaky gut syndrome.” Although the natural product industry is highly regulated, the FDA does not approve dietary supplements. It is standard practice for all products in the space to include the following verbiage regarding structure-function claims, “this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Only an FDA-approved drug can make this claim. We are somewhat concerned about the website’s verbiage, although it does state, “the goal is not ingredients that actually do any form of repair, but rather a unique formula of ingredients that support your body’s own mechanisms for repair.” Leaky gut is not a disease but a syndrome – a group of symptoms that might not always have a definite cause.
Total Restore vs. Vital Restore: Comparison Chart
If you’ve read this far, you’ve noticed the similarities in the companies, their founders, the products, and their intended benefits. Below we recap those similarities and those items that distinguish between the two.
|Total Restore / Gundry MD||Vital Restore / Kara MD|
|FDA Registered in the U.S.||Yes||Yes|
|# of Ingredients||Sixteen||Five|
|Organic||Yes – VitaBerry blend||No|
|Trademarked/Patented||Yes – two compounds||No|
|Safe for Allergies||No||Yes|
|Advertised Benefits||Promotes Healthy Gut Lining, Energy, Focus, Reduces Cravings, Joint Support, Weight Loss||Combat Leaky Gut, Microbiome Balance, Energy, Focus, Reduces Cravings, Weight Loss|
|Price / per Serving||$49.95 / $1.665 per serving||$34.95 / $1.165 per serving|
|90-Day Money Back Guarantee||Yes||Yes|
|Where to Buy
(Neither product is available in stores).
|Company website, Amazon||Company website, Amazon, other online retailers|
As indicated in our opening, the primary differences between Total Restore and Vital Restore are found in the formulations. Total Restore has more ingredients, trademarked and patented compounds, and organics. This contributes to the pricing variance; Total Restore costs more as patented and organic ingredients tend to be more expensive. A distinguishing factor in Vital Restore’s favor is being safe for those with sulfa or shellfish allergies. Both products claim similar benefits, albeit stated a bit differently. Vital Restore may be more convenient to purchase as it is available on more online retailers, including Amazon and Walmart.com. Finally, the Gundry money back guarantee only applies to products purchased on its site – Gundry does not authorize third-party resellers.
Total Restore vs. Vital Restore: The Formulations
In this section, we dive deeply into each product’s ingredients and how the formulations represent different approaches to address a similar issue, leaky gut syndrome. Authorities on digestive health believe a comprehensive product should include some combination of the following compounds:
- Herbs such as Slippery Elm, Licorice, Marshmallow Root, or Aloe Vera
- Prebiotic Fiber
- BioPerine or Black Pepper for absorption
In the NCBI report, they cited clinical evidence of effectiveness in digestive health for the following supplements:
- Probiotics / Bifidobacterium
- Prebiotics / Fiber
- Omega 3
Total Restore from Gundry MD
The Total Restore formula contains significantly more ingredients than the Kara MD product, sixteen all-natural ingredients, including two patented formulas. Gundry frequently uses patented and trademarked compounds in their product as the ingredient manufacturers they are licensed from typically submit their products to clinical studies to validate their efficacy. An important note is that to use the structure-function claim of a patented ingredient, the product must include the dosage used in the trial minimally.
The trademarked compounds in Total Restore are PepZin GI, a combination of zinc and L-Carnitine, licensed from Hamari Chemicals, LTD, and VitaBerry, a blend of organic berries from VDF Futureceuticals. Neither compound is at the clinically studied dosage, and Gundry does not make the possible structure-function claims.
Additional ingredients in Total Restore:
- N-acetyl D-Glucosamine
- Maitake Mushrooms
- Black Pepper
- Marshmallow Root.
The only potential issue with this very comprehensive formula is the efficacy of these ingredients at sub-optimal dosages, offset, to some extent, due to the synergistic effect of these proven compounds.
Vital Restore from Kara MD
Although Total Restore has more ingredients, Vital Restore has a significantly larger dosage per serving. All five components are on our list of recommended compounds:
- Glutamine, 1,000 mg – one of the twenty amino acids. Promotes digestive health, brain health, and athletic performance.
- Berberine 500mg – a potent anti-inflammatory with antimicrobial properties.
- Slippery Elm 250mg – supports a healthy gut lining.
- Zinc 50mg – a key nutrient for cells found throughout your intestinal lining.
- Turmeric (250mg) – supports the microbiome as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Dr. Kara combines excellent, proven ingredients in substantial dosages. Unfortunately, there are no probiotics in either product. Vital Restore does not include a prebiotic fiber, and we were surprised BioPerine is absent in the Kara MD product to enhance absorption.
Total Restore vs. Vital Restore: Ingredient Comparison Chart
The following chart reflects the total dosage per serving for each product and the amount of those ingredients recommended as important in a digestive health aid.
|Total Restore / Gundry MD||Vital Restore / Kara MD|
|Total Dosage per Serving||792 mg||2,050 mg|
|Zinc||Yes, 12 mg||Yes, 50 mg|
|L-Glutamine||Yes, 213 mg||Yes, 1000 mg|
|Berberine||Yes, 3 mg||Yes, 500 mg|
|Slippery Elm||Yes, 250 mg|
|Cinnamon Bark||Yes, 50 mg|
|Licorice Root||Yes, 54 mg|
|Marshmallow Root||Yes, 10 mg|
|Prebiotic Fiber||Yes, Cloves & Mushroom blend|
|Turmeric||Yes, 250 mg|
|Bio Perrine or Black Pepper||Yes, 17 mg|
Total Restore vs. Vital Restore: The Benefits of Each Brand
Both products address the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, such as bloating, gas, irregularity, diarrhea, stomach pain, and fatigue. Even the additional benefits cited on the brands’ websites are similar, increased energy, better focus, less moodiness, and reduced cravings aiding in potential weight loss. The only differentiators are the mention of joint health in the Gundry formula, attributable to the N-acetyl D-Glucosamine, and that Vital Restore is safe for those with Sulfa or Shellfish allergies.
Vital Restore’s marketing mentions the gut-brain axis when discussing improved cognition (focus) and moods, and promises healthy immune system performance, a function of a balanced gut microbiome. Total Restore could make similar claims if their marketing team thought them beneficial.
What Customers Have to Say About the Products
Total Restore receives consistently positive reviews on the Gundry site for relief of the symptoms of “leaky gut.” The second most frequently quoted benefit is related to increased energy. We found no reviews that mentioned cognition, focus, mood, or joint pain relief. Those few reviews that mentioned weight usually cited feeling leaner due to reduced bloating.
One review on Amazon mentioned significant weight loss using the product, and several reviewers related less brain fog. The high price of Total Restore was an oft-cited complaint.
Several reviewers on the Kara MD site mentioned relief from acid reflux. Ironic, as in our review, we found no structure-function claims related to acid reflux. Vital Restore received more positive comments regarding mental clarity as well. On Amazon.com, there was, again, one reviewer that described significant weight loss. Several reviewers mentioned relief from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), an issue closely related to leaky gut.
Total Restore vs. Vital Restore: Price Comparison
The published price on the Gundry site is $69.95 per unit – $49.95 with a free Gundry membership account. There are also quantity discounts for three or six-bottle bundles. The best price found on Amazon.com was $50.42 per bottle. As noted earlier, Gundry does not authorize third-party resellers, and the money-back guarantee does not apply to products purchased on Amazon.
The price per unit on Kara MD is $34.95. There are quantity discounts of 10% on purchasing three products and 20% for four products. The price is the same $34.95 on Amazon and WalMart.com, and the money-back guarantee applies to products purchased on their sites.
Total Restore vs. Vital Restore: Things to Consider
Hallmarks of quality dietary supplements include manufacturing in an FDA-registered, cGMP-compliant facility, independent third-party testing for quality assurance, all-natural, organic, and patented ingredients in a doctor-formulated product, supported by a money-back guarantee. Total Restore checks all the boxes. The Kara product lacks only the mention of cGMP compliance and organic or patented ingredients.
The suggested serving size for both products is three capsules each day, so there is no benefit of one versus the other for people who have problems taking capsules. The Kara MD product contains significantly more product per serving of its five ingredients. However, Total Restore has a broader variety of components, including organics and patented clinically tested compounds. Both formulas contain ingredients recommended by industry experts for digestive health supplements. Total Restore includes black pepper for absorption, whereas Vital Restore does not – yet it has a larger quantity of those ingredients per serving.
If you have sulfa or shellfish allergies, Vital Restore is really your only option, as Total Restore is made from shellfish, crab, and shrimp.
Vital Restore offers dramatic savings in cost per serving for those on a budget. The Kara MD product is also easier to access as it is available on more sites – neither product is offered in brick-and-mortar specialty outlets. We recommend you purchase Total Restore only on the Gundry site as they do not support third-party resellers, meaning potential quality or delivery time issues should you opt to use Amazon – and the Gundry money-back guarantee is not applicable on Amazon purchases.
Total Restore vs. Vital Restore: Which is Better?
Which is better is a complex and subjective question in the case of Total Restore versus Vital Restore, as there are so many similarities in manufacturing, marketing, and the purported benefits of each. From a benefits perspective, the primary function of both products is balancing the gut microbiome, protecting the stomach lining, and addressing the symptoms of leaky gut. The promised secondary benefits are similar for both products (Total Restore does mention joint health) but are not a factor in our decision about which product is better.
Often, we can distinguish between products based on the severity of an individual’s symptoms. In this comparison, we are confident, and reviews substantiate, that both products will deliver on relieving digestive issues.
It would appear strictly from a cost-value basis that Vital Restore should get the nod due to its lower cost and greater dosage per serving. What we have is two different approaches to the formulation by the two doctors. One, Dr. Kara, uses proven ingredients in significant dosages. The other, Dr. Gundry, uses a greater variety of compounds, including organic and patented ingredients. In our assessment, the variety in Total Restore, especially the inclusion of prebiotic fibers (important for a balanced microbiome) and black pepper, make Total Restore our preferred choice.
Gundry MD and Kara MD are excellent companies, employing best-in-class manufacturing, testing, and go-to-market practices and offering two competitive products. Which is best? It depends. If cost is your primary consideration, we suggest you try Vital Restore. On the other hand, if a more comprehensive formulation with clinically proven ingredients is more important to you, total Restore may be the better option.