What is a Prebiotic?

Video Transcript

The microbiota: a complex community of microbes colonizing the human body.
Most of these microbes live in your digestive tract, especially the colon, with trillions of bacterial cells residing there.

Each of us has a unique collection of microbes that greatly impact our health through immune function, metabolism, and nutrition.

Our resident microbes may also protect us from harmful microbes that we may encounter.

So it’s important to encourage the presence of the helpful microbes that call our bodies home.

Prebiotics can help!

Most prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that are used by the beneficial microbes in your intestine.

In other words, prebiotics are food for the good bacteria in your body: including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and other resident microbes…

Most prebiotics are dietary fibers, but it’s important to note that not all dietary fibers are prebiotics.

Prebiotics can be found – although at low levels – in foods such as whole grains, beans, onions, chicory root, garlic and artichokes.

Prebiotics are also available in more concentrated forms.

They can be isolated from chicory root and also created from linking sugar building blocks into more complex carbohydrates.

Increasing your intake of prebiotics may boost the number of good bacteria in your gut and has the potential to:

Promote healthy digestion,…

…support the body’s natural defenses,…

…improve mineral absorption,…

…and help regulate your desire to eat, your energy balance, and your glucose metabolism.

Prebiotic supplements • or foods with added prebiotic – are an effective means to increase your daily intake.

You should try to get about 3-5 g each day of prebiotics.

And since some fiber-rich foods also contain prebiotics, if you increase fiber-rich foods, you’ll

also increase your prebiotic intake.

However, the word “prebiotic” is seldom used on labels so it can be difficult to determine if prebiotics are actually present.

Instead, look for the actual names of the prebiotics, such as:

•  Galacto-oligosaccharides or GOS

•  Fructo-oligosaccharides or FOS

•  Oligofructose or OF

•  Chicory root or chicory fiber

•  and Inulin

Good bacteria love these prebiotic fibers.

So do yourself, and your microbiota, a favor. Eat plenty of fiber, including prebiotics.

What are Fermented Foods?

Video Transcript

Fermented foods are everywhere.

And they’re getting a lot of attention from the scientific community for their potential health benefits.

Research suggests that fermented foods may improve your immune system and may reduce risk of some metabolic diseases that are influenced by diet.

A fermented food or beverage is a food transformed by the growth and metabolic activities of microbes –such as bacteria, yeast and even some molds.

For example, yogurt is a fermented food made from milk.

During yogurt fermentation, lactic acid-producing bacteria grow on the sugars and other nutrients in milk.

As they multiply, the bacteria produce compounds that change the flavor, texture, and nutrients in the milk to give us what we know as yogurt.

Other foods, such as fresh kimchi, most cheeses, and sauerkraut are also made by fermentation with living cultures.

When you eat these foods, live microbes travel through your digestive tract. The introduced microbes can interact with your cells and support your intestinal microbiota – the trillions of bacteria that naturally exist in your gut.

The microbes from fermented foods can also help support your healthy immune function and metabolism.

A look back at human history reveals that people used to encounter a much greater number and variety of microbes – in their food and from their environment.

Fermented foods, which are part of traditional diets around the world, contributed to early human exposure to microbes.

Some modern practices, which have played an important role in preventing acute illness and fighting infections, have inadvertently reduced our exposure to microbes and may be leading to a poor community of bacteria in the intestinal microbiota.

Fermented foods containing living cultures safely introduce more of these microbes to our digestive tracts.

In this way, fermented foods may mimic some of the benefits of probiotics.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit.

However, it is important to note that although many fermented foods contain live microorganisms, they may not meet the minimum criteria to be classified as probiotics.

Not all fermented foods have been studied and shown to provide a health benefit.

And not all fermented foods contain live cultures.

Certain fermented foods such as sourdough bread or soy sauce are processed after they are made.

Living cultures cannot survive certain processing so although still yummy, these foods are not a source of live microbes.

To ensure that the fermented foods you eat contain helpful microbes, look for foods that say “contains live cultures” on the label. Or contact the manufacturer directly.

Fermentation, in addition to providing those helpful microbes to our intestines,…
… may also improve food taste, texture and digestibility,
…increase concentrations of vitamins and bioactive compounds in foods,
…reduce or even remove toxic nutrients in raw foods,
…and increase food safety and shelf-life.

The bottom line? Naturally fermented foods are definitely worth incorporating into your daily diet.

NEW VERSION: What is a Probiotic?

Video Transcript

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been shown to provide health benefits.

When we consume probiotics, they enter our digestive tract where trillions of other microbes live.

This collection of microbes is called your gut microbiota, and like a fingerprint, no two gut
microbiotas are the same.

The vast majority of these microbes help your body function properly, performing a number of
beneficial physiological functions.

They help extract vital nutrients from food you can’t digest yourself.
They educate your immune system.

They can improve the integrity of your intestinal barrier.

They even influence your mental health.

When you take a probiotic, you are introducing good bacteria into your digestive tract which can
promote these beneficial microbial activities and limit the overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Probiotics interact with our resident microbes, producing health-promoting metabolites as they
travel through our gut.

And although probiotics are few in number relative to our gut microbiota, and they typically don’t
stick around for long,…

…studies show that probiotics can support digestive health, immune health, and beyond, using
many of the same mechanisms that our gut microbiota use.

Probiotics are widely available as supplements and are present in a number of foods, especially
some yogurts and fermented milks.

Most often, commercial probiotics are from a few microbial groups, such as the genus
Lactobacillus or the genus Bifidobacterium.

Each probiotic should be described by a genus and species name and then even more specifically
by a strain designation.

Including probiotics in your daily diet can encourage the activities of the friendly bacteria in your

And may improve several aspects of your health.

If you’re interested in the health benefits that probiotics may provide, check out the ISAPP videos:
“Are All Probiotics the Same?” and “Health Benefits of Probiotics.”

And for further questions, helpful guides are available at ISAPPscience.org.

Ask your healthcare provider for probiotic recommendations based on your specific health needs.

Please refer to ISAPPscience.org for additional information, or ask your doctor or healthcare

NEW VERSION: Are All Probiotics the Same?

Video Transcript

There are many probiotic supplements and foods available to consumers today.

But it’s important to keep in mind that not all probiotic products are the same.

Different products contain different probiotic microbes, which have specific characteristics and
health benefits.
One key way probiotics differ from each other is that their outsides are different. This prompts
distinct responses from our digestive and immune systems.

Scientists classify probiotics the same way they classify all living things, by genus and species.

For example, your dog’s genus is Canis and its species is Lupis.

Two common probiotic microbes are Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis.
Probiotics are further defined by their strain.

Just like distinct breeds of dogs can be very different from one another, distinct strains of the same
genus and species of a probiotic can differ in significant ways.

If a specific strain of a probiotic supports your immune system, that doesn’t necessarily mean that
another strain of probiotic would have the same effect.

Another difference among probiotic products is how much evidence exists for the benefits they

Some probiotics are backed by several good quality studies.

While for others, little is known.
Scientists are still working to figure out exactly how different probiotics work.

The best recommendation is to choose a product that has been tested for the particular benefit
you are looking for.

You can find information on the evidence of health benefits at ISAPPscience.org.

Probiotic products may also differ by the number of strains in the product or by the amount of
probiotic delivered, as indicated by colony forming units or CFU.

This is a measure of how many live probiotics are in a product. Typically, probiotic products deliver
between 100 million and 50 billion or more CFU per dose.

Not all probiotics require the same dosage to be effective.
A product with a larger dose does not mean that it will be more effective.

And a product with lots of strains isn’t necessarily better than a product with fewer strains.

The level in the product should match the level shown in studies to provide a health benefit.
It’s important for you to evaluate the differences between probiotics and make an educated
decision on which product will work best for you.

Ask your healthcare provider for probiotic recommendations based on your specific health needs.

Please refer to ISAPPscience.org for additional information, or ask your doctor or healthcare provider.

WEBINAR: Understanding microbiome experiments: A critical assessment of methods and data analysis

A webinar presented February 19, 2018, for ISAPP by Prof. Greg Gloor. See related news post.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Are All Probiotics the Same?

How to Choose a Probiotic