While a few types of probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut, prebiotics are naturally found in high-fiber food — including whole grains like bran and oats, garlic, onions, bananas, and almonds — and in the skins of colored fruits and veggies. The prebiotics and probiotics work together for improved gut health and numerous benefits, such as improved immunity and mental health.
The gut microorganisms and their environment are known as the microbiome while the microorganisms that live in or on that environment are known as microbiota.
“Your microbiome is like a big city, and the microbiota in the gut help digest the food and they’re like the little people in the city, helping to make a better environment,” says dietitian Melissa Rifkin, known on Instagram as @confessionofadietitian.
Rifkin recommends prebiotics to many of her clients, especially those with digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which she has. Every night, Rifkin drinks BiomeBliss, a natural berry-flavored supplement mixed with water that has sixteen grams of prebiotics, including nine grams of fiber and plenty of polyphenols.
“My IBS is under control and I don’t get as many flareups as I used to,” she says, noting the product also makes her feel full.
“We think the field of prebiotics is perhaps more important than probiotics for many people,” says Dale Pfost, Ph.D., CEO of Microbiome Therapeutics, which makes BiomeBliss.
He says modern diets of processed foods don’t offer consumers enough options with enough prebiotic nutrients and can contain additives that are disruptive to the microbiota. To get the right amount of prebiotics they need, consumers would have to eat large quantities of foods with naturally occurring prebiotics — for example, the USDA recommends a minimum of about 30 grams of fiber per day.
Pfost says adding a dietary supplement makes sense and can support a healthy microbiome. His company’s prebiotic blend is focused on helping gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which research shows are associated with the regulation of metabolism, inflammatory processes, and blood sugar control. Without the needed prebiotics, the gut can’t make these important molecules.
“We’ve taken a large pile of raw fruits and veggies that would have been over 380 calories and we’ve extracted the prebiotics from them while leaving the sugar behind, giving a serving only 60 calories,” he says.
The product has 20 percent of the recommended daily fiber and zero added sugars. Benefits can include hunger control, bowel movement regularity, and healthy mealtime blood sugar.
Some consumers are concerned about consuming foods like milk, garlic, and various fruits and vegetables that have fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) which can trigger gas, bloating, and stomach pain. But Pfost says this second-generation prebiotic is designed to increase short-chain fatty acids and decrease gas to restore healthy function of the gut microbiome
Backed by research
“With prebiotics you’re basically giving the bacteria the food that they like,” says endocrinologist Dr. Frank Greenway, head of clinical research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, whose studies include patients with conditions like diabetes or obesity. Dr. Greenway examined BiomeBliss in two separate clinical studies.
He found the product was effective in reducing the desire to eat; in reducing the amount of food anticipated or considered enough at the next meal; and improved regularity from occasional GI disturbances. Both studies showed it helped manage blood glucose when it was already in the normal range. The supplement also seems to help protect and prepare the GI immune system.
“We’re learning the bacteria that live with us are really good guys. The majority of them are good and they help us,” Dr. Greenway says. “Trying to keep them healthy, helps keep us healthy.” The microbiome is an active area of research and it might be comforting to many that such a natural product as BiomeBliss can have meaningful benefits.
Kristen Castillo, [email protected]