PRE- vs PRO-biotics

Transient & native bacteria

You have a whole world inside your gut.

You may never have thought about it before, but there are approximately 1,000 different species living in your large intestine, called the gut microbiome. They total around 40 trillion microorganisms (give or take) such as bacteria, meaning there are more microbiome cells in your body than there are of you yourself!

As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson elaborated, “More bacteria live and work in 1cm of your colon than the number of people who have ever existed in the world…”

That should give you pause to think about what these incredible organisms are, and what they are doing inside you.

Who Cares More: You or Your Bacteria?

Despite the fact that many of these bacteria are working as hard for our health as we are (or harder, in many cases), we rarely think about them when we’re eating.

A few years ago, PRObiotics came along, and we started thinking about our inner lives a little more. We learned that many of us might be missing some beneficial bacteria, and topping them up with probiotic food or taking probiotic supplements sounded good.

However, probiotics provide just a few billion bacteria, less than 1% of the tens of trillions you currently house, and unless you’re going to all the trouble of regularly analyzing your microbiome (which changes constantly), who knows if they’re the ones you’re missing, or the ones which aren’t thriving? Actually, most of the microbe types you have in your large intestine — and that you might be running low on — are not even available to purchase. It’s a lottery, and the winning tickets aren’t even for sale.

And with store-bought probiotics, are you getting enough of them to make a difference anyway? You’re probably not.

And after all that, who’s to say that those transient bacteria make it through your acidic digestive system to get to where they need to be? And once there, why would they thrive in your gastrointestinal tract? There’s a reason so many people have undernourished or missing microbes in the first place (usually due to diet), and adding more probiotic microbes to the same nutrient poor environment is unlikely to have a positive effect on its own.

The good news is that keeping your microbiome healthy is a lot easier than that probiotic lottery, and it makes perfect sense: just take care of the bacteria you’ve already got. They’ll grow in numbers and diversity to help in the way you thought probiotics were helping.

The Native Bacteria in Your Gut Are More Important than Any Transient Ones You Can Buy 

Scientists are now realizing that it’s actually the diversity of native inhabitants of your gut we really need to focus on, not adding a few more which you may or may not need and which are just passing through. There are hundreds of different types of microorganisms living in your gut which you simply won’t get through store-bought probiotics. Fortunately, you can simply bolster the ones you’ve already got.

Your microbiome has grown and thrived inside you since you were born, the intricate result of bacteria passed down in microbiomes from your ancestors, through your parents and your family environment, to you. However, recent medical research into the role of the microbiome in our health has revealed that genetics isn’t everything. Your microbiome changes with the bacteria you’re exposed to and pick up from your environment every day.

And then there’s your diet.

Modern diets don’t supply enough of the prebiotics the bacteria in your gut need to survive and thrive – you need more. Rather than trying to add store-bought probiotics with their transitory and limited bacteria, it’s far more important to feed the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria already there.

Now that we are learning more and more about our gut microbiome, we know what questions to ask, like: What do they eat, and how do they get the nutrition they need to stay alive and stay healthy? Are these nutrients contained in the things we are eating? Do we share enough of our food with our microbes, and if not, what happens if they don’t get the nutrition they need? If so, are there any benefits to us?

The basic answer is: PREBIOTICS.

Illustration by Aleksey Nisenboym

Prebiotics: Fiber for Your Inner Life That Goes Beyond Probiotics

Prebiotic fiber is a vital part of many healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which passes through your small intestine without being digested and has no calories. It reaches the large intestine intact, where the bacteria in your gut microbiome can feed on it. When the good bacteria consume and benefit from the prebiotic fiber, they thrive, and provide you with health benefits as they have been doing for humans for millennia.

If you are one of the lucky few who manage to find the time to eat a healthy and diverse range of fiber-rich fruit and vegetables, congratulations! You’re probably getting enough prebiotic fiber. Not only that, you’re getting healthy micronutrients like polyphenol antioxidants, which are also prebiotics that your microbes need in order to produce a range of healthy molecules in your gut.

With a wide range of microbe types in your microbiome, you need a wide range of prebiotic fiber to feed them. Don’t just think ‘bran muffins’ or ‘roughage’ – this is a much bigger subject.

Not all fibers and prebiotics are the same; you need a blend. That’s why it’s so important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and fiber – for their range of prebiotic nutrients which are so helpful in keeping us healthy. When you eat foods with prebiotics in them, your microbiome gets fed and can work to support your overall health.

It all comes down to bolstering the naturally occurring, native bacteria in your gut, so that they can flourish in both their numbers and their health-supporting activities. When they are well fed, they help your body function by producing healthy molecules in your gut; starve them, and your body (and, indeed, mind) may well feel the impact.

If you take probiotics that’s probably OK too, but, you’ll want to feed those microbes you buy at the store with prebiotics. They’ll have a better chance to do something useful.

BiomeBliss: An Easy Way to Get Your Prebiotics Every Day

So, prebiotics are the fuel which feeds the microbiome you already have, and BiomeBliss is a prebiotic-packed blend which takes just seconds to prepare but keeps your microbiome happy for hours. Scientifically proven to help control hunger, BiomeBliss delivers much of the prebiotic fiber you need in a delicious berry drink, satisfying the inner you.

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