By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas
Humans regularly ingest food, which provides our cells with the nutrients they need to function. Your probiotic bacteria also need to be fed regularly. Since completing the Human Microbiome Project, which ran from 2007-2016, microbiome scientists have been gradually learning that dietary fibers are the primary “food” for probiotic bacteria.
Humans do not possess the enzymes necessary to digest dietary fibers. However, probiotic bacteria contain genes that enable them to produce CAZymes, which stands for Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes. These enzymes allow probiotics to ferment nutritional fibers, which results in making compounds known as postbiotic metabolites. Over the past few years, scientific studies have been elucidating how postbiotic metabolites control and regulate many aspects of human biology. Postbiotic metabolites are now understood to be a large class of compounds that regulate many aspects of human health. This prompted me to write an article titled Postbiotic Metabolites: The New Frontier in Microbiome Science, which was published in the June 2019 issue of the Townsend Letter. To read this article, search for the terms: Pelton Postbiotic Townsend.
Recently, scientific studies have been revealed another critical class of compounds named polyphenols that probiotic bacteria can utilize. Polyphenols are a large group of compounds that also occur primarily in plant-based foods, like dietary fibers. Over 8,000 polyphenols have been identified in various species of plants. Thus, polyphenols provide an extensive menu of potential “foods” for your probiotic bacteria.
Most polyphenols are poorly absorbed. However, when they arrive in the colon, probiotic bacteria convert them into biologically active metabolites. Thus, interactions between dietary probiotic bacteria and dietary polyphenols are a critical new area of scientific research.
There are four main classes of polyphenols. Flavonoids are the largest class of polyphenols, with over 4,000 having been identified. Some of the most well-known groups of flavonoids include flavones, flavonols, and isoflavones. The second group of polyphenols is classified as phenolic acids. These compounds are commonly found in seeds, the skin of fruits, vegetables, coffee, and tea. The third class of polyphenols is called stilbenes, which occur primarily in grapes, wine, peanuts, and some berries. Resveratrol is probably the most well-known stilbene. Lignans are the fourth class of polyphenols. Flaxseeds are the richest source of lignans, but they are also found to a lesser degree in grains, tofu, cruciferous vegetables, and some fruits.
The Importance of Feeding Your Probiotic Bacteria
If you don’t feed your probiotic bacteria well, they will not survive and thrive. We now understand that dietary fibers and polyphenols are the two most important “food groups” for your probiotic bacteria.
The intestinal microbiome in a healthy adult contains approximately 800 to 1,000 different species of bacteria. Many of these bacteria require different types of “foods.” Thus, a wide diversity of dietary fibers and polyphenols are needed to support the growth and proliferation of many other species of probiotic bacteria.
Greater diversity equates to better health. All ecosystems are more robust, more stable, and more resilient when they are more diverse. This is true in the Amazon rain forest, coral reefs in the ocean, and the human gut microbiome. In the intestinal microbiome, a more significant number of different kinds of probiotic bacteria enables them to produce a more comprehensive, more diverse range of the essential health-regulating postbiotic bacteria.
The ONLY way people can create and maintain a healthy, diverse microbiome is by ingesting a wide range of plant-based foods, which will supply a diverse range of dietary fibers and polyphenols. Studies have shown that indigenous cultures such as the Yanomami Indians who live in the Amazon and the Hadza hunter-gathers in East Africa consume from 8 to 10 times more fiber daily than most Americans. One study reported that 90% of American children and adults DO NOT consume the recommended amount of daily fiber in their diets. This suggests that most Americans do not have a healthy microbiome, which probably contributes to many health problems.
Taking commercial probiotic products containing one or several probiotic bacteria strains will NOT do much to promote microbiome diversity. The two most important steps people can take to create and maintain a healthy microbiome are:
Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics is the leading product in the world that directly delivers postbiotic metabolites. Following a multi-year fermentation process, each dose of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics contains over 500 postbiotic metabolites.
Consuming a wide range of plant-based foods daily enables your probiotic bacteria to grow, increase, and produce a wide range of health-regulating postbiotic metabolites. Regularly consuming Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics helps maintain a healthy microbiome ecosystem, enabling your probiotic bacteria to engage in the fermentation processes to continue to produce those all-important postbiotic metabolites.