As immune health concerns skyrocket, we should all be taking a look at our gut microbiome—not just because it’s connected to immune health, but also because now is not the time to slack off on digestive health. In fact, now would be a great time to tune in to prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics, and learn how they can be put to work to help support health holistically.



There is “some debate regarding the definition of a prebiotic, and the relationship between prebiotics, fiber, and probiotics, as well as the agreed assessment of health benefit,” according to the Global Prebiotic Association, (GPA)(1). However, GPA has a working definition: “A nutritional product and/or ingredient selectively utilized in the microbiome producing health benefits.” These are “typically non-digestible fiber compounds that pass undigested through the upper part of the GI tract and stimulate the growth or activity of advantageous bacteria that colonize the large bowel by acting as substrate for them.”

The simple explanation: “Prebiotics are basically food for probiotics,” says Alan Cheung, Executive Director at Belle+Bella. “They work in symbiosis to help probiotics flourish in the gut.”

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers recognize the importance of prebiotics, says Jon Peters, President of Beneo. “With the COVID-19 crisis ever-evolving, Beneo has experienced a higher demand overall, as well as significant deviations from original customer-planned volumes,” Peters shares. “From a consumer perspective, topics such as immune health, eating nutritious foods, and staying fit and healthy are all top of mind. Thanks to the continuous dialogue with Beneo customers and internal flexibility, we have been able to adapt to ensure orders are fulfilled.”

The most well-known prebiotics are inulin and oligosaccharides—fructooligosaccharide (FOS), galactooligosaccharide (GOS), and xylooligosaccharide (XOS). However, not all prebiotics are created equal, according to Samantha Ford, M.S., Director of Business Development at AIDP. XOS, she says, is a good example of this: “Different manufacturing processes can produce XOS with varying degrees of polymerization, which will impact their effective dosage. Research has also demonstrated that the degree of polymerization of XOS has a significant impact on its bifidogenic ability. For example, xylobiose and xylotriose have been shown to be much more effective in promoting the growth of bifidobacterial compared to longer chains of XOS. Since XOS materials differ in composition, this can result in different dosage requirements and selectivity in terms of gastrointestinal fermentation. Due to these variations, XOS trials cannot be generalized across the board. In other words, health and product claims can only be made if formulating with the specific XOS used in the relevant clinical trials. Claims can only be made from human clinical studies completed on a specific XOS, and cannot be borrowed from literature,” she emphasizes. AIDP offers PreticX, an XOS ingredient shown in clinical publications to boost the levels of Bifidobacteria with a low effective dosage.

Prenexus Health offers another low-dosage XOS, made from a novel variety of high-fiber sugar cane, according to CEO Michael Bush. “XOS, in our opinion, is an ideal prebiotic, thanks to its ability to selectively feed only the good bacteria at a low effective level. Prenexus’ XOS offers the lowest efficacious level at 1 gram/day, helping avoid unwanted side effects such as bloating and gas.”

This brings us to an issue with many prebiotics—namely, digestibility. “When inulin first rose to popularity,” says Stacey Gillespie, Brand Director at Gaia Herbs, “a highly refined and isolated form of inulin powder was used in many products and it was known to have the opposite effects of what was intended and actually caused more digestion issues for some customers.”

Ford agrees, noting that this isn’t a prebiotics-specific issue—it’s a fiber-wide problem. “Few individuals are able to achieve the recommended daily intake of fiber, and those that do report a significant difficulty in tolerating such an excessive recommended amount.” It’s why, she says, prebiotics are so important: “Prebiotics selectively add fuel to the microbiome, and selectively grow the beneficial bacteria.”

Different companies have different solutions to this issue. Gaia’s solution, according to Gillespie: Use the whole plant. “The agave plant, which is used in our Microbiome Food prebiotic powder, is rich in inulin, which is a soluble fiber. When consumed in a whole plant form, it is easier to digest and to be assimilated by the body, providing greater benefits while having a gentle effect on the body. As an herbal company, Gaia Herbs believes in the wisdom and power of whole-plant extracts, rather than just isolating a single class of constituents that science has identified and is suddenly trending in popularity. Plants contain hundreds of different compounds for a reason. These complex compounds work together to achieve results that no single compound can realize.”

Comet Bio has another solution: Use a different fiber. “Looking to the future of prebiotics, expect more better-tolerated options, such as Comet Bio's Arabinoxylan Plant Fiber Extract Arrabina,” says CEO Rich Troyer. “Results from Comet Bio's recent clinical trial reveal that consumers can take up to 12 grams per day of Arrabina with no negative gut or bowel reaction.” Arabinoxylan has not been as widely used as inulin, Troyer says, because of inefficient extraction technology. Comet Bio solved this problem with proprietary technology and crop leftovers like straw, leaves, and shells, upcycling the would-be waste using water and pressure to extract the arabinoxylan. Partnering with farmers ensures that those crop leftovers are organic and non-GMO, while helping the farmers profit from their whole harvest.

ADM, too, offers a different fiber. Their Fibersol dietary fiber ingredient, according to Ipek Erdogan-Trinkaus, VP, Global Marketing, Health & Wellness, “is well-tolerated by the majority of consumers. Clinical studies have shown that Fibersol helps support or maintain intestinal regularity, helps relieve occasional constipation, and can support gut health by promoting beneficial intestinal flora and maintaining a healthy intestinal tract environment. Product developers can include Fibersol in formulations to achieve desirable label claims while limiting the risk of causing uncomfortable digestive symptoms.”

A final point: It’s not enough to pick one source of prebiotic to stock. Your customers should be consuming multiple types of prebiotics daily, whether as a supplement or in food. “Your gut or microbiome contains hundreds of different probiotics including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium,” explains Gillespie. “All of these varying different probiotics may not have the same nutritional needs.” Gaia’s Microbiome Food contains both acacia and inulin—Gillespie says formulating a product with a combination of prebiotic ingredients, versus just a single prebiotic, means the formula can support a broader range of healthy probiotics that naturally reside within the gut.

Immune Health

“In our view, the most important role of a probiotic is to protect the host,” opines Tina Anderson of Just Thrive. And with regard to the immune system, she says probiotics are well-positioned to do just that—“80% of our immune system is found in our gut.”

Anderson points to multiple mechanisms. “In particular,” she says, probiotics “protect the host from the influx of toxins from the gut to the circulatory system called metabolic endotoxemia, or leaky gut. Recent studies have shown that this regular influx of toxins is the primary insult that leads to many of the chronic illnesses and the breakdown of the immune system. Protection from this influx is paramount to health, and any probiotic that can convey that benefit is truly a breakthrough in wellness. The spore-based strains in Just Thrive were the subject of a groundbreaking leaky gut study showing a 42% reduction in LPS [lipopolysaccharides] toxins seeping into the bloodstream.”

Another mechanism of action: “Spore-based probiotics have been shown to upregulate T-cell and B-cell response so the body’s defenses are working at their best,” Anderson adds. “Spore-based probiotics have also been shown to upregulate the T-regulatory system, which suppresses unfavorable immune responses.”

Still another mechanism of action Anderson mentions: balancing the microbiome itself: “It is also critical to have a balanced microbiome, because an overabundance of pathogenic bacteria produces a swollen and inflamed mucosal wall, which can directly interfere with the immune system, as the immune system is primarily located in the mucosal wall. Lowering pathogens reduces toxins and supports the peak functioning of gut immune cells.”

And probiotic action on the immune system is well-supported. For instance: “Recently completed Deerland research on DE111 shows a decrease in the basal levels of several immune cell populations in adults ages 18 to 65,” Sam Michini says, “indicating an ability to improve the body’s immune response by eliciting a quicker and more effective response to an inflammatory stimulus. This shows viability for DE111 in formulas that address stress response and overall immune support.”

There are also products formulated to support children. One option: ChildLife’s Probiotics with Colostrum. “We use only first-milking, immunoglobulin G- and PRP-rich colostrum in our Probiotics with Colostrum powder and chewable tablets,” says Adam Sutter, Quality Director at ChildLife Essentials. “Sourced directly from American farms, this colostrum undergoes a proprietary, gentle drying process that converts the fresh liquid colostrum to a powder. It contains a diversity of beneficial immune system-supporting nutrients, such as IgG, PRP [Proline-Rich Polypeptides] and many others, which work synergistically with both the probiotics and the prebiotic fibers contained in our products to provide full-spectrum support for a child’s growing immune and digestive systems.”

Immune health isn’t limited to probiotics—given that prebiotics feed that good bacteria, prebiotic fiber can be a helpful add-on for those looking to support the immune system. And plenty of prebiotics are studied for this. Comet Bio’s Rich Troyer says, “Our prebiotic dietary fiber Arrabina is proven to promote the growth of bifidobacterial and help support a healthy immune system.”

Straight to the Strain

Probiotics are, as you likely already know, bacteria that confer health benefits upon the host. They don’t only exist in the gut—they exist in the mouth and on the skin as well—but those are topics for another article. The gut microbiome has been shown to support digestive health, immune health, cognitive health, skin health; if the gut is healthy, the rest of the body has a better shot at health. But just as prebiotics are endlessly varied, probiotics are not a monolith. Two equally well-supported, equally well-produced probiotics, targeted for the same purpose, from two equally trusted brands, can still be two totally different products. To quote Sid Shastri, Director of Product Development at Kaneka Probiotics: “It is a well-known probiotic mantra that the efficacy of a probiotic is rooted in the strain.”

Sam Michini, VP of Marketing & Strategy at Deerland Probiotics & Enzymes, agrees, explaining: “Each strain acts differently and, even if close on the family tree, has its own dynamics and settings in which it works most optimally and expediently.” Your best bet when choosing a probiotic to stock is therefore to go for the companies that have carefully chosen a strain (or several), have the science to show why they chose that strain, and sell products based on that science.

To this end, Kaneka went searching for strains—and they went far afield: “Our scientists traveled to different parts of the world, including the Amazon and Central America—to name a few regions—to find samples from people living in remote rural areas unaffected by western lifestyles,” Shastri tells WholeFoods. “Probiotic researchers have documented that the modern lifestyle, including the utilization of antibiotics, disturbs the microbiome, so it was important that the source of the probiotic come from a host with a ‘conserved microbiome’—one which has been unaffected or untainted by western influences. Our human-sourced, ‘wild-type’ probiotics are isolated from healthy hosts with conserved microbiomes.” The result: “Today, our Floradapt strain bank is a vast library consisting of over 1000 different strains.”

Different strains can perform wildly different functions. For instance: OptiBiotix sells CholBiome, a supplement which only contains Lactobacillus plantarum LPLDL, which helps to support healthy cholesterol levels. This wasn’t something OptiBiotix just stumbled upon. “Our scientists discovered this strain after screening over 4,000 strains,” says Stephen O’Hara, CEO of OptiBiotix. “Following additional research, we found that this probiotic strain displayed highly effective bile salt hydrolysis activity, was resistant to stomach acid, and was stable enough to be commercially viable.” It works, O’Hara explains, by increasing the breakdown of bile salts in the gut, forcing the liver to synthesize new bile salts from cholesterol found in the blood, thus reducing blood cholesterol. This means that besides digestive health, this probiotic may find a home in the cardiovascular health section—"CholBiome is recommended for adults who are looking for a more natural solution to improve their cardiovascular health by maintaining and managing their cholesterol levels,” O’Hara says. “At OptiBiotix, we recommend CholBiome is taken for at least three months, as part of a healthy and active lifestyle, to see a reduction in cholesterol levels and improved heart health.”

Another strain sold for non-digestive purposes: Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, sold as Reg’Activ, which synthesizes the antioxidant glutathione. Ross Pelton, R.Ph., CCN, Ph.D., Scientific Director at Essential Formulas/Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, says it’s important to get supplemental glutathione: “Glutathione levels are now recognized as a reliable biomarker of aging due to its discovered role in protecting telomeres and telomerase.” He says that that’s where ME-3 comes in. “In human clinical trials, individuals taking ME-3 daily for 3 weeks gained a remarkable 49% increase in the ratio between reduced/oxidized glutathione. The additional glutathione also recycles other oxidized antioxidants, which resulted in an overall 26% increase in total antioxidant activity.”

Other strains have been known about for longer: American Health, for instance, uses what’s known as Metchnikoff strains. Jeanne Stanco, Sr. Brand Manager, explains: “Strains of the Lactobacillus bulgaricus species, like the one found in American Health Probiotic Acidophilus, are often referred to as Metchnikoff strains after Ilya Metchnikoff (1845-1916), a Russian zoologist, bacteriologist, immunologist, and Nobel Prize recipient. In the early 1900s, Metchnikoff opined that eating yogurt produced with Bulgaricus was beneficial to health and longevity.” There’s a twist, though—Stanco notes that Bacillus bulgaricus was actually discovered by Bulgarian researcher Stamen Grigorov, in 1905. “Metchnikoff heard about Grigorov’s research,” Stanco continues, “and later published his idea that the health and long life expectancy of Bulgaria’s rural populations was attributable to their daily consumption of fresh yogurt.” Today, those strains are available in American Health’s probiotics.

Another concern with probiotics: survivability. Fortunately, there are several ways to ensure the survivability of these organisms. Probi uses BIO-tract, “a unique and patented delivery system which protects sensitive probiotic strains and dietary ingredients from stomach acid and provides prolonged absorption for maximum benefits,” according to Diane Alexander, Ph.D., North America Sales Director. “This innovative technology is comprised of a matrix which forms an outer gel as the tablet travels through the gastrointestinal tract, allowing for the release of live microorganisms and other beneficial compounds such as prebiotics and vitamins over time as the matrix hydrates and erodes. In fact, probiotic strains have greater survivability in Bio-tract formulations as compared to standard capsules in a model system.”

While survivability can be ensured through use of enteric coated tablets and other processing breakthroughs, some companies choose to work with spore-forming bacteria. Michini explains: “Spore-forming bacteria are those that naturally form an endospore—a self-created coat of armor, or covering, to protect it from specific elements that otherwise will kill it. Spore-forming probiotic strains are ideal for delivery in popular food and beverage forms—e.g. gummies, iced coffees, chocolate protein bars, etc.—that utilize harsh processes that would kill non-spore formers.” DE111, he notes, is a spore-forming strain.

Just Thrive chose to use spore-forming bacteria as well, according to Tina Anderson, Co-Founder and CEO. “We know that the conventional lactobacillus and bifidobacterial strains found in most common probiotics tend to be sensitive organisms and have difficulty surviving the gastric system,” Anderson says. “All four extremely hardy strains in Just Thrive Probiotic & Antioxidant were chosen based on the millions of euros of extensive research supporting their effectiveness. This proprietary formula has been shown in third party gastric survivability tests to 100% survive stomach acidity and successfully colonize the gut.”

When it comes to blends, companies should ensure that the entire blend is functional, not just individual strains—two strains that work great separately may cancel each other out in a blend, or compete for the same food source, diminishing the effects of both strains. On this principle, Wakunaga of America compiled The Friendly Trio: It’s “a clinically studied proprietary blend of three biocompatible human strain probiotics, Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2,” says Director of Sales Jay Levy. “Over the past 30 years, we have conducted numerous clinical studies on this specific combination of strains, which provides added confidence in the efficacy of these strains, which work together to support microbiome health.” The result is a stable product that doesn’t require refrigeration, Levy notes, and a single product that has multiple mechanisms of action: “L. gasseri has been shown to support the body’s GI function and immune health, B. bifidum may regulate healthy gut flora and enhance immunity by reducing inflammation, and B. longum is known to normalize bowel movements.” Plus, Levy adds that the strains are DNA sequencing verified, “which means they are registered and documented for accuracy and viability.” Wakunaga offers The Friendly Trio in a range of blends, from the Daily formula for regular maintenance to Kyo-Dophilus Max, developed to support those with more urgent or serious wellness issues.

ADM Protexin, too, offers a thoroughly studied blend: “The 14 strains included in the original Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain were chosen for their acid stability, general stability in environmental conditions, and for the general research available at the time for the species,” says Technical Advisor Kim Plaza. “This combination has since been used in several clinical trials to beneficial effect. For example, it was recently used in the largest-ever double-blind randomized controlled trial of live bacteria supplements in IBS-diarrhea type patients ever conducted. The study in 400 people found that Bio-Kult significantly improved overall symptom severity in IBS patients. Abdominal pain and frequency reduced by an average of 69%, and 34% of participants were completely symptom free at the end of the 4-month trial.”

Kids’ Health

“There are differences in probiotic quantity, diversity, and type between individuals at different stages of life,” explains ChildLife’s Adam Sutter. “This difference manifests itself in oftentimes very divergent needs and benefits with regards to optimal probiotic supplementation. For example, infants and children have greater need for bacteria in the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium compared with adults.”

There are also options to address child-specific issues, like the Baby Colic formulation from Kaneka. “Infant colic, or excessive crying syndrome, is seen in newborns most often for the first three months of life, but can persist up to six months,” explains Kaneka’s Sid Shastri. “It is seen in 8-20% of infants and is a major cause of 10-20% of all pediatrician visits in the first four months of life. Colic management can be a high priority for parents, as episodes of colic can occur for three or more hours a day.” To this end, Shastri explains that two strains were chosen for this probiotic: “It contains the strains Pediococcous pentosaceus KABP-041 and Bifidobacterium longum KABP-042. These strains were effective in adhering to the gut, and also offered multiple mechanisms of activity against infant colic. They have been shown to reduce the expression of IL-10, which is an anti-inflammatory cytokine. Furthermore, these strains were able to inhibit the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria, which are known to produce gas—which is commonly elevated in colicky babies.” The final product has been the subject of multiple studies, Shastri adds, which have demonstrated that Baby Colic supports a calm gut and healthier microbiome, correlated with decreased crying time.

Another infant-specific option—Bio-Kult Infantis. “The strains which are contained within Bio-Kult Infantis are specifically selected because of their relative abundance found within an infant microbiome, the two predominant species being B.infantis and B.breve,” says ADM Protexin’s Kim Plaza. This may be useful when a child’s microbiome has been disrupted—if born by C-section, for instance, or prescribed a course of antibiotics. And Infantis has an added benefit—omega-3s, which can support a developing immune system, Plaza says. How long is this supplement useful to a child? “Once a child reaches the age of around 2 years old, their microbiota more closely resembles that of an adult, therefore their probiotic needs may be different,” Plaza specifies.

One probiotic looking to fill that need—Deerland’s DE111. Sam Michini tells WholeFoods that “Recently completed Deerland research shows that supplementing with DE111 may significantly decrease the duration of symptoms associated with illness, and also promote better stool consistency in children. Overall, DE111 reduced the incidence and duration of overall gastrointestinal upset and bloating by more than 50%, and is well tolerated and safe to use in children as young as 2.”

There are also prebiotics formulated to be safe for children—AIDP, says Samantha Ford, offers NeoGOS, “a patented form of GOS that selectively stimulates the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the colon. NeoGOS provides the oligosaccharides that are naturally occurring in human milk, making it a safe, effective, and highly tolerable prebiotic suitable for adults, children, and infants.”

Just like with -biotics for adults, be sure to read and follow the directions—how and when probiotics are taken, for instance, makes a big difference to bioavailability. ChildLife recommends taking them on an empty stomach: “It facilitates quick uptake and passage through the stomach and into the intestines,” Sutter explains, “which is where the beneficial bacteria really do their work to provide maximum health benefit.” ChildLife, Sutter adds, recommends that parents incorporate probiotics into a child’s routine prior to breakfast.


Synbiotics are probiotics plus prebiotics, and studies have shown that probiotic supplements containing a prebiotic are twice as effective as probiotic supplements without prebiotics, says Cheung. “This is why most of our probiotic formulas contain a prebiotic. Think of it as sending probiotics into your gut with a ‘packed lunch.’ Once the prebiotics and probiotics reach your intestinal tract, the probiotics can feed off the prebiotics immediately and start multiplying instead of having to seek out ‘food’ in your intestinal tract. The prebiotics give the probiotics a head start when combined in a supplement.” Many probiotic supplements contain prebiotics, usually in the form of inulin, which may prove a useful selling point for customers looking to boost digestive health.

For Mothers-to-Be

“Perhaps no other group of people has as many digestive issues as expecting mothers,” says Belle+Bella’s Cheung. “Pregnancy has a host of digestive ailments like heartburn, constipation, gas, cramping, diarrhea, etc. Our Flora Prenatal is formulated with clinically studied strains to support vaginal health and promote healthy gastrointestinal function, which aids in relieving these common problems expecting mothers face. It also supports an expecting mother’s immune system to help her avoid illness during pregnancy. We also included cranberry extract for UT health support, another common issue amongst expecting mothers.”

Food First

Supplements are often discussed first when it comes to probiotics—largely due to survivability: If probiotics die before they get where they need to go, what’s the point? And probiotics in food aren’t enteric coated.

However, that doesn’t mean customers should skimp on the yogurt. That’s actually one of the things to which Kaneka’s Sid Shastri attributes to microbiome function: “Our American society is one where the microbiome is under a variety of challenges and assaults coming from the Western lifestyle, which consists of frequent  antibiotic use (which are known to affect microbiome changes for years after a single round of therapy), lack of proper prebiotics in the diet (therefore reducing the replication of healthy probiotics and reducing the production of critical Short Chain Fatty Acids), and insufficient cultured foods in the diet,” to name a few.

It may therefore benefit customers to approach their microbiome food-first: “What’s best for the human body is to consume a wide variety of microbial strains from a variety of sources in ‘food-sized’ doses, as articulated by research conducted by Rob Knight, Founder of the American Gut Project,” explains Hannah Crum, Founder and President of Kombucha Brewers International. That research found that “fermented food consumers have subtle differences in their gut microbiota structure, which is enriched in conjugated linoleic acid, thought to be beneficial” (2). That said, Crum adds that, unfortunately, “limited studies have explored the association between fermented food consumption and the gut microbiome in large cohorts.

In comes one of customers’ favorite sources of probiotics: kombucha. “Kombucha is touted as a probiotic due to the fact that the microbes, acids, and nutrients benefit many seemingly disparate symptoms,” Crum says. “Kombucha goes to the root cause of an issue—meaning the gut microbiome—and brings the body back into balance, which allows the immune system to do its job and heal the body as nature intended.” Kombucha has a number of benefits—Crum says that “the fermented brew is very nutrient-dense with living probiotic organisms, healthy acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants, which can help increase energy, aid in digestion, support a healthy liver function, and enhance overall health and wellbeing. Other studies show that it reduces cholesterol, curbs cravings, helps diabetics control blood sugar, and prevents damage from free radicals and radiation.”

And if you have any customers who are nervous about the safety of kombucha, you can tell them not to fear—“the questions around safety and kombucha are typically rooted in false assumptions that were proven to be inaccurate by testing,” Crum says. “Simply put, the reason our ancestors used fermentation was because the microbes create an acidic environment that is inhospitable to mold and other potential pathogens. Kombucha also creates trace amounts of alcohol which preserve the brew and protect it from harmful microorganisms.” It is lightly alcoholic, generally, but Crum notes that the amount of alcohol in kombucha is similar to the amounts found in unpasteurized fruit juice.

Cognitive Health

The gut speaks to the brain—quite a bit, according to ADM Protexin’s Kim Plaza: “The gut-brain axis consists of a bidirectional communication network that monitors and integrates gut functions and links them to cognitive and emotional centers of the brain. The methods of communication are considered to be via three pathways: The nervous, hormonal, and immune systems. The vagus nerve connects the guts to the brain, with 80% of communication travelling from the gut to the brain and 20% from the brain to the gut.”

“Evidence suggests that compounds that are released by beneficial species of gut bacteria stimulate the fibers of the vagus nerve,” Plaza continues. “This has since been found to be related to the reduction of stress and anxiety behaviors. Hormonal communication is concerned with metabolites such as serotonin, where around 90% is found within the gut. This is a potent neurotransmitter and is known as the ‘happy hormone.’ Disruption of the bacterial composition in the gut may disrupt the available neurotransmitters to the brain, and therefore could affect our mood.”

But it goes beyond mood, Plaza adds: “Recent studies have demonstrated a clear association between changes in the gut microbiota and cognitive behavior, with gut inflammation identified as a possible pathogenic cofactor in cognitive deterioration and dementia. Using live bacteria supplements as a potential way to modulate cognitive behavior, including learning and memory, is therefore a hot topic of research. For example, in a recent clinical trial, 12 weeks of supplementation with a multi-strain live bacterial supplement was shown to positively affect cognitive function and metabolic status in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Bio-Kult Mind was formulated with similar research in mind, Plaza notes—“The spore-forming probiotic B. subtilis was utilized in Bio-Kult Mind for its promising results in preventing and reducing the aggregation of a protein involved for Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, in a C. elegans (roundworm) model.”

Nor is the gut-brain axis limited to cognitive function: “The 14 strains in the original Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain were recently shown to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of episodic and chronic migraine, which is why they were selected for us in Bio-Kult Migréa,” Plaza says. “The product is formulated with magnesium and vitamin B6 for additional benefits.” So those worried about their cognitive health—in general, or for migraines specifically—may want to discuss these supplements with their health care provider.


“Postbiotic metabolites are compounds that probiotics create when they ferment dietary fibers,” explains Pelton. “For decades, we’ve known that probiotic bacteria play important roles in the regulation of human health. However, until recently, the mechanisms that explain how probiotic bacteria regulate so many aspects of human health have remained elusive.” The answer, Pelton says, is becoming clear: Postbiotics. “Probiotic bacteria are amazingly complex little chemical manufacturing plants. The primary ‘job’ of probiotic bacteria is to ferment non-digestible dietary fibers, which results in the production of a wide range of compounds known as postbiotic metabolites, which are increasingly being understood to be master health-regulating compounds for the whole body.”

Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics products all contain postbiotic metabolites, Pelton notes. “Directly ingesting postbiotic metabolites is the fastest way to improve or correct dysbiosis-related intestinal problems such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, inflammation, and pain,” Pelton opines. “When people take a commercial probiotic, the bacteria must first survive transit through the harsh acid environment in the stomach. Then, if they arrive in the small intestine, they must locate fiber-rich foods in the small intestine and begin the task of converting those fibers into postbiotic metabolites. This all takes time. Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics directly deliver over 500 different postbiotic metabolites, which immediately begin to create positive changes in the intestinal tract by providing anti-inflammatory activity, directly killing pathogens, reestablishing the proper acid/base level, and much more.”

Beyond supplements, postbiotics are a promising development in the functional food arena. “Postbiotics, like pre- and probiotics, play a role in supporting digestive function,” says Erdogan-Trinkaus. “And since postbiotics are not comprised of living microorganisms, they are not limited by the same processing parameters as cultures, and retain efficacy even in applications where baking is required. Postbiotics expand the possibilities for product developers to deliver wellness benefits through all different kinds of applications.” ADM offers the postbiotic BPL1, which targets metabolic health, reduction of abdominal fat, and healthy weight management.

With all the -biotics out there, it’s easy for consumers to get confused and overwhelmed. Simplify their choice by picking products that have care, science, and a story behind them—customers will come back for a product that works. WF 

Sports-Specific Support

As consumers become more and more aware of the importance of exercise, they’re working to incorporate more into their routine—whether that means a walk or a full-on work-out regimen. But exercise comes with its own problems. “During exercise, the immune system can be negatively affected, and a so-called ‘open window’ may arise and last between 2-8 hours,” explains Elina Hildebrand, Director of Products and Marketing at Probi. “During this ‘open window’, the body is much more sensitive to immune disruption. By adding probiotics to the diet, athletes and active people can counteract the adverse GI-symptoms, which may arise due to exercise and promote a well-functioning GI tract. Adding well-characterized and clinically proven probiotics can help consumers achieve a healthier GI bacterial environment, an improved intestinal barrier, and a well-regulated immune system.”

Probiotics can be useful for full-blown athletes, as well. Deerland’s Sam Michini explains that in one study, male athletes were given Bacillus subtilis DE111 for 12 weeks of off-season training. “After three months of advanced training in [the test and placebo] groups, researchers found that TNF-a concentrations—a marker of inflammation triggered by an immune reaction—were significantly lower in the DE111 group, indicating that probiotic supplementation may regulate healthy immune response in people who are in competitive sports or who work out and train heavily.”

For your customers who are going the extra mile—or, specifically, the extra 26 miles—probiotics may be the ideal addition to their sports supplement cabinet. The International Probiotics Association writes in a blog post titled “Marathon Runners and Probiotics” that “a marathon can be an extreme challenge leading to gut dysbiosis, immunosuppression, and respiratory problems.” Fortunately, the association notes, probiotics have been shown to add to the body’s antioxidant arsenal, aid with leaky gut, and support the immune system.