Industry Presented Webinar FAQ on Pre/Probiotics

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Industry Presented Webinar FAQ on Pre/Probiotics

Corrie Whisner, PhD, ACSM and the WheatFoods Council |  June 21, 2019

ACSM  Microbiome Health

The WheatFoods Council and ACSM recently hosted an industry-presented webinar with Corrie Whisner, PhD entitled Wheat, Microbiome and Health.

Watch the full webinar here

Several questions were asked by attendees during the webinar and the answers pertaining to Prebiotics and Probiotics are below.

What's the difference between pro- and pre-biotics?

Probiotics are live microbes that when consumed in adequate amounts they provide health benefits to the host consuming them.

Prebiotics are compounds in food that are used by microbes living in our guts and ultimately confer health benefits as a result of microbial actions.

You can read more about these food components here


What are your thoughts on taking a sporebiotic versus just a probiotic?

With probiotics, it is important to consider the purpose for taking these products. Some have proven effective for specific conditions/health benefits but not for other conditions/benefits. It’s always good to do your research first so you get the results you are looking for and also to ensure that you aren’t spending extra money you don’t need to be spending.

Sporbiotics, or spore-forming microbes, are still probiotics but tend to be a bit hardier. Spores are capable of surviving the harsh environment of the stomach so that the microbes can jump back into action as soon as they reach the lower small intestine and colon where they carry out their benefits. This doesn’t necessarily mean that spore-forming microbes are better than other probiotics. Overall, it seems like specific types of microbes work better for different health issues or goals and researchers are currently working to see what benefits arise from sporbiotics versus probiotics.


Do you suggest taking an over-the-counter probioctic daily?

The evidence for using probiotics for health is still quite limited. We are learning a lot each day about how these products work and the benefits we can expect. I think the use of these products should be an individual’s own decision. Maybe taking a probiotic makes you feel better than you used to or perhaps you find yourself getting sick fewer times a year while taking a probiotic. If that is you, GREAT! Others, however, might not notice a benefit and find the cost of probiotics a bit too high. To the latter individuals, I say don’t forget about all of the amazing gut bugs you already harbor in your intestines. Instead of taking a probiotic, you could focus more on eating a diverse set of fibers and polyphenols from fruits, vegetables and grains. This will feed the beneficial gut bugs that already live inside you and as a thank you, they will make you healthier.


What is your opinion about food with microbiotic added?

Many foods are emerging with probiotics added to them, which includes everything from chocolate to pasta. While these food items may provide health benefits related to the addition of live microorganisms, there is currently very limited data to support whether these additions actually provide health benefits. The food science literature does suggest that the addition of probiotics to food items yields viable microorganisms that appear in the feces of humans who consume these products, but we currently do now know if the appearance of microbes in feces also relates to improved health. Further, much work is needed to understand how storage, shelf life, consumption patterns, etc. influence the microbes in these food items and if they survive to elicit a benefit to human consumers.


Are there probiotics in apple cider vinegar and other fermented foods (such as pickles or sauerkraut)?

Fermented foods can be a good way to get probiotics, but we still have limited data to support the effectiveness of such foods. Some fermented foods are also pasteurized after the fermentation process to stop the bacteria from continuing to degrade nutrients in the food. In this case, the food would not be providing you with live bacteria as they would not survive the pasteurization process. Yogurt is a great example of food that delivers live microbes along with a number of really important vitamins and minerals. Always check the back of the label to see if the product was pasteurized or contains live bacteria so you can spend your money on the best products.


Does aloe vera help increase the number of microbes?

Aloe vera has served as a medicinal plant for centuries, dating back to ancient Greece. There is emerging evidence that consumption of aloe juice or aloe leaves may alter the gut microbiome, but so far, the research is pretty limited. Aloe contains nutrients and potentially beneficial compounds like anthraquinones, vitamin C, minerals and carbohydrates, but how these components change the gut microbial community is less clear. Some studies have also indicated potential adverse health outcomes from consuming aloe so if someone is considering consuming parts of this plant, they should seek medical advice from a licensed healthcare provider. Further, the Food and Drug Administration currently has not established that consumption of aloe leaves is safe for gastrointestinal benefits such as constipation.

You can read more here


What is the evidence regarding FODMAPs playing a possible role in health gut bacteria maintenance/proliferation or reduced GI distress?

Low FODMAP diets involve the removal of Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols from the diet to alleviate digestive symptoms like bloating, gas and intestinal pain. This diet is often recommended for the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and is meant to help IBS patients identify problem foods. FODMAP-containing foods include many healthy plant and animal-based foods that contain prebiotics and polyphenols like legumes, beans, garlic, onions, milk, yogurt, honey, agave nectar, mangoes, figs, stone fruits (e.g., plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots, cherries, avocados), berries, and low-calorie sweeteners (sorbitol, mannitol, etc.). With the exception of low-calorie sweeteners, these foods have healthy prebiotic fibers, probiotics and polyphenols, in addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals and healthy sources of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Low-FODMAP diets are not meant to be followed long term because these foods have health benefits. Instead, low-FODMAP diets should be followed for a few weeks, and then foods should be reintroduced to identify specific food items that may be causing intestinal distress. Once identified, these foods can be consumed in small quantities and slowly increased until the intestinal microbes become used to processing these foods again.


What are the specific berries? Are grapes a berry?

Grapes are considered berries. In addition to grapes, beneficial berries include cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.


You mentioned the benefits of yogurt, is there a difference in the benefits between plain yogurt and Greek yogurt?

When it comes to yogurt, I think you should choose the kind that you like. If you enjoy the taste, texture and type, then you will continue to consume this healthy food for a long time. As the data that I presented suggest, the more yogurt you consume, the more lactobacillus that are present in the gut. This continued consumption will bring health benefits and possibly contribute to a healthier gut microbiome. Since all yogurts have live bacteria in them, we can all benefit by regularly consuming our favorite brands and flavors. My only suggestion is to go for the lower fat options on a regular basis and only consume the more indulgent yogurts on special occasions.


What are your thoughts on Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that is another way to incorporate probiotics into your diet. While there is not much scientific evidence to support the use of kombucha for health benefits in humans, experimental data suggest that its consumption may help prevent infections. Given the recent emergence of these products on the market, it will be important to look into the companies making kombucha and also to read the labels. Make sure that the tea product is not pasteurized after the microbes fermented the tea because then you won’t be getting any live microorganisms. Also, beverages often have a lot of added sugar so try to select those that have less added sugar to avoid excess unwanted calories in your diet.


I have an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and I cannot eat  cruciferous vegetables. Is there another way to get those beneficial microbes?

Individuals with Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune form of hypothyroidism) may be more susceptible to goitrogens present in cruciferous vegetables, but they would have to eat a fair amount of these vegetables to suffer negative consequences from the goitrogens competing with iodine for uptake into the thyroid gland. Small or typically consumed amounts of cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts are likely not to cause issues for those with hypothyroidism, especially in America where table salt is often supplemented with iodine in quantities that more than meet our daily needs. However, individuals should seek the advice of a physician for the proper management of their specific case of Hashimoto’s and/or hypothyroidism.


How does diet and the microbiome influence the inflammation response?

Diet and the gut microbiome interact quite a bit to influence our health. This is often a result of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory compounds that regulate human health being produced. One way in which this occurs is when we eat dietary fiber, which is fermented by the gut microbes. Fermentation products include short-chain fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties throughout the body.


Does alkaline water affect gut health?

There currently is very little evidence to support the use of alkaline water for health. Our bodies are quite good at regulating pH in the stomach and intestine so the consumption of alkaline water likely will be neutralized in the stomach where the opposite pH (acidic) occurs. If you or a client enjoys consuming alkaline water, feel free to continue as it does not seem to have negative health consequences.  However, for those on a tight budget, it may not be worth it.

Watch the full webinar here