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Sunfiber (Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum PHGG): The Best Prebiotic for Digestive Problems

sunfiber partially hydrolyzed guar gum PHGG

Sunfiber (partially hydrolyzed guar gum or PHGG) is one of the most well-tolerated prebiotics on the market and is especially useful for those dealing with symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Learn more about how Sunfiber might be helpful for you in this article.

As someone who works almost exclusively with clients with digestive problems, I get really excited about prebiotics (a substance that feeds healthy gut bacteria) that are well-tolerated even by those with issues like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

I’m a huge fan of pretty much all prebiotics as they can all be useful for those with imbalanced gut bacteria — much like probiotics being strain-specific in their effects, each prebiotic has a slightly different effect on the beneficial bacteria colonies that live in your gut.

But the problem with many prebiotics is that they’re not particularly well-tolerated by those with digestive problems…and as you can imagine, these are often the people that need them most!

Some prebiotics cause digestive problems, especially when taken in high doses right away. The most common digestive side effect when taking prebiotics is bloating.

The Well-Tolerated Prebiotic Fiber

Sunfiber is very unique in that sense; unlike most other prebiotic fibers, it is actually very well-tolerated by most people with digestive issues. 

It’s a prebiotic I’ve used for years in my practice with much success because of how well it’s tolerated.

In fact, it’s my go-to prebiotic choice because of this — I know that it’s very unlikely that a client won’t respond well to it. Sadly, this isn’t the case with many other prebiotic choices on the market.

So let’s dig into why Sunfiber is an excellent choice for a prebiotic and how it is especially helpful for those dealing with digestive complaints.

The Scientific Evidence

Now, just because a prebiotic is well-tolerated by those with digestive issues doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s effective. That’s where looking at the research comes in handy — we want to see that taking Sunfiber provides a benefit, of course!

Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG) is very unique in that the scientific evidence supports its use in a range of digestive issues, including reducing constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and more.

Sunfiber Reduces Constipation

Sunfiber (partially hydrolyzed guar gum) has been used in many studies to reduce constipation and increase bowel movement frequency. In addition to this, research shows that PHGG consumption improves stool consistency, changing it from hard to normal.

Consuming Sunfiber also seems to reduce the need for the use of laxatives and enemas, taking their use from 2 to <0.1 and 7-8 to 1-3, respectively.

Partially hydrolyzed guar gum at 5g/day increases colonic transit time (essentially the speed at which your digestive system moves food through it) by about 12 hours in constipated patients, and by about 22 hours in those with slow transit time. 

Interestingly, these benefits occurred when using a wide range of dosages of Sunfiber within these studies. Dosages from 5g/day to 36g/day were used, all with significant benefits to constipation.

This means that even at dosages as low as 5g/day, you may notice improvements in bowel movement frequency, abdominal pain related to constipation, and stool consistency.

Sunfiber Reduces Diarrhea

Acute instances of diarrhea can be disruptive and sometimes dangerous.

Sunfiber significantly reduces the incidence of diarrhea as well as the frequency of diarrhea in those with health issues that make them more prone to this condition.

In a study of healthy adults made to have diarrhea (by giving them a hefty dose of sugar alcohols), 10g of Sunfiber strongly reduced the incidence of diarrhea by a cumulative 82%.

It seems that a higher relative dose of partially hydrolyzed guar gum is beneficial for diarrhea — these studies used doses from 5g all the way up to 28g/day with good effect. 

Given the evidence, I suggest around 10g/day for those dealing with diarrhea.

Sunfiber Improves IBS Symptoms

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that can lower your quality of life significantly. It also happens to be where Sunfiber really shines.

Sunfiber (partially hydrolyzed guar gum) has been shown to significantly improve a host of IBS symptoms, including:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Bowel habits
  • Flatulence (gas)
  • Abdominal spasm
  • Quality of life

In addition to this, Sunfiber decreases the concentration of methane in stool. This may be particularly helpful for those dealing with methane dominant SIBO.

The dosages used in these studies ranged from 5-10g/day, but even at the lower dosage partially hydrolyzed guar gum was highly effective in reducing IBS symptoms.

Therefore, if you suffer from IBS, just taking 5g/day of Sunfiber may help improve your symptoms.

Many of these studies had participants taking Sunfiber for at least 3 weeks, so make sure to give it some time to start working! You’ll need to take Sunfiber daily for at least this amount of time to start noticing a difference.

Sunfiber is Prebiotic

Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (Sunfiber) is a prebiotic, meaning that it increases the number of healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome.

Research shows that Sunfiber increases counts of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species — two of the main beneficial bacteria present in your gut.

In addition to this, Sunfiber is highly fermentable. This means that your bacteria can “eat” Sunfiber, and when they do, they produce highly beneficial compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

Short-chain fatty acids fuel the cells of your digestive tract, keeping your gut (and your body as a whole) healthy.

I recommend taking at least 6g of Sunfiber per day if you’re specifically looking for prebiotic effects.

Taking Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum (PHGG)

As you can see, Sunfiber may be a great choice for you if you suffer from digestive issues and want help reducing your symptoms.

The dosage you may want to take ranges a bit, but in general I would recommend at least 6g/day because that is the point at which Sunfiber becomes prebiotic (meaning that we see significant increases in the counts of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome).

From there, we see dosages go up to 36g/day in some of these studies — clearly, you can take quite a lot of it and notice benefits!

However, it is clear from this research that a high dosage like that may not be necessary for symptom improvement.

In general, I recommend keeping your intake anywhere from 6g to 20g/day.

As mentioned above, it’s also important to be consistent with taking partially hydrolyzed guar gum in order to notice the benefits. I typically tell my clients to expect to notice symptom improvement within a few weeks of taking Sunfiber daily.

Gut Power: An Easy Source of Sunfiber

Sunfiber is one of my favorite prebiotic fibers out there, so when I wanted to create a prebiotic & probiotic drink mix, I knew I wanted to include Sunfiber in it.

Gut Power Matcha is a blend of prebiotics (Sunfiber partially hydrolyzed guar gum), probiotics (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086), and organic matcha green tea from Japan.

In just one scoop, you get not only a delicious cup of matcha but also 6g of Sunfiber and 1 billion CFUs of our probiotic strain.

It’s truly the easiest, tastiest way to support your gut health!

Want to try it for yourself? Click here to order.

The Bottom Line:

Sunfiber is a well-tolerated prebiotic fiber with a lot of evidence supporting its use in those with digestive complaints. Partially hydrolyzed guar gum has been shown to significantly improve symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, flatulence (gas), abdominal pain, and more.

For an easy way to incorporate Sunfiber on a daily basis, try Gut Power Matcha, which includes 6g of Sunfiber per serving.

Resources

This article is a summary of an excellent review article: 

Rao, Theertham Pradyumna, and Giuseppina Quartarone. “Role of guar fiber in improving digestive health and function.” Nutrition (2018). Link to article.

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Prebiotics and Probiotics…What is a Prebiotic vs Probiotic?

prebiotics and probiotics

Despite sounding very similar, prebiotics and probiotics are quite different and play different roles in the gut microbiome. So what is a prebiotic vs probiotic?

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotic definition: “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” (1)

This essentially means that the definition of a prebiotic fiber is anything that bacteria living in your gut (or elsewhere) can use to thrive. When these beneficial bacteria thrive, they help you, their host, thrive as well. Thus, prebiotics, by way of helping your good gut bacteria thrive, “confer a health benefit” to you.

Prebiotics provide health benefits by helping your healthy gut bacteria do what they’re supposed to do — produce beneficial compounds like short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), strengthen your gut integrity, and push out bad bacteria.

Prebiotics are most often non-digestible fibers, but more recent research shows that prebiotics can also be things like polyphenols (a type of antioxidant).

Types of Prebiotic Supplements

The most common prebiotic supplements you’ll find include:

  • Inulin
  • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
  • Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
  • Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG)

That said, there are also many high prebiotic foods out there, too!

Prebiotic Foods

High prebiotic foods include:

  • Chicory root
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Dandelion greens
  • Bananas (especially green bananas)
  • Asparagus
  • Apples
  • Cocoa
  • Flaxseeds
  • Burdock root
  • Yacon root
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Jicama root

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics definition: live microorganisms that confer a health benefit to the host. (2)

So what does this mean exactly? Well, it means that when you take probiotics, you’re consuming live bacteria or other organisms.

While that may sound a little strange, these little gut bugs are actually quite good for you! Part of the definition of a probiotic is that in order to be considered one, that bacteria must actually provide a benefit to you, their host.

That’s why harmful bacteria, like Salmonella, for example, are not considered probiotic. These bacteria cause harm instead of benefitting you. Probiotics, on the other hand, make you healthier!

You can consume probiotic supplements as well as probiotic foods to get these healthy bacteria into your body.

Probiotic Strains

When choosing a probiotic, it is very important to consider the specific strain you’re going to take. That’s because the probiotic strain dictates what kind of health benefits that probiotic might offer.

When looking at the probiotic strain level, you should see 3 different parts of the probiotic name.

Take a look at the image below to see the different parts of the probiotic name, including the probiotic strain.

probiotic strain

Because different strains of the same species may provide completely different benefits, it’s important to choose your strain carefully. This becomes especially important when you’re choosing a probiotic supplement — not all probiotic supplements tell you what strain they contain!

Probiotic Foods

Of course, you can also consume probiotics in the form of probiotic foods.

Probiotic foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Kvass
  • Pickles (make sure they’re fermented, not pickled in vinegar)
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Yogurt

You can ferment all sorts of veggies yourself, too! Learn how to ferment your own vegetables here.

Prebiotic vs Probiotic

Hopefully by now, you understand the differences between a prebiotic vs probiotic.

Remember, probiotics are live organisms.

Prebiotics are anything that helps those organisms already in your gut thrive.

Both prebiotics and probiotics must be proven to provide a benefit to you, though. If a certain strain or fiber hasn’t been studied or hasn’t been shown to actually provide a benefit, it is not a probiotic or prebiotic.

Provided that you’re taking prebiotics and probiotics that have been clinically-proven to be beneficial, taking both is a really great idea!

What is a Synbiotic?

Speaking of both prebiotics and probiotics…that’s a synbiotic!

Synbiotic definition: a combination of prebiotics and probiotics.

Synbiotics make supporting your gut health easy by including both prebiotics and probiotics in one food or supplement.

But you need to choose your synbiotic supplement carefully because some of them only contain very, very small amounts of prebiotics — not enough to really provide any health benefits.

If you’re trying to choose a prebiotic and probiotic supplement, make sure it contains grams of prebiotics, not milligrams. You need a big dose of prebiotics in order to get the health benefits from it in most cases, but most prebiotic and probiotic supplements only give you tiny doses of prebiotics.

This is essentially just “marketing spin” — they want to be able to claim that their product contains prebiotics, when in reality, that tiny amount of prebiotic isn’t providing any health benefits to you. Lame!

I got so frustrated with all of the prebiotic and probiotic supplements out there that I actually created my own synbiotic product called Gut Power Matcha. I like to think it’s the best prebiotic and probiotic product out there!

gut power matcha

In every serving of Gut Power Matcha, you get 6 grams of prebiotic fiber and 1 billion CFU probiotics. All that in a delicious cup of matcha green tea, too!

Gut Power Matcha is truly the easiest, tastiest way to support your gut health and get your prebiotics and probiotics!

Have you ordered yours yet?

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Top 3 Best Prebiotic Supplements: Feeding Your Good Gut Bacteria

prebiotics

You hear a lot about probiotics these days, but what about prebiotics? What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics and should you be consuming both? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about prebiotics and I’ll let you know about the top 3 best prebiotic supplements.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics were first defined in 1995 as “non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria already resident in the colon.” (1)

That definition has been tweaked throughout the years and the latest update to the definition (decided on by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP)) is as follows: a prebiotic is “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” (2)

But let’s put this in plain English, shall we?

A prebiotic “feeds” your healthy bacteria and, as a result, benefits you and your body. Prebiotics can be found in both foods (typically high-fiber foods) and supplements.

While “classic” prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharides and galactooligosaccharides still fit this new definition, this expanded criteria now also allows some non-carbohydrate nutrition components such as polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) to be classified as prebiotics.

Prebiotic vs Probiotic

What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Prebiotics and probiotics are quite different, despite very similar-sounding names!

While a prebiotic “feeds” good bacteria in your microbiome and offers you benefits in return, a probiotic is a live organism that beneficially impacts your body. (3)

You can think of a prebiotic supplement as the fuel for probiotics, which are the live bacteria that need feeding.

Probiotics can be found in food sources like yogurt, kefir, kvass, sauerkraut, and more. Prebiotic food sources include chicory root, garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichoke, and more.You can consume both probiotic supplements and prebiotic supplements. (We’ll talk about the best prebiotic supplements in just a moment.)

Both probiotics and prebiotics are exceptionally good for you, and I highly recommend incorporating both into your routine for best results. If you’d like to learn more about probiotics, check out my article on the topic here.

Can You Take Prebiotics and Probiotics Together?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s great to take prebiotics and probiotics together. However, when you’re looking at “synbiotic” supplements that contain both prebiotics and probiotics, be aware that most of these supplements only contain a very small amount of prebiotic. It is typically not enough to be considered a therapeutic dose of prebiotic and thus won’t have much of an effect on your health (but it can help the probiotic bacteria in your supplement survive better).

We’ll talk about the best prebiotic supplements in just a moment!

What’s the Difference Between Prebiotics and Fiber?

Many prebiotics are considered a type of fiber, so you will often see the term “prebiotic fiber supplement” used.

That said, not all types of fiber are considered prebiotics. The main difference between a prebiotic and fiber is what kind of bacteria they feed.

A prebiotic must selectively feed beneficial bacteria, whereas fiber is metabolized more broadly and thus can feed non-beneficial bacteria as well as good bacteria. (Note that this doesn’t mean that fiber isn’t good for you — it just acts somewhat differently from prebiotics.)

While prebiotics and fiber are very important parts of a healthy diet, remember that not all fiber is considered a prebiotic.

Prebiotic Benefits

Prebiotic supplements are a powerhouse when it comes to improving your health.

Here are some of the benefits of prebiotics you can expect.

Prebiotics & Digestive Health

Because prebiotic supplements selectively feed healthy bacteria, they can be used to help correct “dysbiosis” or imbalanced gut bacteria.

There are two main types of dysbiosis: general imbalance, and insufficiency dysbiosis.

General imbalance is when you have too few beneficial bacteria and overgrowths of one or more commensal bacterial strains. Commensal bacteria are bacteria that are normal to find in small amounts and typically don’t cause any harm to you. However, when they start growing in high amounts, you might start developing symptoms.

Insufficiency dysbiosis occurs when you don’t have enough beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria hanging out in the large intestine. These should be present in high amounts, but it’s very common to see folks with very little or no growth of these beneficial microbes. In the case of insufficiency dysbiosis, you do not need to have any bad bacteria species overgrowing.

Dysbiosis has been associated with a myriad of health conditions, like allergies, eczema, metabolic syndrome, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmunity, and more. You can learn more about dysbiosis by reading my article on the topic here.

By consuming prebiotics, you can increase your counts of beneficial bacteria which improves the balance of your microbiome. A balanced microbiome means a healthy body!

Prebiotic supplements have been shown to improve lactose tolerance in those who are lactose intolerant, as well as improve symptoms of IBS like bloating, excessive gas, diarrhea, and constipation. (4, 5)

Prebiotic supplements can also improve IBS-like symptoms even more than a low-FODMAP diet alone when combined with this approach. (6)

Prebiotics, Weight Loss & Metabolic Function

Gut bacteria play a huge role in how your metabolic system functions. When gut bacteria in the microbiome become imbalanced (i.e. you have “dysbiosis), you can develop systemic low-grade inflammation, often referred to as “metabolic endotoxemia.” This is when toxic molecules such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) get through a “leaky gut” into your bloodstream.

Researchers believe that this inflammation is at the root of many diseases, but it can especially impact the development of metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. (7, 8)

Taking prebiotic supplements has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, fasting insulin levels, and inflammation markers. (9)

Prebiotic intake has also been shown to increase satiety and decrease calorie intake, which may play a role in some of the positive metabolic changes seen with prebiotic consumption. (10)

Prebiotics & the Immune System

More than 70% of your immune system is housed in your digestive tract. (11)

This makes sense when you think about it — after all, your digestive tract is exposed to the many foods, particles, bacteria, etc that make it through your mouth on a daily basis. In order to keep you healthy, it must have a robust system in place to tolerate foreign particles that pose no pathological threat, while also being able to mount an attack toward pathogens that may negatively impact the body.

Prebiotic supplements have been shown to positively impact the immune system. Prebiotic consumption increases short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production, which in turn has been shown to promote T regulatory (Treg) cells, as well as other important immune cells. (12) Treg cells have a balancing effect on the immune system because they discourage autoimmunity (the attack of your own body’s cells).

Because of these effects, prebiotic supplements have been shown to improve atopic diseases such as asthma and eczema. (13, 14)

Prebiotics & The Brain

The gut and the brain are intimately connected — your brain “talks” to your gut and vice versa. At least on a subconscious level, we’ve known about this connection for a long time as evidenced by our use of phrases like “gut feeling,” “gutsy,” and “gut instinct,” but research is just starting to truly realize the extent of the connection between the brain and gut. (15)

Targeting the microbiome with microbiome-modulating things like prebiotic supplements and probiotic supplements is of great interest to researchers who study stress-related diseases such as anxiety, depression, and even conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.

Using prebiotic supplements has been shown to reduce waking cortisol response in adults. (16) In mice, prebiotic supplementation also shows antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. (17)

Because this is such a new field of study, I expect that we’ll see lots more about the effect prebiotic supplements can have on our mental health in the coming years!

Prebiotic Side Effects

There are very few side effects of consuming prebiotic supplements. That said, some people may experience slight increases in bloating when consuming large doses of prebiotics.

To avoid any digestive upset, it is best to start slow when increasing your intake of prebiotic supplements. Over time, your bacteria get used to having more and more fuel and you generally won’t experience digestive upset anymore.

Types of Prebiotics

There are many substances that act as prebiotics, and the list will surely become even longer in the coming years with the new, expanded definition of a prebiotic.

Some popular prebiotics include:

  • Inulin
  • FOS (Fructooligosaccharides)
  • GOS (Galactooligosaccharides)

With the expanded definition of prebiotics, there are some newer prebiotics available now as well, such as Sunfiber (also known as partially hydrolyzed guar gum or galactomannan fiber) and polyphenols.

Polyphenols are naturally-occurring compounds found in in plants. Some foods high in polyphenols include blueberries, coffee, strawberries, blackberries, flaxseed, tea, and wine. Recent research has shown that polyphenols act as prebiotics in the digestive system, increasing our counts of healthy gut bacteria. Learn more about polyphenols foods and their effect on gut bacteria.

Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotics can be found in both foods and supplements. Eating prebiotic foods can be a great way to get prebiotics in your diet if you’re not interested in taking prebiotic supplements.

Here is a list of foods that contain prebiotics (including polyphenol prebiotics):

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Burdock root
  • Coffee
  • Chicory root
  • Chocolate (dark)
  • Dandelion greens
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Jicama
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Strawberries
  • Tea
  • Wine
  • Yacon root

Best Prebiotic Supplements

I’m a big fan of including prebiotics both from the diet and incorporating a prebiotic supplement.

Here are a few of the best prebiotic supplements on the market. Remember to start slow and ramp up your dosage over time to avoid digestive complaints, no matter what prebiotic supplement you take!

Sunfiber

Sunfiber is a new (and pretty unique) prebiotic fiber supplement. It is certified low-FODMAP by Monash University, so it’s the best prebiotic supplement choice for those who are FODMAP intolerant. It’s also been shown to improve clearance rates of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) when combined with the typical antibiotic treatment for this condition. (18)

I generally recommend 6 grams of Sunfiber per day for best results. Sunfiber mixes in with hot or cold beverages easily and is taste-free and colorless.

I love Sunfiber so much, actually, that I use it for my products at Gut Power Drinks!

Our first product, Gut Power Matcha, is a blend of Sunfiber, probiotics, and matcha green tea.

Each scoop of Gut Power Matcha contains 6g of Sunfiber, as well as 1 billion CFUs of probiotics.

Gut Power Matcha contains 6g of Sunfiber prebiotic fiber as well as 1 billion CFUs of Bacillus coagulans GBI 30 6086

We now also have a second flavor, Gut Power Cocoa, which also incorporates 6g of Sunfiber prebiotic fiber as well as 1 billion CFUs of probiotics (Bacillus coagulans GBI 30 6086).

Gut Power Cocoa
Gut Power Cocoa contains 6g of Sunfiber prebiotic fiber as well as 1 billion CFUs of Bacillus coagulans GBI 30 6086

If you’re new to prebiotic supplements, I truly believe Sunfiber is the best prebiotic supplement to begin with.

It’s incredibly well-tolerated and has some really impressive benefits.

Bimuno (B-GOS)

Bimuno is the best prebiotic supplement that contains GOS (galactooligosaccharide). It’s generally very well tolerated, even by those with digestive issues. I typically recommend 1 stick of the powder formula (3.6g). Bimuno can be mixed into pretty much any beverage and is tasteless.

FOS

NOW’s Nutraflora FOS is the best prebiotic supplement containing FOS (fructooligosaccharides). In general, I find FOS to be slightly less well-tolerated than the others on this list, but not by much! It’s got a nice sweet taste — I generally just dump it into my mouth and let it dissolve. I recommend 5 grams of FOS for best results.

What to Avoid in a Prebiotic Supplement

As prebiotic supplements become more popular, I’ve started to see lots of products claiming to contain prebiotics when they either don’t contain a substance that actually fits the definition of a prebiotic or they contain so little prebiotic that it is almost guaranteed not to actually benefit you when you take it.

Many supplements and foods claim to contain prebiotics when in reality they just contain fiber, so keep an eye out for that. Remember that fiber is absolutely great for you, but in my opinion it’s a bit of false advertising to claim that a fiber product contains prebiotics (unless, of course, that fiber is shown to be prebiotic).

You’ll also want to watch out for prebiotic supplements that contain extremely low doses of prebiotics. This typically happens in “synbiotic” products, which means that they include both a probiotic and a prebiotic. There is usually a tiny amount of prebiotic which does absolutely nothing for you as a human being, but can possibly increase the survival of the probiotic you’re taking. If you’re taking a prebiotic to benefit you, you’ll be taking grams of the stuff, not milligrams. Prebiotics are most often powdered supplements or quite a few capsules, since you need to take a lot for a therapeutic dose.

Lastly, prebiotics do seem to be somewhat like probiotics in that different types of prebiotics may be better suited for different uses. (Remember that the effects of probiotics are strain-specific.) Further research in the area will elucidate which prebiotic supplements are most beneficial for different conditions.

The Bottom Line

Prebiotic supplements feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which in turn make you healthier. You can consume prebiotics both in foods and prebiotic supplements — it’s a good idea to do both to ensure you’re properly fueling your microbiome.

Be wary of supplements that contain milligrams of prebiotics — while they may benefit probiotics contained in the supplement you’re taking, it’s not a therapeutic dose for you. If you want the benefits of consuming prebiotics, you generally need to take grams of the stuff!

The best prebiotic supplements on the market are Bimuno, Sunfiber, and Nutraflora FOS.

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Got Anxiety? Here’s How Your Gut Microbiome Plays a Part

Got Anxiety Here's How Your Gut Microbiome Plays a Part

Learn about the connection between gut health and anxiety and how you can improve your anxiety by improving your gut health.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness affecting those living in the United States with about 40 million sufferers. (1) If you deal with this condition, you know that anxiety can be debilitating and affect your quality of life. But did you also know that the trillions of microbes living in your gut can play a part in your condition and potentially help you heal? That’s right, there is a connection between your gut health and anxiety.

The Gut-Brain Connection: How Gut Health and Anxiety Connect

These microbes living in us are often referred to as the “forgotten organ” because they play such a large role in our well-being, but it is only recently that we’ve started to realize the impact this organ has on the body. (2) Unfortunately, the Western lifestyle takes a significant toll on the health of our microbiome with constant stress, unhealthy diets, lack of sleep, and more leading to a condition called dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis, the imbalance of gut bacteria, has been associated with a variety of mental disorders including anxiety. (3) While there aren’t many studies done on humans, we have seen mice exhibit increased anxious behavior when exposed to pathogenic bacteria in the gut. (4) It’s probably no surprise, then, that those with anxiety are also likely to suffer from a digestive disorder associated with imbalanced gut bacterial as well like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

I recommend that you test your microbiome for dysbiosis and pathogens by using a functional medicine lab – your healthcare practitioner can then interpret this information for you and prescribe the correct treatment depending on what is going on in your gut. This is the #1 step anyone with anxiety should take! You don’t want unwanted pathogens hanging around wreaking havoc on your gut health (and in turn your mental health!). Directlabs.com offers a number of stool tests that you can order yourself – I have tests from both Metametrix and Doctor’s Data (two of my favorites) listed in my portal here.

Best Probiotics for Anxiety

When humans are given specific strains of probiotics, their anxiety improves as does their HPA axis function. (5) The strains of probiotics used in this study (Bifidobacterium longum R0175 and Lactobacillus helveticus R0052) can be found in two products in the United States: Pure Encapsulations’ ProbioMood (which you can purchase in my supplement dispensary) and Xymogen’s Probio Defense.

Prebiotics for Anxiety

Prebiotics, which feed healthy gut bacteria, are also useful for anxiety. Stress-related disorders seem to respond to the prebiotic GOS (galactooligosaccharide) in particular, which help the HPA axis to function appropriately in addition to making us pay more attention to positive stimuli vs negative stimuli. (6) My go-to GOS prebiotic is Galactomune from Klaire Labs, which you can purchase in my dispensary.

Best Diet for Anxiety

Eating a healthy, ancestral diet is also associated with lower anxiety scores, while Westernized diets are associated with the opposite effect. (7) This is thought to be due to many factors including inflammation, but also to the effects of these diets on the microbiome. Another reason to keep up your healthy diet!

The Gut-Brain Connection

The microbiome and the brain operate on a bi-directional axis, meaning that the gut affects the brain and vice versa. Because of this, anxiety and gut problems can be a vicious cycle where anxiety  makes you more likely to develop dysbiosis (the imbalance of gut bacteria) and dysbiosis makes you more likely to suffer from anxiety. But dealing with both conditions simultaneously (i.e. treating dysbiosis and reducing stress to the degree you can) can help alleviate both problems. To learn more about stress and its impact on the gut, check out my article on the topic here.

While anxiety can be a difficult diagnosis to deal with, there is more and more research coming out every day about the relationship between anxiety and the microbiome. If you suffer from anxiety, your treatment plan should definitely address any problems in the gut!

Gut Health and Anxiety: How to Improve Anxiety by Improving Your Gut

To recap, those with anxiety should focus on:

  • Reducing stress as much as possible by incorporating mind-body activities like meditation, yoga, etc
  • Testing and treating for dysbiosis with a trusted practitioner (I can help!)
  • Adding probiotics to their routine, in particular the Bifidobacterium longum R0175 and Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 strains  which can be found in the probiotic supplements ProbioMood and Probio Defense.
  • Adding prebiotics, especially GOS, which has shown to have a positive impact on the HPA axis and anxiety. Try Galactomune to get more GOS in your diet.
  • Eating a healthy, ancestral diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, etc. (e.g. a Paleo diet!)

Now I want to hear from you: what have you done to combat your anxiety? Are you focusing on the gut?