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Prebiotics Hold A Special Role in Gut Health

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 11 November 2021
Prebiotics Hold A Special Role in Gut Health

Prebiotics are of central importance in nourishing the body’s microbiota, and are typically comprised of fermentable carbohydrates like oligosaccharides or polyols.

However, prebiotics like these can serve as growth substrates for pathogens (certain strains of Clostridia or E. coli, for example) as well as beneficial species, and some carbohydrate prebiotics are associated with gastrointestinal discomfort.

In addition, prebiotics can show considerable variability in their overall effects on gut microbiome composition, with inconsistent clinical results.

The human gut microbiome encompasses dynamic environmental, biochemical, and health variables that influence both host and microbiota, including caloric and non-caloric nutrition, metabolic function, epigenetic, regulation of cell signalling, interactive elaboration of novel metabolites by both host and microbiota, immune and stress responses, and the combined prebiotic and antimicrobial effects of a host’s diet, among others.

In recent studies, certain polyphenols have been evaluated as second-generation prebiotics that differentially impact friendly flora and pathogens and possess unique functional profiles.

A growing body of research has focused on the role of the gut in human health.

Integrity of the gut barrier, microbiome characteristics, and the balance of the gut immune system all contribute to whether our gut aids our health or contributes to its decline.

Multiple lines of scientific study have shown how digestive fibre may help provide benefits to gut health, but we’re now learning that polyphenols from plants may be of equal or even greater value.

Polyphenols are a large family of naturally occurring plant molecules characterised by their chemical structure.

Polyphenols include rutin, quercetin, curcumin, and resveratrol, among many others.

Researchers are finding that these molecules may have a variety of effects on our health.

When it comes to the gut, they may act on a number of signalling pathways related to metabolism, immunity, and the microbiome. For example, polyphenols may represent a way for us to target dysbiosis.

For some time, recommendations for gut health have included fermented foods and fibres, in addition to consumption of a range of plant foods.

With the gut-polyphenol link being exposed, we may have another potent tool available to inform recommendations for the millions of people suffering from GI issues today.

Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsEvidence Based ResearchCancerGut Health


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia