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Why is Gut Health Important?

The digestive system is the gateway to the body for most of the chemicals and compounds that we either want to take in (to nourish us) or keep out (because they are pathogens of harmful chemicals). So, it’s fair to say that health of the digestive system affects the health of the whole body and that, as a result, ‘gut health’ is a hot topic for good reason.

​The balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes in the gut (known as dysbiosis) can affect nourishment and growth and contribute to health conditions ranging from metabolic states like obesity and type 2 diabetes,1 gut issues,2 inflammatory conditions,3-7 cardiovascular disease, and mental health challenges.8-17

The gut microbiome also affects (and is affected by) hunger, satiety, inflammation and immunity, and this also affects our likelihood of developing diseases of the metabolic spectrum.1, 3, 18, 19

The gut microbiome also has an interplay with sleep and stress, co-factors for the development of diabetes, obesity, mental health challenges, and other health conditions. 1

What is the Microbiome?

Before looking into what the various biotics are, it is important to understand common terms like microbiome and microbiota.

The microbiome is the community of microbes found in the body. Technically, the microbiome refers to collective genomes of these microbes with microbiota used to describe the communities of microbes, but these terms are often used interchangeably. In common usage, microbiome refers to the community of bacteria in the gut, but it also includes other microbes like fungi, protozoa, and viruses (there is also distinct microbiota of the skin, oral cavity, and other surfaces).

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics feed (beneficial) microbes in the gut. Usually, these are various sugars, fibres and resistant starches that feed particular varieties of bacteria (or in some cases beneficial yeasts).

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are microbes (usually bacteria but also some yeasts) that can be taken in supplemental form and are purported to improve the balance of the microbiome.

What are postbiotics?

Postbiotics are chemicals produced by bacteria (like probiotic bacteria) that have additional benefits to the gut and overall health. They are also known as organic acids and include short-chain fatty acids which feed cells of the digestive wall, other bacteria, and can be absorbed by the body for use as fuel (i.e., acetic acid, butyric acid, and lactic acid). These and other chemicals produced by bacteria in the gut also act as messengers that provide a ‘metabolic interaction’ between the host (you) and the microbiota and digestive environment.20



1. Wilson AS, Koller KR, Ramaboli MC, Nesengani LT, Ocvirk S, Chen C, et al. Diet and the Human Gut Microbiome: An International Review. Digest Dis Sci. 2020;65(3):723-40.

2. Simpson CA, Mu A, Haslam N, Schwartz OS, Simmons JG. Feeling down? A systematic review of the gut microbiota in anxiety/depression and irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2020;266:429-46.

3. van den Munckhof ICL, Kurilshikov A, ter Horst R, Riksen NP, Joosten LAB, Zhernakova A, et al. Role of gut microbiota in chronic low-grade inflammation as potential driver for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: a systematic review of human studies. Obesity Reviews. 2018;19(12):1719-34.

4. Damiani G, Bragazzi NL, McCormick TS, Pigatto PDM, Leone S, Pacifico A, et al. Gut microbiota and nutrient interactions with skin in psoriasis: A comprehensive review of animal and human studies. World J Clin Cases. 2020;8(6):1002.

5. Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, Gómez J, Delgado S, Requena-López S, Queiro-Silva R, Margolles A, et al. Gut microbiota dysbiosis in a cohort of patients with psoriasis. British Journal of Dermatology. 2019;181(6):1287-95.

6. Alesa DI, Alshamrani HM, Alzahrani YA, Alamssi DN, Alzahrani NS, Almohammadi ME. The role of gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of psoriasis and the therapeutic effects of probiotics. J Family Med Prim Care. 2019;8(11):3496-503.

7. Coit P, Sawalha AH. The human microbiome in rheumatic autoimmune diseases: A comprehensive review. Clinical Immunology. 2016;170:70-9.

8. Hélѐne-Zanin J. Gut feelings: a thematic review of the links between acute gastrointestinal illness and anxiety and depressive disorders. Global Health: Annual Review. 2015;1(1).

9. Rong H, Xie X-h, Zhao J, Lai W-t, Wang M-b, Xu D, et al. Similarly in depression, nuances of gut microbiota: Evidences from a shotgun metagenomics sequencing study on major depressive disorder versus bipolar disorder with current major depressive episode patients. Journal of psychiatric research. 2019;113:90-9.

10. Zheng P, Yang J, Li Y, Wu J, Liang W, Yin B, et al. Gut Microbial Signatures Can Discriminate Unipolar from Bipolar Depression. Advanced Science. 2020;7(7):1902862.

11. Evans SJ, Bassis CM, Hein R, Assari S, Flowers SA, Kelly MB, et al. The gut microbiome composition associates with bipolar disorder and illness severity. Journal of psychiatric research. 2017;87:23-9.

12. McIntyre RS, Subramaniapillai M, Shekotikhina M, Carmona NE, Lee Y, Mansur RB, et al. Characterizing the gut microbiota in adults with bipolar disorder: a pilot study. Nutritional neuroscience. 2019:1-8.

13. Dickerson F, Severance E, Yolken R. The microbiome, immunity, and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Brain, behavior, and immunity. 2017;62:46-52.

14. Coello K, Hansen TH, Sørensen N, Munkholm K, Kessing LV, Pedersen O, et al. Gut microbiota composition in patients with newly diagnosed bipolar disorder and their unaffected first-degree relatives. Brain, behavior, and immunity. 2019;75:112-8.

15. Gondalia S, Parkinson L, Stough C, Scholey A. Gut microbiota and bipolar disorder: a review of mechanisms and potential targets for adjunctive therapy. Psychopharmacology. 2019;236(5):1433-43.

16. Flowers SA, Ward KM, Clark CT. The Gut Microbiome in Bipolar Disorder and Pharmacotherapy Management. Neuropsychobiology. 2020;79(1-2):43-9.

17. Nguyen TT, Kosciolek T, Eyler LT, Knight R, Jeste DV. Overview and systematic review of studies of microbiome in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2018;99:50-61.

18. Singer-Englar T, Barlow G, Mathur R. Obesity, diabetes, and the gut microbiome: an updated review. Expert review of gastroenterology & hepatology. 2019;13(1):3-15.

19. Zheng P, Li Z, Zhou Z. Gut microbiome in type 1 diabetes: A comprehensive review. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews. 2018;34(7):e3043.

20.Yadav M, Verma MK, Chauhan NS. A review of metabolic potential of human gut

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