The benefits of Microbiota – Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Postbiotics

What is microbiome?


The body is a habitat for trillions of gut bacteria, which together are called the microbiome. Another name for this bacterial community is the microbiota, the large collection of microorganisms that live in symbiosis within the human body.

What are the 3 elements of healthy microbiome?

Probiotics – are the good friendly non-harmful bacteria in the guts. The good sources of probiotics include yogourts, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh. There are plenty of probiotics supplements nowadays but do make sure that they contain live bacteria.

Discover Top 5 Probiotics Foods

Prebiotics – are the foods or fuels used by the probiotics in order to survive in the guts. Common sources of prebiotics include artichokes, asparagus, and onions.

Postbiotics – are the biologically active compound or soluble factors that produced by the probiotics as a result of their fermentation and metabolic process in the guts. Apple cider vinegar is one example of postbiotics.


Synergistic combinations of pro- and prebiotics are called synbiotics.

What are the benefits of probiotics?

The use of probiotics and prebiotics in the food industry and food supplementation has been blooming for the last few decades. Several clinical studies have shown the various benefits of the probiotics on well-balanced diet and improvement on gut homeostasis. The well-established probiotics effects are;

  1. Prevention and reduction of duration and symptoms of rotavirus-induced and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  2. Alleviation of complaints due to lactose intolerance
  3. Reduction of concentration of cancer-promoting enzyme
  4. Regulate regular normal movements in healthy individual
  5. Prevent bacterial overgrowth
  6. Eliminate H. pylori infection
  7. Improve functional bowel disease

A systemic review showed that probiotics are effective treatments for IBS and chronic constipation1.

  1. Prevention and elimination of allergic and atopic disease

Meta-analysis of 18 studies provided evidence in favor of probiotics in the prevention of atopic dermatitis and IgE-associated atopic dermatitis in infants during pregnancy and infancy2.

  1. Prevention of upper respiratory tract infection (cold and flu)
  2. Prevention and treatment of arthritis

Research showed that probiotic bacteria (e.g. Lactobacillus rhamnosus) attenuates various types of experimental arthritis, including collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) and inhibits production of arthritis-related autoantibodies3.

  1. Treatment of urogenital infections

A systemic review of 20 studies found that probiotic interventions were effective in the treatment and prevention of urogenital infections as alternatives or co-treatments4.

  1. Reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted disease (STIs)

In vitro study showed that Lactobacillus crispatus reduce infectivity of Chlamydia5.

  1. Reduce the transmission of HIV virus

A study using cervicovaginal fluid of women showed that Lactobacillus-dominated vaginal microbiota is associated with a reduced risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)6.

Discover Top 5 Probiotics Foods

What are the benefits of pre-biotics

A prebiotic is “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-being and health”. Today, only bifidogenic, non-digestible oligosaccharides (particularly inulin, its hydrolysis product oligofructose, and (trans)galactooligosaccharides), fulfill all the criteria for prebiotic classification.

Proven health benefits of prebiotics;

  1. Prevention of diarrhea or constipation,
  2. Modulation of the metabolism of the intestinal flora
  3. Cancer prevention
  4. Positive effects on lipid metabolism
  5. Stimulation of mineral absorption
  6. Immunomodulatory properties

What are the benefits of Postbiotics?

 Postbiotics are non-viable bacterial products or metabolic by-products from probiotic microorganisms that have biologic activity in the host. When probiotics feed on certain types of fiber molecules in order to thrive, they leave behind “waste products” that are collectively called postbiotics. Postbiotics help regulate the composition of the microbiome. Scientists now believe the most beneficial effects of probiotics are due to the metabolic waste products of these probiotics (postbiotics) and their biological activities and interaction with other cells in the guts.

Example of postbiotics identified and isolated for therapeutic researches includes

  • Lactic acids
  • Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) – acetate, butyrate, and propionate. These are produced by fermenting undigested carbohydrates in the intestine. These fatty acids provide a major energy source for the colon and play a role in intestinal growth and differentiation. They impact many metabolic processes.
  • Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) – polysaccharide A and exopolysaccharide (EPS)
  • muramyl dipeptide (MDP)
  • Indole – a microbial-derived metabolite produced by the host’s lactobacilli during the catabolic pathway of tryptophan
  • teichoic acid
  • lactocepin
  • p40 molecule

Benefits of postbiotics;

  1. Help to support the growth and population of good bacteria

The good bacteria produce lactic acids through their metabolic processes. The lactic acids help to remove heavy metal in the body and inhibit the growth of certain viruses and disease-causing bacteria. Lactic acid is a major organic acid metabolite produced by lactobacilli that acidifies the vagina and has been reported to have inhibitory activity in vitro against bacterial, protozoan, and viral STIs, including HIV infections6.

  1. Reduce the population of harmful bacteria and virus

When the population of probiotics flourishes, the harmful and bad bacteria have to compete with these probiotics for space in the guts. In order to compete with these bad bacteria, they produce various postbiotics to ensure their survival. Some strains of probiotics produce postbiotics that capable of killing off listeria monocytogenes, salmonella and E. coli.

  1. Help to lower inflammation and reduced oxidative stress

Clinical studies showed that certain strains of probiotics such as Lactobacillus casei produced fatty acids by products such as acetate, butyrate and propionate. These fatty acids are beneficial to reduce inflammation and reduce the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS cause oxidative damage in the gut.

  1. Help to regulate blood sugar and prevent diabetes.

Some strains of probiotics produce postbiotics called muramyl dipeptide (MDP). MDP increase cells sensitivity to insulin hormones. Hence, body have to secrete less insulin for same amount of glucose in the blood vessels. This will avoid “pancreatic fatigue” which eventually lead to diabetes. Animal study showed that MDP reduce fatty tissue inflammation and help body to regulate glucose better7.

  1. Prevent and improve arthritis symptoms

Systemic administration of Exopolysaccharides (EPS) markedly reduced autoantibodies production. Moreover, EPS significantly ameliorated arthritis in the mice3.


  1. Ford, A. C. et al. Efficacy of Prebiotics, Probiotics and Synbiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Am. J. Gastroenterol. 109, 1547–1561 (2014).
  2. Pelucchi, C. et al. Probiotics Supplementation During Pregnancy or Infancy for the Prevention of Atopic Dermatitis. Epidemiology 23, 402–414 (2012).
  3. Nowak, B. et al. Lactobacillus rhamnosus Exopolysaccharide Ameliorates Arthritis Induced by the Systemic Injection of Collagen and Lipopolysaccharide in DBA/1 Mice. Arch. Immunol. Ther. Exp. (Warsz). 60, 211–220 (2012).
  4. Hanson, L., VandeVusse, L., Jermé, M., Abad, C. L. & Safdar, N. Probiotics for Treatment and Prevention of Urogenital Infections in Women: A Systematic Review. J. Midwifery Womens. Health 61, 339–355 (2016).
  5. Nardini, P. et al. Lactobacillus crispatus inhibits the infectivity of Chlamydia trachomatis elementary bodies, in vitro study. Sci. Rep. 6, 29024 (2016).
  6. Tyssen, D. et al. Anti-HIV-1 Activity of Lactic Acid in Human Cervicovaginal Fluid. mSphere 3, (2018).
  7. Cavallari, J. F. et al. Muramyl Dipeptide-Based Postbiotics Mitigate Obesity-Induced Insulin Resistance via IRF4. Cell Metab. 25, 1063–1074.e3 (2017).


Foods to prevent Cold and Flu this Season


Since we are approaching the winter season, I decided to write a review of the foods that we can consume to reduce the risk of getting the colds and flu this winter. I usually develop common colds once a year, but sometimes I would have it longer than normal due to the stress of the work or lack of sleep from the daily activity. So this year I aim to reduce my chance of developing the colds and hopefully build a strong immune defense system to fight off the flu virus. I usually get a flu shot every year but fundamentally, I believe that building a strong immune system is the key step in keeping healthy and active this winter season.

Before we go any further, let’s understand what common colds really is. And what is the difference between common colds and flu?



The common cold is an acute, self-limiting viral infection of the upper respiratory tract involving the nose, sinuses, and throat. The colds virus is usually spread by hand contact with secretions from an infected person (direct or indirect) or aerosol of the secretions and virus. The incubation period varies but is just under two days for rhinovirus. Rhinovirus accounts for about 50% of clinical cases.

The common symptoms of colds include a sore throat, rhinitis, rhinorrhea, cough, and malaise. Symptoms that related to the infected mucosa, typically peak at 1–3 days and last 7–10 days. But they can occasionally persist for three weeks depending on the strain of the virus and the status of your immune system. Although self-limiting, the common cold is highly prevalent and may be debilitating. People with influenza usually are sicker than those with the common cold. People with flu usually high temperature (fever), chills, headaches, myalgia, and malaise. Influenza can be serious in older people and those who are immunocompromised such as people taking immunosuppression drugs or steroids or undergoes chemotherapy.

What kind of foods that can reduce the risk of developing common colds?


Probiotics are your best friends in keeping the body from viral invasion. Clinical studies showed that regular consumption of probiotics associated with reduced risk of developing colds. Cochrane systemic review of 14 clinical trials showed that probiotics are effective in protecting an individual from developing upper respiratory tract infection compared to placebo1.

The intake of probiotics is also associated with reducing the use of antibiotics. It should be noted here, that antibiotics are not effective against common colds and should be avoided.

In the pediatric setting, the probiotic of Lactobacillus strains (Lactobacillus GG), have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk for nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children hospitals2. Not only the probiotics reduce the chance of catching the colds but they are also been shown to reduce the duration of the colds as per latest meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials published in British Journal of Nutrition (2014)3.


These good friendly bacteria in your guts not only keep the bad bacteria at bay but also keep the immune system strong in fighting off the virulent viruses. The higher diversity of the good bacteria in your guts, the better as each stain of probiotics have their own secrets weapon in fighting off other bad bacteria. The best sources of probiotics include yogurts, kefir and fermented foods such as kimchi, tempeh, and miso soups.


Ginsengs have been used for centuries in Asian communities for various health benefits. One of them is for prevention and treatment of common colds and upper respiratory tracts infection. The most common ginsengs used are North American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) root extract.


Clinical studies showed that the number of colds in the group taking the ginsengs are significantly lower in that group that took the placebo. Not only that, when compared to placebo, ginseng significantly shortened the duration of colds by 6.2 days. The study found that North American ginseng appears to be effective in shortening the duration of colds or ARIs in healthy adults when taken preventatively for durations of 2-4 months4. Therefore, to be effective ginsengs should be taken at least 2 months before the cold/flu season starts.


two white garlics

Garlic is known to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties that are beneficial in preventing and treating colds and flu. Garlic contains numerous bioactive compounds that can enhance the function of the immune system such as Natural Killer cells and T-cells which are cells that go around the body and kill the invading viruses.

A clinical study by the University of Florida showed that garlic supplementation reduces the number of symptoms (21% fewer compared to placebo). The group that takes garlic supplement also have a shorter duration of cold (61% less). The incident of cold is also halved in the group taking garlic supplementation5. The similar finding also reported using aged garlic supplementation. The study showed that aged garlic supplementation reduced cold and flu severity, with a reduction in the number of symptoms, the number of days participants functioned suboptimally, and the number of work/school days missed6.

Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)

bamboo bamboo whisk board bowls

A clinical study using formulation of Camellia sinensis (green tea) capsules showed that tea stimulates proliferation gamma-delta T cells by 28% and associated with increased production of interferon (small protein produced by T-cells that kill viruses) compared to placebo. The group that took green tea supplement have fewer symptoms and a shorter duration of the cold. Therefore, tea is a safe and effective dietary strategy for preventing cold and flu symptoms. So, you can replace your morning and evening coffee with green tea during the cold season.



close up of strawberries

Cranberry juice is one of my favorite juice (especially when mixed vodka!). Luckily the benefits of cranberry juice not only limited to reducing the chance of getting urinary tract infections. A recent study showed that cranberry juice able to stimulate cells of the immune system to fight off cold and flu viruses. The study found that consumption of cranberry polyphenols able to reduce the symptoms due to cold and influenza7.

So, now you have a secret dietary recipe for the winter to fight off the cold and flu this season. I hope this review will help you to achieve optimal health during this upcoming winter season.


  1. Hao, Q., Lu, Z., Dong, B. R., Huang, C. Q. & Wu, T. in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (ed. Dong, B. R.) (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2011).
  2. Hojsak, I. et al. Lactobacillus GG in the Prevention of Nosocomial Gastrointestinal and Respiratory Tract Infections. Pediatrics 125, e1171–e1177 (2010).
  3. King, S., Glanville, J., Sanders, M. E., Fitzgerald, A. & Varley, D. Effectiveness of probiotics on the duration of illness in healthy children and adults who develop common acute respiratory infectious conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br. J. Nutr. 112, 41–54 (2014).
  4. Seida, J. K., Durec, T. & Kuhle, S. North American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) Preparations for Prevention of the Common Cold in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review. Evidence-Based Complement. Altern. Med. 2011, 1–7 (2011).
  5. Nantz, M. P. et al. Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clin. Nutr. 31, 337–344 (2012).
  6. Percival, S. S. Aged Garlic Extract Modifies Human Immunity. J. Nutr. 146, 433S–436S (2016).
  7. Nantz, M. P. et al. Consumption of cranberry polyphenols enhances human γδ-T cell proliferation and reduces the number of symptoms associated with colds and influenza: a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention study. Nutr. J. 12, 161 (2013).


Psychobiotic Revolution – “Chillax” with Probiotics


Do you know that human adult gut is populated by 10–100 trillion microbes that encapsulate approximately 150 times more genetic material than the human genome itself. Yes! It’s shocking! Now there is increasing evidence that gut microflora can influence the brain, but the scientists still figuring out how they do it. They do know however that regular intake of probiotic (good bacteria)  reduces levels of anxiety and depression-like behavior. They believe that good bacteria are capable of inducing changes in the GABAergic system in regions of the brain that are known to be involved in modulation of moods and behaviors.

food blueberries milk fruit

What are psychobiotics?

Psychobiotics are live bacteria (probiotics) which, when ingested, confer mental health benefits through interactions with commensal gut bacteria. This also includes prebiotics, which enhances the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Psychobiotics exert anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant effects characterized by changes in emotional, cognitive, systemic, and neural indices. Bacteria–brain communication channels through which psychobiotics exert effects include the enteric nervous system (Gut-Brain Axis) and the immune system.

The bacteria most frequently exploited as probiotics are the Gram-positive Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillusfamilies. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli do not possess pro-inflammatory lipopolysaccharide chains, and so their presence and colonization in the gut do not trigger inflammatory action of our immune system nor cause infections. It should be noted, however, that Gram-positive bacteria are not always beneficial, and some species, such as the Clostridia family, may be pathogenic.

What is Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis (“The Gut Feeling”)

The gut microbiome comprises all microorganisms  inhabiting the intestinal tract. Gut–brain axis through early colonisation and through which the brain and gut jointly maintain an organism’s health.

A pivotal study found that mice raised in sterile environments  (lacking indigenous bacteria) showed exaggerated physiological reactions to stress compared to normal controls. The abnormal reactions were reversible through probiotic-induced bacterial recolonization.

Gut bacteria have since been found to participate in the regulation of varied and important physiological processes, including immunomodulation (regulation of immune response against invaders), adiposity (regulation and distribution of fat tissue in the body), and metabolism as well as the modulation of nervous system in the gut.

What are the clinical experiments to support the benefits of probiotics on anxiety and depression? – “In the pursuit of happiness”

Most studies are based on rodent models to induce life stress and behavioral changes. Findings of the studies are summarized below;

Probiotics increase production of  Serotonin (“Happy Hormones”) (Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2008) – Sprague-Dawley rats treated for 14 days with Bifidobacteria infantis have higher level of the serotonergic precursor, tryptophan by bifidobacteria treatment, provides encouraging evidence in support of the proposition that this probiotic may possess antidepressant effects.

Probiotics vs. Antidepressant Study (Neuroscience, 2010) – Probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis supplementation in rats (maternal-separation model) normalizes the anxiety and depressive behaviours in the rats and the effects of probiotics were noted to be comparable to effects of citalopram (anti-depressant).

Probiotics effects on brain (National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2011) –  Rats fed with Lactobacillus rhamnosus showed fewer depressive and anxious behaviours. These changes were accompanied by a blunted corticosterone response to stress, suggesting that the probiotic downregulated HPA-axis activity. Probiotics differentially altered expression of inhibitory GABA receptors in specific brain areas via Vagus Nerves (nerves that connect the gut to the brain).

Probiotics reduce anxiety and improve learning (The Sages College, New York, 2013) – Healthy mice fed Mycobacterium vaccae displayed reduced anxiety in a maze-learning task. Probiotic-fed mice completed the maze faster and with fewer errors, The benefits persisted at 1 week, but not 3 weeks, after supplementation.

Any latest Human Researches?

Fermented milk drink containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota (Yakult, Japan) vs. placebo -supplementation resulted in significantly more participants self-rating as happy rather than depressed, relative to placebo (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006).

beach blue sky cheerful clouds

Bottom lines

In conclusion, there are significant benefits of probiotics in improving the moods and reducing anxiety levels, therefore next time instead of binging on alcohol, try probiotic drink instead. Try to consume probiotics daily and consistently either by consuming probiotics yogourt, yogourt drink or even taking the capsule of probiotics daily. Dairy free-options includes Kefir and fermented vegetables such as Kimchi.

Enjoy and “Chillax” the healthy way!