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Pre- and Probiotics for Eye, Brain, and Body Health

Friday, March 22, 2019

An article published April, 2019, in Current Nutrition Reports got our attention. It's titled "Prebiotic Intake in Older Adults: Effects on Brain Function and Behavior." The article suggests that current science-based evidence generally supports the ability of prebiotics to increase beneficial gut bacteria concentrations on endocrine, immunologic, and neuronal communication.

However, the article also states the evidence is based on short-duration studies limited to healthy, young, and middle-age adults, clearly suggesting more research is needed to identify safe, effective doses, duration, and delivery methods, particularly among diseased, older adults.

Prebiotic vs. probiotic vs. symbiotic

Prebiotics are nondigestible compounds in food that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms including bacteria and fungi. These foods include bananas, onions, garlic, apple skins, cabbage, cauliflower, and beans, just to name a few. Prebiotic fiber goes through the small intestine undigested and is fermented when it reaches the colon.

Probiotics are live microorganisms naturally created by the process of fermentation in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi, and kombucha. These food products are intended to provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring gut flora.

Synbiotics are supplements that contain plant-based prebiotic fibers with specific health-promoting strains of probiotics. The good news: You can also pair prebiotic and probiotic foods to create your own synbiotics suggested to help support digestion, improve heart health, enhance immunity, increase weight loss, and decrease inflammation associated with loss of eye, brain, and full body health.

The microbiome

Gut microbiota is the name given today to the microbe population living in our intestines. It contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1,000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (reportedly 150 times more than human genes).

This abundant community of human-associated microbes was largely unstudied for years, leaving their influence on human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition almost entirely unknown.

Researchers are also beginning to understand the ways in which bacteria living in the human gut communicate with and influence whole body health, including brain health. The concept of a faulty "gut/brain axis" has been associated with various neurologic and psychiatric outcomes and is thought to be explained, at least in part, by immune dysfunction triggered by poor gut health.

The Human Microbiome Project was established back in 2008 by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund. It was created with the mission of generating research resources that enabled comprehensive characterization of the human microbiota and the analysis of their role in health and disease.

The project made an effort to identify microbial communities in five sites—the gut, mouth, nose, skin, and urogenital tract. Unfortunately, the eye and brain were not originally included.  

Ocular researchers have not ignored the microbiome

An article published in May 2018 in Current Opinion in Ophthalmology, titled "The role of the intestinal microbiome in ocular inflammation," is a must read for eye care physicians, since microbiome science is finally getting the attention it deserves in both the front and back of  the eye. A 2018 article published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, discusses the role of microbiota in retinal disease.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


Diet is considered the main driver in shaping the gut microbiota across our lifetimes. These intestinal bacteria have proven to play a crucial role in maintaining immune and metabolic homeostasis, while protecting us against dangerous pathogens. 

Emerging science also suggests that gut microbes influence metabolic functions, so much so that some experts now regard it as a hidden organ system capable of interacting with its host, down to DNA expression.  

Microbiome science is again proving the importance of avoiding overly processed, center-of-the-supermarket, nutrient-empty junk food. Plant-based diets focused on consumption of larger amounts of organic vegetables (fermented and not), fruits, eggs and nuts, in addition to small amounts of organic meat from holistically managed regenerative-focused agriculture farms are recommended for most for optimal gut health.


Clinical references available in the Biosyntrx office.