Buying a yoghurt in Japan is fun! Instead of choosing between blueberry and coconut flavours or a regular-fat and low-fat yoghurts you look for the best probiotic to optimize your gut health. You accomplish this by deciphering combinations of letters and numbers like “LB21”, “BB536”, and “SP”, which are specific probiotic strains in the yoghurts. To the Japanese choosing the right yoghurt is a serious health matter, and diary section offers yoghurts with wide variety of health claims, ranging from lowered cholesterol and blood pressure to better influenza resistance.
But recently there has been a raising interest in metabolites of gut bacteria. Gut microbiome produces many substances that are vital for our health, including vitamins, hormones, and beneficial fatty acids. For example, gut bacteria produce the majority of serotonin in our body and it also plays a role in the body’s estrogen production through regulation of β-glucuronidase enzyme.
When trying to increase our vitamin intake, majority of us tend to reach out to a bottle of vitamin supplement or certain foods which we know are rich in the desired vitamins. They are of course effective strategies, but you’ll get to the next level with your biohack if you also consider the power of your gut microbiome. Gut microbiome can contribute to a significant portion of RDI of both vitamin B and K, fulfilling 27 % of RDI niacin (B3), one third of cobalamin (B12), as well as nearly 40 % of folate (B9).
Also, researches have demonstrated some lactobacillus strains’ ability to promote synthesis of glutathione, the body’s major antioxidant, in their host. No wonder health conscious Japanese are excited about yoghurts with allegedly powerful microbe strains in their yoghurts!
But research results of the benefits of oral probiotics are muddy at best, and current consensus says that new living bacteria won’t find their new permanent habitat in your gut. Rather, the colonisation effect of oral probiotics is due to complex and multiple mechanisms such as producing substrates that promote growth of colonising bacteria and promoting immune responses against certain microbes. This means that efficacy of populating your gut with a desired species may greatly depend on what your gut colony already is like. You consume probiotics to improve your gut, but the improvements may depend on the bacteria colony in your gut!
Can microbiome metabolites be the solution? Maybe. As said, they are products of probiotics like various vitamins, fatty acids, and much more. Many metabolite products are sold in Japan today with claim that intake of probiotics metabolites may provide unique health benefits.
Though this is a new area and comprehensive research data doesn’t exist, I could think of some scenarios in which I’d give a try such metabolite products:
· Your gut microbiome profile is “suboptimal”. As said, current researches show that permanently colonizing your gut with new live probiotics via oral consumption is unlikely. But wait! It’s not the probiotic strains as such we want in our gut, rather the great jobs they do. Because the metabolites ARE these jobs, taking them directly may let you surpass the catch-22 that you don’t have these great “worker probiotics” in your gut
· You want to benefit from bacteria strains not in your ancestry heritages. Despite its characteristic smell and suspiciously slimy appearance, natto, the traditional Japanese fermented soy, has gained some popularity among hardcore biohackers. Sorry for bad news, but you may not get full health benefits of natto or other soy products if you lack certain gut bacteria. One of beneficial metabolite of soy the gut microbiome produces is equol. Studies show that equol can improve the skin, reducing crow’s feet, as well as reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flash and muscle arches. It’s estimated that the more your ancestors consumed soy the likelier that you have the gut bacteria that can metabolize it into equol. Only about 50 % of the Japanese population has such gut bacteria, and people with ancestral origin with little or no soy consumption is likely to lack such bacteria in their guts. Supplementing directly with equol can let you circumvent the lack of right gut bacteria.
· You want an alternative to taking probiotics. Probiotics used in the right dose and way can be a great way to improve your gut. But finding what is right for you can be tricky. Also, taking too high dosages of even a high-quality probiotic can cause SIBO (Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth). Direct supplementation with gut bacteria metabolites won’t cause these problems, because you are not consuming live bacteria.