The science behind a balanced gut microbiome

10 Jun 2021


Microorganisms belonging to more than 1000 different species can be found in and on the human body, including the skin, nose, mouth and gut. The human gut is where 90% of these microorganisms find their home, it’s known as the human gut microbiome[1]. Scientists define the gut microbiome as the total amount of microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, fungi and their genes that live in the human gut.  About one third of these are common to most people, while two thirds are specific to each individual making one’s gut bacterial profile as unique as a fingerprint[2]. Not even identical twins, which share 100% of their genetic information, have the same gut microbiome composition[3].

Even though, no two gut microbiomes are alike, scientists have been able to establish that a healthy gut microbiome is a highly populated and diverse one. It is all about balance and environment with just the right ratio of “good” bacteria (such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillii) and “bad” bacteria (such as Clostridia and Bacteroides). In fact, both gut microbiome microorganism community density (the overall number of cells) and diversity (the number of different species present in the gut) regulate and influence various processes related to overall health, such as nutrition and metabolism, immune system, entero-endocrine system, intestinal-cerebral axis and others5.

Interestingly, the gut microbiome not only has a link to food related issues and digestive system diseases such as obesity, colon cancers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food intolerances, micronutrient deficiencies, cholesterol and liver diseases[4], but also to diseases that, until just a few years ago, had apparently nothing to do with our gastrointestinal tract, such as diabetes, mental health issues including anxiety and depression, impaired immunity, skin diseases and non-food allergies

In essence, this wealth of life inside the body is crucial for both physical and mental well-being, as on the one hand it modulates food digestion and nutrient absorption, while on the other is the foundation for 70% of the immune system and regulate brain activity. In this way, it both modulates brain activities and is the first line of defense against diseases.

3 allies for a healthy gut microbiome

How can we achieve a healthy gut? A number of factors play an important role in shaping our gut health, such as lifestyle, exercise, host genetics and medications. Moreover, we can also influence our health by what we eat. Dietary compounds such as probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics can play an active role in gut health by feeding and increasing the diversity and the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

1. Prebiotics

While a high-fat diet (such as the Western Diet) often promotes the development of a pro-inflammatory gut microbiome profile, a high-in-fibre diet, such as the Mediterranean diet is related to a healthier gut microbiome and has been associated with a well-functioning immune system, lower risk of artery diseases, and good mental health[5].

For decades, scientist have proven that fibres of all types are important for health and that fulfilling the prescribed daily dietary requirements (25 to 30 g fibre/day) is good for one’s health and well-being. Unfortunately, it’s also a goal that most people struggle to achieve leading to issues relating to bowel movement, increased body weight and the risk of several non-communicable diseases such as certain type of cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases[6].

However, not all fibres exert their beneficial effects in the same way. A certain type of fibre called prebiotic fibre directly and positively interacts with our gut microbiome. Prebiotic fibres are selectively used (usually fermented) by “good” gut microorganisms, which help them thrive, keeping the gut microbiome in balance. Simply put, prebiotic fibre serves as food for the beneficial microbes that live inside one’s gut and therefore contribute to good health. It is important to remember that, even though all types of fibre are good for us, not all of them can be called prebiotics … among them, soluble fibre such as inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides and galactooligosaccharides. In addition, many other non-fibre compounds can have a prebiotic effect[7].

For most people bread is a staple food, which they consume daily. Historically bread, especially certain type of breads such as the wholegrain ones, is the main source of fibre. For decades Puratos has been on a mission to increase the quality (taste, texture and nutritional value) of the food we eat and help consumers live a healthy life. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that as part of our innovation effort we have developed delicious breads rich in prebiotic fibre  that keep both consumers and their gut happy!

2. Postbiotics

Postbiotics are a mix of inactive bacteria cell, cell components (for example, beta-glucans) or substance produced by gut bacteria (example: short chain fatty acids). Postbiotic substances are beneficial to the host and they can have an  immunomodulation role, anti-inflammatory effect, antioxidant and antihypertensive activities among many other health benefits.[8]

If prebiotic-focus solutions represent Puratos’ current Happy Gut portfolio, postbiotic solutions that represent the future and are the topic of our medium to long-term research efforts.

3. Probiotics

Lastly, the use of living “good” microorganisms – probiotics – present or added to yoghurt and other fermented milk products, can confer a health benefit on the host as well. Despite the role they play in gut health, for the moment, probiotics are not yet the topic of any Puratos research. The reason for this is a very simple one: as most of our bakery and patisserie solutions undergo severe and prolonged heat treatment such as baking, it is impossible that these organisms stay alive in the finished products.

Interested in Happy Gut product solutions? Read more here


  2. Thursby E, Juge N. Introduction to the human gut microbiotaBiochem J. 2017; 474(11):1823-36. 
  5. Rinninella E, et al. What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases. Microorganisms. 2019 Jan 10;7(1):14.
  6. Makki et al. The impact of dietary fiber on gut microbiota in host health and disease. 2018 Cell Host Microbe 23, 6, 705-715
  9. Aguilar-Toalá, J. E., et al. "Postbiotics: An evolving term within the functional foods field." Trends in Food Science & Technology 75 (2018): 105-114.