While bacteria have existed for over 3 billion years, the human discovery of bacteria occurred relatively recently in our history. Bacteria were first discovered in 1676 by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch cloth merchant. One of the first descriptions of gastrointestinal bacteria (bacteria in the gut) was provided in 1842 by Edinburgh surgeon John Goodsir, who discovered a microorganism in the stomach of a 19-year-old patient. In present day, spearheading efforts to understand the human gut microbiome is renowned researcher Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In 2013, Jeffery Gordon found that the gut microbiome of identical twins was different and was related to their nutritional status.

Our Chief Science Officer, Michael Lelah, Ph.D., met Dr. Gordon at a private engagement in Chicago last December, where they sat down for some interesting discussions on current topics and scientific research into the gut microbiome. At the event, Dr. Gordon presented a seminar on the work he is currently doing – developing prebiotic foods for malnourished children. As made clear by the endless studies currently underway on the microbiome, gut health shines as a top concern of consumers today.

Most of our readers know, or are learning, two major aspects about the microbiome:

  1. Prebiotics feed the bacteria in the gut
  2. The bacteria present in the gut provides health benefits to the gut itself, as well as whole body wellness far beyond the gut

But how does science explain the second aspect, and what channels are the bacteria using to affect whole body wellness? Keep reading to find out!

Gut-Brain Axis

The Gut-Brain Axis is one manifestation of this microbiome-to-body interaction. Central to this beneficial interaction between the microbiota and the body is the manner in which bacteria in the gut communicate with the host’s immune system and participate in a variety of metabolic processes of mutual benefit to both the body and the bacteria. In the Gut-Brain Axis, there is bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous systems, linking the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with intestinal functions. And it’s the prebiotics which modulate the gut microbiome, which then generate probiotics that interact with the brain.

Gut-Skin Axis

Another whole-body system in play is the Gut-Skin Axis. The Gut-Skin axis refers to the bidirectional relationship between the gut microbiome and skin health. This is regulated through several mechanisms, such as inflammatory mediators and the immune system. Again, the role of the prebiotic is to modulate the microbiome, which then signals to the skin. As an example of this, consider a well-known product we market – Sunfiber®. Sunfiber® is partially hydrolyzed guar fiber – a soluble fiber known for its effects on regularity and water control to maintain stool consistency. But Sunfiber® can do more than this – it is also a prebiotic which modulates the microbiome, and it has been shown to improve skin health.

The prebiotic properties of Sunfiber® have been well established, showing that Sunfiber® generates short chain fatty acids in the gut. In human clinical trials, acetate, propionate and butyrate levels significantly increase in the stool with consumption of Sunfiber®. Additionally, immunological markers like INF-gamma also show significant reductions. In another recent human clinical study, Sunfiber® was found to improve skin hydration as measured by moisture in the skin stratum corneum. You can see all the pieces coming together here – Sunfiber® as a prebiotic influencing the gut microbiome by generating short chain fatty acid postbiotics and improved immune function, resulting in clinical improvements in skin hydration, leading to improvements in skin health.

Sunfiber® is just one example of a dietary ingredient having the effect on whole body wellness beyond the gut. These connections are truly exciting, as brands now have a new way to provide healthy nutritional solutions to consumers. The connection between the gut and the body is a fantastic new area of scientific research – both in terms of understanding how drugs can modulate disease, and understanding the role of nutrients modulating health.

To dig deeper into the new science on Sunfiber, click here to request a summary of over 10 clinical and scientific studies that have been recently completed!


NutriScience Innovations develops and markets innovative ingredients for the dietary supplement and functional food markets. To learn more about our prebiotic ingredients, please contact [email protected].