The Formulator's View of the Qualia Synbiotic Ingredients

The Formulator's View of the Qualia Synbiotic Ingredients

What is Qualia Synbiotic?

We think of Qualia Synbiotic as your all-in-one gut performance support. It combines three different species of probiotics, with four different prebiotic fibers, three postbiotic ingredients, twelve fermented berries and herbs, five digestive enzymes, and additional gut-brain supporting minerals and ingredients. A serving is high in fiber and only uses FODMAP friendly fibers.* Before we get to talking about the individual ingredients, let’s start by defining some of these terms and sharing a bit about how we think about the gut ecosystem. 

We’ll start with two terms you’ve probably heard, and will see in this blog—gut microbiome and gut microbiota. A biome includes the flora and fauna (i.e., plants and animals) and the physical environment where they live. Examples of biomes include desserts, oceans, rainforests, and savannahs. Biota refers to just the plants and animals living in the biome. Micro, of course, means very small. So, a microbiome is the community of microorganisms (such as, bacteria, fungi, etc.) and the relatively small environment they live in. In the case of the gut microbiome, the environment they live in is the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). The gut microbiota are the living organisms in the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is made up of the gut microbiota, their genes, and the environment they live in.

Now let’s talk about prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. They all share “biotic,” which means “relating to or resulting from living organisms.” The prefix “pre” means “before,” while “pro” implies “in favor of something,” and “post” means “after.” When scientists and experts use the word probiotics, they mean living organisms—they are alive when we take them—that may support health [1]. Prebiotics are things we can eat (usually fibers) that are precursors for microbial life. They are substrates that act like food for gut microbiota, providing nourishment for and supporting the growth of specific gut bacteria [2]. 

Scientists have known for decades that some non-living (i.e., inactivated, pasteurized, sterilized, etc.) microorganisms can also have health benefits.* This non-living microbial biomass is called postbiotic, which roughly translates as “after life.” According to a panel of scientific experts, postbiotics must contain intact inanimate microbial cells and/or microbial cell fragments/structures. A postbiotic can be with or without metabolites and end products, such as the fermentate or culture medium the microbe was grown in, organic acids, short chain fatty acids, immune-supportive exopolysaccharides, etc [3].* Think of it this way: an inactivated (i.e., no longer live) probiotic is a postbiotic. The cellular debris from a previously live probiotic would also be a postbiotic. If you heated a food that had live probiotics, sterilizing or killing them, it would now contain postbiotics. But a pure metabolite or end product of fermentation, like the acetate you’d find in vinegar, given on its own, is not a postbiotic.  

The last “biotic” term is synbiotic (like in the Qualia Synbiotic name). The Greek prefix “syn” means “together.” Synbiotic is used to refer to a combination of probiotics and prebiotics being used together to support health* [4]. This differs from, and should not be confused with symbiotic, which as used in biology, refers to an ecological relationship where different organisms live together in a long-term relationship. The SCOBY we’ll talk about when we get to InstaKombu™ is an example of that (the S in SCOBY stands for symbiotic). 

I just mentioned ecological relationships. It is a fundamental concept when it comes to the gut microbiome. Scientists studying and researching the gut microbiome describe it as an ecosystem. An ecosystem is the particular environment—the climate, landscape, etc.—where living organisms (biota), as well as abiotic factors (i.e., nonliving parts), interact and work together, cooperating and competing, to form a bubble of life. It also includes the flow of energy and nutrients through the system. When it comes to something as complex as the gut microbiome, it's important to be a system thinker. 

Systems are made up of the things within it—animals, people, plants, cells, molecules, or whatever. But these things are interconnected; they have relationships. The interconnections include the physical flows of energy, metabolites, nutrients, etc. They also include flows of information and communication within the system. And systems have purposes or functions. Lastly, systems can be nested within systems: there can be purposes within purposes. The gut microbiome has all of these. And, within the gut microbiome there are local ecological niches, which are their own systems within our broader gut ecosystem. It is a system of systems …there are purposes within purposes. 

The gut microbiome is a dynamic ecosystem populated by trillions of microbes competing for space and nutrients. The things within it include: (1) gut microbiota, (2) intestinal cells that line the GIT and keep the body’s internal world separate from the gut microbiome, (3) intestinal mucus secreted into the GIT, (4) immune cells, (5) nerve cells, including the gut’s enteric nervous system and the vagus nerve, (6) flows of food and nutrients from things we eat, (6) metabolites produced by gut microbiota, (7) waste products of digestion, and (8) much, much more. 

If this sounds complicated, now imagine that these different things are interconnected; influencing and being influenced by each other through a complex web of relationships. The human gut contains as many as 100 trillion bacteria, with at least 1,000 distinct species, making hundreds of thousands of metabolites, including neurotransmitters, peptides, hormones, and short chain fatty acids. About 70% of the immune system is in the gut. There are about 100 million nerve cells in the enteric nervous system lining the gut—this second brain is the largest collection of neurons outside of the brain. The brain and the gut are constantly communicating—this is the microbiome-gut-brain axis: the gut bacteria are believed to be doing most of the talking. And all of these things are interacting with each other and changing with what we eat, where we live, what we do, how we think (stress and emotions), things we are exposed to, circadian rhythms, and seasonally!

Trying to get a handle on all the different things in a system can be a daunting task for even simple systems. Figuring out all of the interconnections between the things in a simple system, the web of interacting relationships, is even more challenging. In a complex system, it borders on or passes into the realm of impossibility. Because of this, systems thinkers focus on how systems behave over time. They ask questions like, how does the system work? What might be its functions or purposes? What makes them produce good or poor results? How can they be shifted into better behavior patterns? They take an ecological view, viewing the system holistically, while trying to determine the principles, or rules of the game, being followed.

What are these principles? Before we answer that, please keep in mind that your gut microbiota is unique to you alone. Identical twins will share the same DNA, but they don’t have matching fingerprints. They also won’t have identical gut microbiota (and the microbiota drifts further apart with age) [5]. Your gut microbiota was shaped by your genes, things your mother did while she was pregnant, how you were delivered, with what you were fed during infancy, the environment you lived in, and more. Just like with the brain, early experiences have a huge impact. The brain and the gut microbiota have much more capacity for plasticity during early infancy, but plasticity progressively decreases, and eventually stabilizes as we age. This means that the gut ecosystem was more changeable when we were very young and more stable in adulthood.

This does not mean that there’s no plasticity. The gut microbiota species' relative abundance can vary across a day and fluctuate seasonally. Making changes to the diet will impact the gut microbiota. But your ecosystem will be relatively stable for you. There's plasticity, but within limits. There’s a cloud of possibility for the inhabitants that can take up residence and thrive in your gut ecosystem that can be different from other people's. Desert and rainforest ecosystems are vastly different from each other and different from other ecosystems. Different organisms inhabit and thrive in each. But both can be healthy and stable ecosystems. Likewise, a “healthy” human microbiome can come in many different flavors. The key is not to compare to some theoretical ideal “other,” but to look at how your ecosystem is behaving. How is your digestive function working for you? 

So what are some principles to keep in mind? One is to look at the behavior of the whole system. When we reviewed research, and evaluated Qualia Synbiotic, we gave much more weight to the behavior of the entire digestive system. Occasional digestive complaints are common. They are usually the best clue to the health of the ecosystem. What happens with them? The gut ecosystem impacts the brain through the gut-brain axis and the immune system via the gut-immune axis. What happens in these systems?

Researchers generally agree that diversity, richness, and balance are characteristics of microbiome health. These characteristics promote the stability of an ecosystem, allowing it to “bounce back” from disruptions and be more resilient to stress. We cared about this as well.*

Ecosystems have keystone species. These can be species of animals or plants that have a disproportionately large effect on their natural environment. Keystone species play a critical role in maintaining the structure and health of an ecological community. Without them, the ecosystem would be dramatically different. In the African savanna, the larger herbivores, especially elephants, significantly impact their environment. When wolves were reintroduced to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the ecosystem benefited within a few years.

Scientists have identified keystone gut microbiota species that play a large role in shaping the health and stability of the gut ecosystem. These species are sometimes called next generation probiotics. They include Akkermansia muciniphila, a mucin-degrading specialist that lives within a defined ecological niche in the mucus layer lining of gut intestinal cells. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is another keystone species; it is a butyrate-producing specialist. Ruminococcus bromii is yet another keystone species; it is a specialist when it comes to degrading resistant starch (like that found in the SolnulTM we’ll discuss later). We put most of our focus on keystone species.

Changing the diet, increasing fermented foods, adding prebiotics, supplementing with probiotics or postbiotics, these will shape the ecosystem. As an example, a prebiotic that preferentially feeds a keystone species may lead to it thriving, increasing its relative abundance. This keystone species may now act as a food supply for other bacteria in the ecosystem through metabolites it makes or when it dies. Scientists call this type of exchange of metabolites, energy and nutrients among different species or strains of microorganisms “cross-feeding.” Changes can have a ripple effect through the gut ecosystem, impacting many species and the metabolites they make, some of which may reach past the gut, influencing our appetite, emotions, or thinking.*

When it came to formulating Qualia Synbiotic, we were systems thinkers. The goal was to help shape a healthy ecosystem, to support balance and resilience. Probiotics help support this …so do postbiotics. We wanted to also feed keystone species. This guided our selection of prebiotics. We wanted to support diversity and richness, so we included both a variety of prebiotic fibers, and also twelve fermented foods. The overwhelming majority of gut microbiota live in the lower gastrointestinal tract (GIT). But digesting food mostly occurs in the upper GIT. And, if the upper GIT is not performing its job, the lower GIT is impacted. So we included digestive enzyme support. This just scratches the surface. There’s things most of us don’t get enough of because of modern diets, lifestyles, and environments. Qualia Synbiotic was created to help fill in the gaps. With the right resources supplied, your gut ecosystem is better equipped to take care of the rest.* Now let’s talk about what we included and why.

A Few Notable Studies About the Ingredients in Qualia Synbiotic

Don’t just take our word for it. These are a few publications from scientific journals highlighting some of the ingredients in QUALIA SYNBIOTIC:*.

Lactospore® Bacillus coagulans supported digestive health and mood (Pubmed 29997457)*

The combination of Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus subtilis, and Bacillus clausii offered support for occasional gas and bloating (Pubmed 31686199)*

Digezyme® supported upper gastrointestinal tract performance (Pubmed 30156436)*

Sunfiber® has been linked to supporting the growth of several keystone species in the gut (Pubmed 32354152)*

Solnul™ resistant potato starch supported the relative abundance of Akkermansia, a keystone species in the gut ecosystem (Pubmed 37049425)*

Solnul™ Resistant Potato Starch

Starchy foods have been in the human diet for tens of thousands of years. The main difference today is that starchy food products are often refined, which reduces nutrients and fiber, and also deprives gut microbes of one of their favorite foods—resistant starch. Resistant starches are sometimes described as an ancestral fiber. This is because hunter-gatherer diets contained more resistant starch (as well as much more fiber) than modern diets. But what is resistant starch? It is the portion of starch that is “resistant” to digestion, escaping enzymatic action and absorption in the small intestine. Resistant starch reaches the colon undigested like insoluble fiber. But resistant starch is also highly fermentable like soluble fiber. It can be used as a prebiotic by the gut microbiota, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria [1].*

There are five types of resistant starch (RS1, RS2, … RS5). RS1 is physically protected starch found in outer parts of whole grains or seeds. RS2 are raw starch granules found in foods like uncooked potato and green (unripe) bananas—RS2 starch is lost through cooking or ripening. RS3 is retrograde starch; it’s created after foods with starches like white rice or potatoes are cooked and then cooled. RS4 and RS5 are not dietary resistant starches (they are man-made). Unmodified (sometimes described as raw) potato starch is one of the highest sources of the RS2 resistant starch. Our search for resistant starch led us to SolnulTM, a patented fiber made from 100% unmodified potato starch. It contains not less than 60% resistant starch. The resistant starch is the RS2 type, not the retrograde starch you’d get by cooking and cooling potatoes. Because of this, Solnul™ (and Qualia Synbiotic) should not be heated or added to very hot water; it will degrade the resistant starch.

We included Solnul™ because it: (1) is a low FODMAP fiber, so can be a part of a FODMAP friendly diet (we’ll discuss this more when we get to Sunfiber®); (2) contains a high percentage of resistant starch, which is generally low in the American diet [6,7], and (3) supports the growth of keystone species of gut microbiota. The unique size and shape of the raw starch granules in Solnul™ are exceptionally resistant to digestive enzymes allowing it to arrive at the colon intact. Once there, it lives out its destiny as nourishment for some species of gut microbiota, a role that helps support a healthy gut ecosystem.* Bifidobacterium and Ruminococcus (the latter is a keystone species) are generally recognized as the primary types of beneficial bacteria that feed on resistant starch [8]. Presumably because of cross-feeding (i.e., metabolites produced by the primary beneficiaries), it has also supported an increase in the relative abundance of Akkermansia, another keystone species [9]. We included an amount of Solnul™ in a suggested serving of Qualia Synbiotic (3.5 g) to match what was used in the study that supported the growth of Akkermansia and Bifidobacterium.* The potatoes used to make it are grown in Canada and the USA. 

Solnul™ is a trademark of MSP Starch Products Inc.

Sunfiber® Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum

Before we get to Sunfiber®, let’s get up to speed with the term FODMAP. Some people with sensitive digestive systems feel better when they follow a low-FODMAP diet or, put another way, they try to eat FODMAP friendly foods. So what are they? The F and O in FODMAP stand for fermentable oligosaccharides. The D stands for disaccharides, with lactose being an example (and something Digezyme® with its lactase enzyme supports).* M stands for monosaccharides; these are the simplest of sugars like fructose. A is for “and.” The P stands for polyols (also known as sugar alcohols).  Let’s return to the F and O. Inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and xylooligosaccharides (XOS) are what is meant by FO; they are fermentable oligosaccharides. They are also widely used as prebiotics, primarily because they are “bifidogenic,” supporting the growth of Bifidobacteria. After reviewing research, we decided to avoid fibers that might be a concern for a person trying to follow a FODMAP friendly diet. Both SolnulTM and Sunfiber® support Bifidobacteria—we have feeding them covered—and are FODMAP friendly.*

Sunfiber®  is one of the most extensively studied soluble fibers; it has been used in more than 100 human clinical studies and contains 100% partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG; sometimes called guar fiber or galactomannan fiber). The starting material is guar beans. These are seeds of the guar plant (Cyamopsis tetragonolobus L.), which is native to western India. Guar gum is extracted from guar beans to produce a high viscosity soluble fiber (viscosity means a fiber forms a gel). High viscosity fibers can support healthy bowel function—viscous fibers add bulk to stools—but are relatively poor prebiotics.* Sunfiber® differs from guar gum, because it has been partially hydrolyzed—this means it has been broken down—with fermentation-derived enzymes from a probiotic fungus, Aspergillus niger. By breaking guar gum down into smaller units, it decreases the viscosity. This makes Sunfiber® a better prebiotic fiber than guar gum, while retaining guar gum’s fiber content and ability to support healthy bowel function.* 

We included Sunfiber® because it is one of the most extensively studied prebiotic fibers for supporting digestive health (even in people with sensitive digestion) and gut microbiota. It has also supported satiety [10] and the immune system [11,12]). Sunfiber® can be thought of as being a “regulating fiber,” offering normalizing support for both harder and looser stools [13,14]. It met our FODMAP friendly criteria: Sunfiber® is a Monash University Low FODMAP certified™ fiber. In human studies, Sunfiber® has been most commonly used in amounts ranging from 2 to 7 grams/day [13,14] We chose our suggested serving (2700 mg) to be within the studied range, and to complement and add to the fiber blend used in the formula, making a serving of Qualia Synbiotic high in fiber.*

Sunfiber® is a registered trademark of Taiyo International, Inc.

FibrissTM Organic Baobab Fruit Pulp Powder

The majestic African baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) grows in the dry and arid African savannah, where they dominate the landscape. Baobab often grow as single individuals and are very large trees; they can be as tall as 80 feet high. For the people and animals living in the savannah, they are sources of food, water, and shelter. The baobab tree has a prominent place in folklore and legends, as well as in local healing traditions. Because of its importance, it has been referred to as the “Tree of Life.” The tree is named for its fruit, baobab, a word derived from the Arabic “bu hobab,” meaning “fruit with many seeds.” Most fruits fall from trees after they are ripe, spoiling on the ground. Baobab is the only fruit in the world whose pulp dries naturally on the branch. The fruit stays on the branch, and somewhat similar to tree nuts or coconuts, forms a hard outer shell. During this process, the fruit pulp inside naturally dries out. To make a fruit pulp powder, the fruit simply needs to be harvested, deseeded and sieved to produce a delicious pure fruit powder.

Baobab fruit pulp is sometimes described as a superfruit, because it is high in fiber (it’s almost 50% fiber) and contains B Vitamins, Vitamin C, and minerals. It is one of the few year-round staple foods—honey and tubers are others—of the Hazda, an African hunter-gatherer tribe [15]. Similar to other hunter-gathers, the gut microbiota of the Hadza are more diverse and rich than people eating Western diets and following modern lifestyles [16]. Their diet and lifestyles, including baobab consumption, are thought to contribute to the health of their gut microbiome. Baobab’s insoluble fibers are thought of as bulking or regulating fibers; they add bulk to stools. The soluble fibers in baobab are pectins, which are fermentable fibers with prebiotic action [17–19]. Baobab fruit pulps are also rich in polyphenols [20], which, as we’ll discuss when we get to Berriotics™, are “prebiotic-like” (some types of friendly gut bacteria thrive when fed polyphenols [21,22]).*

We included Fibriss™ baobab fruit pulp because of this 3-in-1 gut microbiome action—insoluble fiber, soluble fiber, and fruit polyphenols. Like the other fibers we selected, baobab is a low FODMAP food, so can be a part of a FODMAP friendly diet. We chose our suggested serving (500 mg) to complement and round out the other fibers used in Qualia Synbiotic—Fibriss™ adds to the total fiber content making a serving high in fiber. And, baobab diversifies the types of fiber included in Qualia Synbiotic; it provides types of fiber, such as pectins, not found in the other prebiotic ingredients. A diversity of fibers is important if the goal is to create a rich and diverse microbiota. Use of a single prebiotic seems to overfeed some microbiota and starve others.* There is no such thing as a baobab plantation; every tree is community or family owned and wild-harvested. Fibriss™ is certified organic and sustainably sourced from existing tree populations, benefiting local people and economies in the rural parts of Africa where it grows.  

Fibriss™ is a trademark under exclusive global distribution by Compound Solutions, Inc.

Lactospore® Bacillus coagulans

Did you know the brain can be shaped and emotions influenced by the gut? This can happen because the gut “talks” to the brain (and the brain talks back). This is called the microbiome-gut-brain axis. The gut and brain are in constant communication via the vagus nerve, with an estimated 90% of the information flowing from the gut to the brain. Metabolites made in the gut and absorbed into the body also influence gut-brain communication. The gut microbiota produces a wide range of neuroactive metabolites, including neurotransmitters (e.g., acetylcholine, dopamine, GABA, serotonin) and short-chain fatty acids (e.g. acetate, butyrate). These mechanistic understandings, as well as work in animals, where some probiotics shifted their behaviors and responses to stress, eventually gave rise to the term “psychobiotics.” Psychobiotics were originally conceptualized as probiotics that offered mood support [23]. The psychobiotic concept has been broadened to include prebiotics [24] and expanded to include supporting other areas of cognitive performance [25].*

When we were formulating Qualia Synbiotic, we were focused on supporting the gut ecosystem, and we also wanted to support the brain end of the microbiome-gut-brain axis. One of our primary research goals was to find a probiotic that was also a psychobiotic. This led us to Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856, better known as Lactospore®. LactoSpore® is a spore-forming probiotic that lives in the soil, so is sometimes called a sporebiotic or soil-based organism (SBO). LactoSpore® has been sold since 1991 and is backed by strong science. My personal history with it goes back to my last year of studies for my Naturopathic degree in the mid 1990’s. I’ve used LactoSpore® personally, and recommended it over the years to people I’ve worked with. Put simply, it's earned my trust and confidence in the real world (and it’s always nice when real world experience matches what would be expected from research studies).*

While there are several other probiotics with psychobiotic studies we might have used, there were a few reasons we chose LactoSpore® instead of them. First, and most importantly, we thought the human placebo-controlled study was excellent; supplementation with LactoSpore® supported both gut performance and mood [26].* Second, we did not want Qualia Synbiotic to have to be refrigerated. And, we wanted the probiotics in it to be stable. Most probiotics are fragile. They require refrigeration or they perish. They also do poorly with air and moisture, which they can be repeatedly exposed to when containers are opened and closed serving after serving. Many probiotics can also struggle to survive their journey through the upper digestive tract (we’ll talk about this more under Bacillus subtilis). We wanted a resilient probiotic. Lactospore® is resilient: it is shelf-stable and doesn’t require refrigeration. In fact, the makers of it have trademarked it as: “The originally stable probiotic™.” We selected our suggested serving to match the clinically studied 2 billion CFU [26–28].* [Note: CFU stands for colony-forming units: it is the number of cells in a serving.]

Lactospore® is a registered trademark of Sabinsa Corporation, USA.

Bacillus subtilis

I mentioned that many live probiotics do poorly when it comes to surviving transit through the upper gastrointestinal tract. This is because probiotics face a gauntlet of challenges on their journey from the mouth, through the stomach and small intestine, before they can arrive in the colon to shape the gut microbiome. This journey is hazardous to their health. The acidic environment in the stomach is lethal to many bacteria; most bacteria are not acid-resistant. The enzymes and bile acids in the small intestine present the next challenge, creating another obstacle for probiotic survival [29]. Some live probiotic organisms do better at surviving stomach acid, but poorly with the environment in the small intestines; while others are extremely sensitive to stomach acid and more resistant to the enzymes and bile acids found in the small intestine [30]. The net result is that the vast majority of probiotic organisms taken orally do not survive the journey.

None of the above should be taken as implying a live probiotic won’t have benefits (many do). But it does mean that of a large amount consumed, a relatively small amount will survive to arrive alive in the colon and directly interact with the gut microbiome. This is the reason many probiotics contain 10’s of billions of CFUs in a serving. They need a large amount for enough to survive to have a health benefit. The exception is spore-forming probiotics, which need much smaller numbers of CFU to benefit health, because they are hardy, so more able to resist the harsh environment in the upper GI [31].* Spore-forming probiotics can be thought of as being akin to seeds from plants that germinate and grow when placed in the right conditions. Spores have a protective outer shell (or coating) that allows them to: (1) be stable at room temperature (i.e., not require refrigeration), (2) survive the harsh conditions of the stomach and small intestines, and (3) germinate and proliferate when they reach the more hospitable environment of the colon [32–34]. 

Lactospore® is a spore-forming probiotic. We included two others in Qualia Synbiotic. One of them is Bacillus subtilis. It was first isolated in 1832 and can be found in the soil and in decaying plant matter (like hay), so is a soil-based organism (SBO). It is also found in the human gastrointestinal tract and is thought to be a part of our native gut microbiota [35,36]. Bacillus subtilis are found in foods in many traditional diets, most commonly in fermented foods. And, Bacillus subtilis has been used for supporting gut health since the 1950s.* The gut microbiome is an ecosystem: some organisms cooperate, others compete for food, space, and with each other. When we were deciding what probiotics to include in Qualia Synbiotic, we wanted to include organisms that had been used together in human studies. In our review of studies the most common ingredient, nevermind probiotic, combined with the Bacillus coagulans in Lactospore® was Bacillus subtilis [37,38].* We believe it complements Lactospore® (as well as the probiotic we’ll get to next, Bacillus clausii). We selected our suggested serving (500 million CFU) to add to and complement the amount of the probiotic blend. 

Bacillus clausii

Before getting to Bacillus clausii, let’s discuss a topic related to probiotics, colonization. Think of “colonization” as meaning something similar to when Europeans first came to the Americas. The settlers came to a new ecosystem (for them anyway) and started to change it. At this point, the colonists could have returned to Europe. They didn’t. They set up permanent colonies. These colonies had a stable and reproducing population that multiplied over time, displacing inhabitants that were already there. Do probiotics do this? Do they colonize the gut microbiome permanently, or at least long-term (months or years)? Or are they more like transient visitors, passing through for a short-term stay (days to a week or so)? The answer is the latter. Probiotics are not colonizers of the gut microbiome (an exception can be infants where some strains of probiotics may take up semi-permanent residence for weeks to months).

An introduced probiotic would have to overcome significant ecological constraints inherent to an existing, stable adult gut microbiome ecosystem to displace its inhabitants. Probiotics should be thought of as transient visitors. They are metabolically active and impact the ecosystem in many positive ways as they pass through. But they are not expected to replicate to high numbers or displace members of the native gut microbiota. As they pass through, probiotics make the gut microbiome more habitable for our native microbiota. They are ecosystem shapers. But their work shaping the environment won’t persist indefinitely after we stop taking them. There are common mechanisms thought to be shared by all probiotics. These include: (1) creating a more favorable gut environment, (2) producing short-chain fatty acids and metabolites, (3) exerting a rebalancing or stabilizing effect on the gut microbiota, (4) helping make the ecosystem less tolerable for and more resistant to unwanted visitors, and (5) having a normalizing effect  on intestinal transit. Most probiotics also support gut barrier functions and produce vitamins. Other benefits, such as immune support or being a psychobiotic, would not be as widespread among all probiotics [1].* 

Now let's get to the last member of the probiotic blend, Bacillus clausii. Like Lactospore® and Bacillus subtilis, it is a spore-forming, soil-based organism, but also a commensal bacteria, found in the normal microflora of the gut in healthy adults and children [36,39]. It has similar characteristics to the other spore probiotics in Qualia Synbiotic; it does not require refrigeration and is resistant to the stress from digestion. Bacillus clausii has been used for supporting gut [40–42] and immune  [43–48] health for more than 40 years. It has also been studied in combination with the two other probiotics we are using in Qualia Synbiotic, Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus coagulans [49].* We selected our suggested serving (500 million CFU) to add to and complement the amount of the probiotic blend.

InstaKOMBUTM Kombucha Powder 

InstaKombu™ is a prebiotic and postbiotic kombucha powder, combining fermented kombucha with apple cider vinegar and a prebiotic fiber. Kombucha is a fermented black tea that originated in the Northeast part of China. The “cha” in kombucha is the word for tea in some Chinese dialects. The origins of the “kombu” in kombucha are less certain. One story is that in 414 A.D. a Doctor Kombu brought fermented tea from Korea to Japan at the behest of the Emperor as a remedy for his digestive problems [50,51]. Whatever the actual origin of the “kombu” part of the name, kombucha eventually spread to Russia and from there to the rest of Europe. It’s grown immensely in popularity over the past 10-15 years. And, similar to the origin story for the name, it has a reputation—though no human scientific studies yet to support it—for aiding digestion.*

Kombucha is sometimes called kombucha tea to distinguish the beverage from the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) used to make it. It is the fermentation by SCOBY, a mix of acetic acid bacteria, yeasts, and lactic acid bacteria, that changes the tea into kombucha tea. The InstaKombu™ we are using starts with premium small-leaf black tea grown in the Alishan mountains of Taiwan. The tea is fermented for 2-3 weeks with SCOBY. Fermentation is stopped by adding apple cider vinegar. The kombucha is then sterilized for stability and to ensure there are no unwanted bacteria. As a result, the live probiotic organisms that were used to ferment the tea are no longer living; they have been inactivated. The kombucha and apple cider vinegar are then microencapsulated in a tapioca fiber, a resistant maltodextrin, that similar to Solnul™, is a fermentable resistant starch. The microencapsulation preserves the tea flavor—InstaKombu™ has a wonderful jasmine tea taste—and nutritional value; it also reduces the sour taste many kombuchas have. 

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are three categories of “biotics” that can be used to positively modulate the health of the gut microbiome—prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics [52]. InstaKombu™ contains two of the three. The tapioca fiber is part of the prebiotic blend in Qualia Synbiotic. Because it contains cells and cell wall debris of inactivated organisms (as well as compounds and metabolites produced during the tea fermentation), the kombucha tea in InstaKombu™ is a postbiotic [3].* The kombucha, as well as the apple cider vinegar are sources of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), especially acetate [53–55]. InstaKombu™ also contains organic acids, polyphenols, flavonoids, antioxidants, and glucuronic acid, all of which play supportive roles in the gut microbiome.* Because of these compounds, as well as their prebiotic and postbiotic characteristics, we felt that InstaKombu™ should be a centerpiece ingredient in Qualia Synbiotic. The 1000 mg amount we included in a serving represents this prominent role in the formula. Note: InstaKombu™ is alcohol free and low in caffeine (a serving of Qualia Synbiotic would have less than 2 mg of caffeine).

InstaKombu™ is a trademark of Ming Chyi Biotechnology Ltd (MCB).

Berriotics™ Fermented Berry Blend

Berries are one of the foods linked to supporting brain health, a benefit attributed to the polyphenols that give them color [56–58]. These same berry polyphenols also support the gut microbiome [21,59]. While berries have soluble prebiotic fibers (e.g., pectin, hemicellulose), their polyphenols are thought of as being “prebiotic-like” or “prebiotic with a twist.” Polyphenols are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, so most make it to the lower intestine where they interact with gut microbiota. Some gut microbiota metabolize and transform polyphenols into new phenolics (many of which we do absorb). These polyphenol-transforming gut bacteria thrive when fed polyphenols—their fitness and persistence in intestinal niches improve. This food-like role of polyphenols for some gut microbiota is why they are considered prebiotic-like. But polyphenols also act a bit like ecosystem shapers, promoting shifts in the gut microbiome [21].* Our interest in berries (and their polyphenols) for supporting gut and brain health led us to Berriotics™.*

Berriotics™ is made from fermenting ten kinds of berries—acerola, black currant, bilberry, cherry, chokeberry, cranberry, gooseberry, mulberry, raspberry and strawberry. The fermentation is done in a 4-stage process, lasting several weeks. It uses Aspergillus oryzae (koji, a fungus used to culture food), Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a nutritional yeast), Lactobacillus plantarum (a lactic acid bacteria), and Acetobacter aceti (an acetic acid bacteria). Fermentation is a food transformation process. Some of the berry polyphenols are converted to be potent antioxidants and into forms that are more easily absorbed. Fermentation creates unique metabolites that were not in the berry blend prior to fermentation. And, fermentation “predigests” some of the starches and fibers found in the berries, breaking down many of them into smaller microfibers, which may be better food sources for our own gut microbiota [59].* 

After fermentation, the fermented berry blend is sterilized, changing it from a fermented food with live probiotics to a fermented food with postbiotics. A serving of Berriotics™ contains hundreds of millions of intact inanimate microbial cells, as well as cell debris, metabolites and end products produced during the fermentation process, including small amounts of short-chain fatty acids (acetate and butyrate). We included Berriotics™ to complement the other postbiotic ingredients in Qualia Synbiotic. But, we also think the diversity of fibers, microfibers, and prebiotic-like polyphenols from the berries used to make Berriotics™ make it a perfect choice to combine with other prebiotic fibers, helping to create a varied food supply to nourish a rich gut microbiota.* We choose an amount of Berriotics™ to supply more than 600 million cells of inactivated Lactobacillus plantarum in a serving of Qualia Synbiotics. 

Berriotics™ is a trademark of Fermedics BV.

Fermeric™ Fermented Turmeric 

We’ve used the word postbiotic when discussing both InstaKombu™ and Berriotics™. We use it in the same way most scientists do. A postbiotic is something that has cells from inactivated (i.e., no longer live) organisms and/or their cell wall debris. It can also contain metabolites and end products of fermentation. But an end product of fermentation, such as acetate or butyrate, given by itself is not a postbiotic (it does not have any inactivated cells or cell debris). When creating Qualia Synbiotic, we wanted to include a postbiotic blend. The last member of this blend is Fermeric™. But what are some of the functions of postbiotics? Postbiotics are thought to support five main gut health mechanisms: (1) the gut microbiota; (2) intestinal barrier functions; (3) local gut and whole body immune function; (4) metabolites made by gut microbiota and absorbed by our body; and (5) the gut-brain axis [3].* This diversity of mechanisms is why we include three different postbiotic ingredients made up of thirteen different types of foods—black tea, ten berries, and turmeric—in Qualia Synbiotic. Now, let’s get to turmeric.

Turmeric is the yellow-orange rhizome of Curcuma longa (a plant from the ginger family). It is widely used in Indian and Asian cuisine, as well as traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. While reviewing gut-brain research, turmeric was one of our highest rated ingredients. We also wanted to include postbiotics. Could we do both …find a postbiotic turmeric? The answer to that question is FermericTM, a fermented turmeric that preserves the full turmeric matrix (not just isolated curcuminoids like curcumin). The turmeric is fermented for 1-2 weeks using Lactobacillus plantarum. After fermentation, the live probiotic organisms are inactivated. This makes Fermeric™ a postbiotic: it contains inactive cells of Lactobacillus plantarum. It also contains compounds and metabolites produced during fermentation. And, it is standardized to contain not less than 2.3% curcuminoids and 1.4% curcumin.

The fermentation process used to make Fermeric™ enhances the antioxidant content of the turmeric and transforms health-promoting curcuminoids into forms that can be more easily absorbed.* We choose our suggested amount to supply one billion cells of inactivated Lactobacillus plantarum. This amount adds to the amount of Lactobacillus plantarum found in Berriotics™. But what’s Lactobacillus plantarum? It is a lactic acid bacterium found in many fermented foods, including kimchi, sauerkraut, sourdough breads, and pickled vegetables. It is also part of the human gut microbiota. Lactobacillus plantarum also goes by the name Lactiplantibacillus plantarum. And, it is one of the most studied probiotics (when live) and postbiotics (when inactivated). As a postbiotic, it has been mostly studied for supporting the gut-immune axis and the health of the gut barrier.*

Fermeric™ is a trademark of Fermedics BV.

Digezyme® Multi-Enzyme Complex 

Digestion can be broadly divided into upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. The upper GI starts at the mouth, and includes the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (called the duodenum). The lower GI tract is the rest of the small intestine, the large intestine (colon), and anus. These two GI tracts have very different jobs. The upper GI is where food is broken down with chewing, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes. The lower GI has different functions. The small intestine in the lower GI is where the nutrients from foods are absorbed. Water and salts are absorbed in the large intestine. The lower GI is responsible for eliminating the waste products from digestion. And, the lower GI is also the home to the gut microbiota (the upper GI has a relatively sparse microflora population, and different inhabitants). 

When we were developing Qualia Synbiotic, our goal was to support both the upper and lower GI tracts …we wanted to offer a full digestive system upgrade.* A major job of the upper GI is digesting food. Part of this job is done by the digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller molecules. So, we reviewed research related to supplementing digestive enzymes and digestive performance. This led us to a multi-enzyme complex containing five digestive enzymes called Digezyme®. It uses “microbial” or “plant-derived” enzymes—we did not want to use animal-derived enzymes, because we wanted our product to be vegan. We wanted broad enzyme support. And, it was very important to us that the enzyme support was studied in humans. Digezyme® satisfied all of our criteria.*

Digezyme® contains five enzymes: α–Amylase to help break down starches; Cellulase is to help break down plant cell walls in fruits and vegetables; Lipase to promote the breakdown of fats; Protease helps break down proteins; and Lactase to help break down the milk sugar (lactose) found in some dairy products [1].* The human study, not surprisingly, focused on upper GI performance and support for occasional feelings of indigestion, bloating or stomach discomfort. In the study, 50 mg of DigeZyme® was given three times a day with meals (for a total of 150 mg a day) [2]. We included 100mg in a serving of Qualia Synbiotic to help replenish enzymes and provide support for digesting its ingredients, any beverage it might be mixed into, and any foods taken at about the same time.*

Digezyme® is a registered trademark of Sabinsa Corporation, USA.

Magnesium (as Aquamin®)

Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body. It is needed for the healthy functioning of all living cells, including those in the brain and the gut. Some of magnesium’s many functions include: (1) activates cellular energy (i.e., ATP), with the brain being a large energy consumer; (2) cofactor in enzymes that make some neurotransmitters used in in the brain and gut (e.g., acetylcholine, serotonin); and (3) used as an ion to support muscle contraction and nerve impulses, including the smooth muscle in the digestive tract, the neurons in the gut’s enteric nervous system, and the vagal nerve that is the direct communication link between the gut and the brain [60–62]. 

When it comes to the brain end of the gut brain axis, researchers have largely focused on emotions, mood, and stress. Magnesium status has been shown to influence these areas. As an example, how people subjectively experience inadequate magnesium status and feeling “stressed” have some commonalities (fatigue, irritability, nervousness, etc.). The relationship of magnesium and stress is sometimes referred to as the magnesium status and stress vicious cycle [63]. This is because stress taxes magnesium stores, while poor magnesium status tends to make us less resilient to stress—one seems to worsen the other. Magnesium, in general, and Aquamin® specifically, was added to our list of ingredients to evaluate for supporting the gut end of the gut-brain formulation during the development of Qualia Resilience (our stress support formula) after reading a study where Aquamin® had supported the diversity of gut microbiota in rats [64].* 

The role of magnesium in the gut-brain axis is an emerging area of scientific research [65,66]: We expect a lot more will be known in the future. When we were reviewing the existing research, some of the studies that caught our attention had used mineral water or seawater as sources supplying magnesium [67–70]. In these studies (and animal research), the theme was consistent: magnesium interacts with the gut ecosystem—the gut microbiota, its metabolites, the intestinal environment, and ultimately digestive function. But this did not require large amounts of magnesium. In fact, the amount of magnesium given was typically low. We opted to go in a similar direction to what these mineral water and seawater studies did. This made sense to us, since, after all, Qualia Synbiotic is a powder intended to be added to water or a beverage and drunk. A serving of Qualia Synbiotic supplies only a low amount of magnesium (8% of the daily value). We use Aquamin® as the source of magnesium since it is derived from the clean sea waters off the Irish coast. And, similar to what would be the case with mineral water or the seawater used, Aquamin® contains lesser amounts of many other minerals and trace minerals [2].* 

Aquamin® is a registered trademark of Marigot Ltd. of Cork Ireland. 


N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine—usually abbreviated as either NAG or GlcNAc—is an acetylated form of glucosamine, an ingredient that has been most commonly used for joint support. Like glucosamine, NAG is an amino sugar (a nitrogen-containing sugar). It and the glucuronic acid found in InstaKombu™ function as building block molecules for making glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans (the latter are glycosaminoglycan with proteins attached). Glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans are found throughout the body, including in the gastrointestinal tract. Glycosaminoglycans are also called “mucopolysaccharides.” The “muco” in mucopolysaccharides is a give away to a role NAG has in the gut—supporting mucosal barrier functions.*

The intestinal mucosa is the inner lining of the intestinal tract. It is the part of the body that is in the closest proximity with the gut microbiota organisms that inhabit or pass through the intestinal tract. Think of the intestinal mucosa as being somewhat akin to the “skin” of the digestive tract. Like our skin, it is a protective barrier. Gut microbiota are within us, but outside of us. We want to keep it that way. Mucosal barrier functions keep gut microbiota out, while allowing us to absorb nutrients, electrolytes, fluid, and gut-derived metabolites. The intestinal mucosa secretes the equivalent of a couple of gallons of mucus a day to create a thin layer just outside of itself [71]. Many of the friendly gut bacteria we rely on live in this mucus layer (it is their ecological niche within the bigger gut ecosystem). Collectively, the intestinal mucosa and the mucus layer form the mucosal barrier that keeps gut microbiota (and undesirable contents) in the intestinal tract where they belong, while allowing nutrients and metabolites to be absorbed.

NAG plays an important structural and functional role as part of a healthy intestinal mucosal barrier. It is found in the intestinal mucosa, secreted in mucus, and used to make some mucins (complex mucoprotein molecules found in mucus). In fact, in most mucins, NAG is the terminal molecule in the chain, so would be the first cleaved off (and hence available as food) by enzymes produced by some gut microbiota. Given its presence in mucus and location in mucins, it shouldn't be a surprise that some of the butyrate-producing gut bacteria that live in the mucus niche have evolved to use NAG for nourishment [72]. As an example, the keystone mucus-degrading specialist we’ve mentioned previously, Akkermansia muciniphila, requires NAG for its growth [73,74]. And other keystone species, including Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, can use NAG for growth [75]. We included a modest amount (250 mg) of NAG to support this prebiotic-like role and healthy intestinal mucosal barrier functions.*

Celastrus paniculatus Seed Extract

Celastrus paniculatus grows in many different areas in Asia and the Pacific, but it is mainly found in India, where it grows at higher elevations. It is widely used by local healers and is one of the more important plants in Ayurvedic medicine. In Ayurveda, it is called “Jyotishmati,” which loosely translates as luminous or glowing. Its seeds have traditionally been used within Ayurveda as a “Medhya Rasayana.” Medhya has to do with the mind or intellect. Rasayana is about rejuvenation and revitalization. Combined together they mean something akin to mental rejuvenator or intellect-promoting.*

Traditionally, seeds of Celastrus paniculatus have been used as a brain tonic to support mental sharpness, memory, mental fatigue, mood, and stress [76,77]. Put another way, it has a reputation for supporting the brain end of the gut-brain axis. Studies in animals lend some support to this traditional use. Our experiences with it also support this nootropic reputation. During the original development of Qualia Mind, and more recently Qualia Focus, we tested versions of the product with and without Celastrus seed extract. What did we find? In both instances, the inclusion of Celastrus made a difference users could feel when it came to attention, focus, energy, and motivation.* 

But what about the gut end of the gut-brain axis? Like many plants within Ayurveda (and other traditional healing systems), Celastrus paniculatus seeds have been used for more than one purpose. This is where the gut enters the picture. One of the other traditional uses was as a tonic to help strengthen digestion or cleanse the digestive tract [76,77].* We included it because of this combination of brain and gut traditional uses. We chose the amount to be half of what we use in Qualia Mind (and Qualia Focus), because we wanted to include some Celastrus paniculatus seed extract, but not so much that it would impact the overall taste experience of Qualia Synbiotic (the seed extract we use is very bitter). While we think Celastrus paniculatus seed extract is intriguing enough to include, there is no scientific evidence that it works (i.e., there are no human placebo-controlled studies on it for gut-brain support).

Optimal Gut-Brain Health

Qualia Synbiotic is a one-of-a-kind formula doesn't just promote healthy gut. It also helps support mood and brain performance by enhancing gut-brain connections that are also crucial for nearly every system in body. There’s never been one simple scoop of supplemental nutrition designed to support so many aspects of gut health, including the gut-brain axis.* Shop now.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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