The Fascinating Power of the Gut-Brain Axis to Influence Health and Mood - An Interview With The Qualia Science Team

The Fascinating Power of the Gut-Brain Axis to Influence Health and Mood - An Interview With The Qualia Science Team

What follows is a transcript for the podcast Synbiotic - Qualia Science Team - Gut Brain.

Topics within the interview include the following: 

  • What is a synbiotic and why should we care?
  • Dysbiosis: a new hallmark of aging.
  • What mechanisms drive appetite?
  • An overview of the gut ecosystem.
  • How is the brain involved in the gut ecosystem (gut-brain connection)?
  • Is there plasticity in our gut ecosystem (can we alter our microbiota)? 
  • Why keystone species are so important when it comes to our gut ecosystem.
  • What role do next generation probiotics have in shaping the health and stability of the gut ecosystem?
  • Science-backed ingredients to support optimal digestion, immune function, and key aspects of the gut-brain connection.
  • What makes Qualia Synbiotic unique and innovative?
  • Results from the Qualia Synbiotic pilot study

Lauren Alexander: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Lauren Alexander and welcome to today's podcast episode filled with, ugh, one of my favorite topics, gut health. I'm thrilled to be your host, even though we may not have met before or crossed paths, I've been working tirelessly behind the scenes working on the Collective Insights podcast since its inception. Today's installment promises to be nothing short of extraordinary. We're going to venture into this fascinating realm of gut health. We have assembled the dream team here at Qualia two incredible experts who possess an immense wealth of knowledge in this field, and we're going to talk about the mechanisms behind gut health, leaving no stone unturned, so please buckle up. This is going to be so good.

I have with me, in case you haven't met, but you should have because they're been on the podcast many times. We have Dr. Greg Kelly. He is a director of product development at Qualia, a naturopathic physician and author of the incredible book Shape Shift.

And then we also have with us Dr. Nick Bitz. He is a naturopathic physician that specializes in Ayurvedic medicine. He is a leading voice in the natural products industry and currently serves as our Senior VP of Product Development at Qualia. So excited to have you guys on to talk about gut health. We're going to just jump in. This is going to be really fast episode. Everyone that's listening probably have to listen twice because it's so incredible how important gut health is for overall health.

And so I'm going to jump in with one question because the word has been thrown around a lot and it's confusing. There's like a word soup in the gut health area, and one new word emerging is synbiotic. What does that even mean and why should anyone care?

What Is a Synbiotic and Why Should We Care?

Dr. Greg Kelly: Synbiotic is the idea of additive synergy. So it originated from the idea of giving prebiotics and probiotics together with the overall ideas. If we do both, it'd be better than doing either on their own. Nick, anything to add?

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah, I mean, it's a fairly new term. I mean, probiotics have been around forever. In the last decade, they've grown to be the number one category in the supplement industry, which is amazing. Prebiotics have slowly risen up. There's a growing awareness around them. And so I think there's this natural innate understanding of those two terms. And together they are synbiotic, which is this whole new category of probiotics and prebiotics.

Dr. Greg Kelly: And before moving on, I just wanted to say one thing to illustrate their importance. So think of, and this would be a core thing, we talk about it Qualia all the time. We need energy. To get better results in almost anything it comes down to energy. And so probiotics add inhabitants into the gut ecosystem or things that can maybe shape the environment, but it's the prebiotic that add the energy. So it's in my mind, silly to do probiotics without adding something in. That's really the food that our ecosystem needs to grow and thrive.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah. I find that probiotics in and of themselves really are not that beneficial. And so I think people are now starting to understand that there's so much more to gut health. There's so much more that you need to do. Probiotics are part of the puzzle, but they're not the end all and be all. And so to your point, prebiotics amongst dietary changes, fermented foods, different nutrients, there's a lot of things you can do to optimize digestion and overall gut health.

Dysbiosis: A New Hallmark of Aging

Lauren Alexander: So the gut entered the aging discussion this year officially by being added in the amendment of the, was nine hallmarks of aging, and now it's 12 hallmarks of aging. Greg, can you tell us a little bit more about this addition? And also why did it take so long to, it seems like dumb that it wasn't there.

Dr. Greg Kelly: Yeah, well, so one thing just to realize about our advances in knowledge of the human gut is a lot of it comes to when they did the human genome projects and we're able to sequence our genes. And they turn that same technology onto the microbiota, the organisms that live on and in us. So because of that, it's just been an exploding field. So compared to when the original nine hallmarks of aging were proposed in 2013, the amount that's been learned about the gut microbiome in the decade sense is just immense. And so this past January, as you mentioned, they revised that list of nine to now be 12 and of the new additions was gut microbiome. And specifically what's usually referred to as dysbiosis, so an imbalance in the microbiota. And the reason they did that is there's now been enough studies on humans as we age to understand that one of the big pieces of the aging puzzle are changes in the inhabitants of our gut ecosystem and the metabolites they make. Yeah.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah. I mean I think the hallmarks of aging are incredibly interesting. I know we've talked about them a lot. I think the three that they just added are really interesting. I mean, the other two are inflammation and an autophagy dysfunction. I mean all super and critical elements of the aging process, inflammation is a no-brainer as well. So the fact that they weren't a part of the original nine still blows my mind, but I'm happy that we're incorporating them now into this holistic view of the aging process.

Dr. Greg Kelly: And then the last thing I just think before we depart this is just to understand that the gut microbiome, especially the microbiota, the organisms living in it just changed drastically for our lifespan. So that early time period when a newborn infant through their first two to three years of life is like this crazy shape-shifting with multiple different ecosystems coming in and then being supplanted by something else. So imagine a forest fire that's burned away in ecosystem, and then first new plants come in and then those are replaced. So early in life's like that. They often say about a thousand days, our ecosystem starts to become more stable and take on the shape that will have most of our adulthood. But by older age, we start to see the shape-shifting again and usually in very unhealthy ways. So I know personally I think of I always want to get ahead of problems, so let's do all we can do to keep our gut as healthy at any age.

What Mechanisms Drive Appetite?

Lauren Alexander: Well, what's driving that though? Because I know that as you get older, the way you eat changes dramatically and your dietary inputs change a lot. Are those driving the change in the gut or is the gut driving the change in the appetite?

Dr. Greg Kelly: It's probably a little bit of both. I mean, that gets into the idea of the gut-brain axis, right? This bidirectional communication going on with a lot of information flowing from our gut up to our brain, probably 90% of the communications in that direction, which then influences our mood, our behaviors, our response to stress, our cognition writ large, but also things like appetite and foods that we might be attracted to. But then conversely, stress, anxiety, things like that, those flow down and change how our gut performs. So it's likely a chicken and egg situation where both are reinforcing each other. But one thing's for sure is when we make a change with diet, our gut microbiome responds much quicker than our metabolism, [inaudible 00:08:13]. It can shape-shift really quickly.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah. I mean, I just recently read that there was a 2013 pilot study that showed that the microbial communities in our gut can actually respond within three days of just shifting your diet profound. And we know that increasing fermented foods does this. Another study that I read showed that 17 weeks of more fermented foods in the diet really improved the diversity of the microbiome pretty drastically. So diet can shift things really drastically. And so the gut is plastic. I mean, that's a point that I just want to drive home. It's not a static thing. It's very dynamic. It's always shifting. It's always changing. The gut lining itself is constantly being shed and regenerated. It's trying to make sure that it's monitoring nutrient absorption, making sure that we're not getting too much or too little of things. And so the gut lining is modifying, it's enzymes. The gut microbiota is plastic as well.

It's constantly adapting to environmental cues, to antibiotics, to probiotics, to certain conditions, diet, of course. So we're constantly remolding our composition of bacteria in our gut. And the immune system, of course, we know that's a huge part of the gut ecosystem. And the immune system is getting primed. It's shifting in response to what we eat, beta-glucans in mushrooms. They travel through your GI tract, they activate these gut cells, the gut associated lymphatic tissue to really prime it and activate the immune system overall. And so, the whole gut lining is constantly changing and it's fluid. And yes, as we age, it becomes less dynamic, and that's a problem. And so I think one of the goals of healthy aging is to make sure that you're regaining that youthful adaptability, that resilience, that plasticity that we have when we're much younger. And so there are ways to do that.

An Overview of The Gut Ecosystem

Lauren Alexander: So Greg, you are famous for building analogies to have, maybe for me personally, just to understand what you're talking about, but you've built a really beautiful analogy about the gut ecosystem. Why don't you lay it out for everyone so we can walk away with some real learning about how these characters interact and play with each other?

Dr. Greg Kelly: The idea that the guts and ecosystem, a lot of the preeminent scientists that study it do. And the reason is, because just think of an ecosystem like one of our national parks, there's keystone species. So are the plants or animals that are disproportionately important, have a big impact on the overall ecosystem. There's food webs, right? So just in a ecosystem, one microbiota species may consume, say resistant starch and an ingredient called Solnul, and then make metabolites that cause other ones to bloom and thrive because of that cross feeding. There's ecological niches. So there's certain organisms that thrive in different parts of our gut ecosystem. And then there's flows from what I think of as upstream, so upward GI where we digest food in our stomach, breaking down proteins and small intestine where enzymes breakdown things in foods, that's flowing down into this lower gut ecosystem, the colon area, the large intestine, which is where most of the organisms we're talking about, the gut microbiota live. So there's this upstream ecosystem flowing into our lower ones.

And then the last piece is when we think of ecosystems, we are usually biased towards the living things in it, right? Oh, what a cool animal. Or These plants are so beautiful, but ecosystems all also need all the dead and decaying matter to fuel their growth. Any gardener would know that, it's the importance of the soil and our gut microbiota and the gut ecosystem are no different. We'll get to it, I think in a bit, that's the idea of postbiotics. We want to also give this inanimate mass into it that can be used as healthy soil so that the animals and plants that are living in there can also thrive.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot happening in the gut. I think there's almost micro ecosystems along the entire track. I mean, if you lay out the whole gastrointestinal track, it is the size of a basketball court. And so there's a lot of area, there's a lot of space there. The microbiome alone is one aspect, that's now referred to as an organ of the human body. Super complex, we're now just starting to tease it apart and understand it a little bit more. But the microbiome itself weighs three pounds, and that's more than the human brain, which is amazing. So there's a lot of information built in there. But beyond that, there's a lot of other organisms as well, which Greg alluded to. I mean, there's countless viruses, parasites, protozoas, worms, fungi. They all live in this really dark, deep, moist, mostly acidic environment that's inside the gut. It's really like a jungle inside there.

And so I think most of the published research right now in terms of gut health relates to bacteria by and large, but they're really not looking at the other microorganisms yet, nor how they all communicate. And so that's really the next level, I think that we're going to see coming out. I think choosing to ignore those other aspects and only focus on bacteria misses the point in a lot of ways. It's like an ecologist only studying the birds, but ignoring all the insects and the snakes and the panthers and the other things that make up the Amazon forest. So I think it is important to start somewhere. And so we've started with the microbiome, and just in the last couple of decades, we've learned a lot. And still there's a lot more to learn in that area as well, for sure.

Lauren Alexander: Well, thank you. Great. I thought you were going to explain the whole zoo story to me when I set this up. So, can you unpack the zoo story that the keepers and the animals and the cages?

Dr. Greg Kelly: Yeah. This goes back to when I was explaining to Lauren some of the big picture pieces in Qualia Synbiotic and how they would fit together. And we both live in San Diego and she takes her family to the zoo frequently. And so I said, oh, well think about a zoo. So you would have the animals that live in the zoo, so that's the gut microbiota. You would have the entire zoo, the physical structures, the people that are coming in and out, all their genes as well. That's the microbiome. That's the whole thing. And so the biome's the zoo, the biota is what lives in the zoo. And it's the same in our gut.

And most people then think in terms of probiotics, like, oh, I'm going to take this probiotic. I'm going to put this new animal in the zoo. But that's not how probiotics work. They don't actually colonize or become zoo animals, so to speak. They become more like the people passing through the zoo or the people that work at the zoo that are moving through the environment and impacting it. And probiotics impacted in really healthy ways. So they're ecosystem shapers is how I think about it. And then the last piece was the prebiotics. Of course, Lauren, we're going to need to feed these animals in the zoo, and if we're actually putting more people through the zoo, wont we need more food for them too? So that's why it's the synbiotic idea, super important to add their prebiotics in as well. And then the postbiotic piece is, that's again, this idea that ecosystems, even a zoo, you need some other mass too that adds energy and that dead decaying biomass into the zoo ecosystem. And so of course, we're going to put all of those into our synbiotic product. We want a healthy zoo.

How Is the Brain Involved in the Gut Ecosystem (Gut-Brain Connection)?

Lauren Alexander: Great. Thank you. Now satisfied with my zoo analogy. So I'm going to move over to the gut-brain connection because as neuro hackers, it's our birthright to unpack and deliver some information about this emerging area, which is gut-brain axis. So how about you unpack a little bit of that for us?

Dr. Greg Kelly: Yeah, so what the gut-brain access goes back to early research where they notice with animals that changes in the gut microbiota, so the organisms in the gut, had profound effects on the way animals behaved. And that eventually has evolved to understanding that mood cognition, that really everything the brain does is at least influenced to a degree by the organisms that live in the gut. And the flip side of the coin is that our brain also strongly affects them. And there's really several main components of this bidirectional communication. One's the vagal nerve, so the main nerve of our parasympathetic nervous system, that's a direct freeway between the gut and the brain. Another would be what are thought of as the gut derived metabolites. Things like short chain fatty acids. So butyrate, acetate, things like that. Those can be absorbed through the gut lining, get into our blood, get into the blood, because they can get through the blood brain barrier and directly influence how the brain performs.

Another big piece is the immune system. The immune system really impacts everything. Immunities involved in beautiful skin muscle performance, but super important for the brain. And about 70% of our immune system cells line the gut. Where they're literally reaching out and sampling each molecule of food and the different microbiota organisms and saying, okay, these ones are good. I don't need to panic. And these ones aren't, I might need to rev up immune system defenses. And that has a huge impact on our brain. And then the last piece is in the gut, we make things like serotonin. 90% of our body's serotonin is made in the gut and only one to 2% of it is made in the brain. As an example, dopamine, it's about 50/50. So these super important neurotransmitters are also expressed in the gut, and I think of them as the vocabulary, the language that our nervous system in the gut and our brain both co-lead to speak. So these molecules also have a profound effect.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, we often will separate those two ideas. There's the gut over here, and then there's the brain over here. But it's interesting. I think the more we get into it, the more that they're just one, they are connected. And we need to look at them more holistically. I know there's some interesting research too around the enteric nervous system, which are those nerves that line the GI tract, and that's now referred to as the second brain. And so I think the gut is the brain, and the brain is the gut. And this whole idea of gut organ accesses is very interesting. I mean, the gut, to Greg's point, is connected to the skin, to the bone, to the adipose, to the liver, to the heart, to the muscles. So we're going to start learning more. Of course, we're really interested in the gut-brain because you can deeply influence and meaningfully influence brain health, mental emotional health through the gut and through creating balance in the gut. And so that's simple. I think there's layers to it. I think we're going to start learning more about these other accesses as well.

This morning I was walking and I was just reflecting on the gut-brain access. And I always go back to my Ayurvedic training, and I like to get weird sometimes when I start putting things in relationship to what I know to be true from an Ayurvedic perspective and Ayurveda's view on the body is that we essentially form seven tissues from food. So when you ingest food, it goes through these seven sequential tissues. The brain is one of the last ones. And so it takes five days to move through these different tissues. And when you eat something, it takes about 30 days for it to actually develop into brain tissue itself, which I think is just fascinating. And so Ayurveda, thousands of years ago had said, you are your food. All of your tissues are your food, and these organs are made up of food. And so it's all related. So walking this morning, I was like, ding, ding, ding, that's fascinating. Ayurveda's already talked about the gut-brain access, slightly different language, but I think the meaning is inherent in both modern terms and Ayurvedic terms.

Dr. Greg Kelly: And I think just to leave this one piece is that most of the conditions, whether they're brain developmental issues or issues with the brain and aging, there's now really strong science that the gut is, if not the key determinant, certainly it's in the mix for being the most important reason.

Probiotics, Prebiotics, Postbiotics, and Synbiotics - What’s the Difference?

Lauren Alexander: Wow. Okay, probiotics, postbiotics, synbiotics, prebiotics. There's a lot of stuff, and I thought it would be fun to, Greg, maybe you could pick out a couple of the myths or misconceptions about probiotics that you frequently come across or prebio, this category really, because there is a lot of misinformation.

Dr. Greg Kelly: Sure. Yeah. So I think with some of the myths that I know I've heard the most frequently, one would be the idea that if you take a probiotic, it's going to become one of the animals in the zoo, right? It's going to colonize the gut. And that's unlikely to happen. And scientists would call it colonization resistance. But the idea is that most of the plasticity in terms of deciding what can live in our zoo, were decided early in those first 1000 days. And so it doesn't mean probiotics can't be beneficial. Like I said, I tend to think of them more as zookeepers than the animals in the zoo, but they're unlikely to take up residents. Another would be the idea that more is better. And so often you'll see like, oh, ours has 20 billion colony forming units, so CFUs, or ours is even better, it has 30 billion.

And that has to me, do more with how hardy and resilient are these organisms to survive upper GI. So I mentioned the stomach. That's where we make all our stomach acid. Most probiotic organisms do not do well with acid. They just get broken down just proteins in our meat, but the small intestine then releases all these enzymes. And so ones that can survive the stomach acid are usually then digested there. And so part of the reason you see these tens of billions of CFUs is because to get any meaningful amount to survive that journey, you have to dose them really high. And the flip side of that coin is there's one category of probiotics that you don't need to do that. And there's four forming ones. And I think of these, and it's not an exact analogy, but they're more like a seed. So they are tough, protected, they'll survive the journey intact, and then when they get to a nice friendly environment like our large intestine, our gut microbiomes, then they'll bloom and blossom.

So what you see with those is a lot lower amount of CFU, maybe hundreds of millions to a billion to a couple billion is more than sufficient. So I think one thing for our audience is to remember is when you see these crazy, oh, we have X amount of billions and more and more is better. No, you need the right amount to produce the benefit. And then more is somewhat wasted. Just like having three times as many zookeepers in a zoo isn't going to make the zoo any more efficient. You need the right amount of people there.

Lauren Alexander: Love that.

Dr. Greg Kelly: So Nick, how about a myth for you? Do you have one to share?

Dr. Nick Bitz: Oh boy. I mean, the biggest one that I like to talk about because it's so prevalent and it's just piggybacking really on what you said, is this idea that lactobacillus and bifidobacteria are arriving alive. It's amazing. Once you dig into the technology of most products, you realize that companies are adding 10 times overage, which is like a thousand percent overage of these bacteria, just to get a little bit that arrive alive. And so most people are in ingesting dead bacteria, and that's not always a bad thing. I mean, they're still effective. There's something called the biological response modifier, which is when you ingest these "dead or inactivated" bacteria, it still incites a cascade reaction in the body. And has these inflammation effects, it has immune effects. Much like a vaccine in a lot of ways is how I like to think about it.

But it's not working in the way that people think. People think that when they're consuming yogurt, they're getting all of those lactobacillus in their gut and they're populating and then they're residing there and they're living there and taking over. That's not at all how these things are working. And so, more and more that I've learned about probiotics, the more I'm convinced that I really like the bacillus species overall. I think that there's something to be said about that seed technology. They're resilient. You can cook with them. You can freeze them. You can do whatever you want to stress them, and they still always arrive alive. And they're transient, which is cool. So they're not coming and reside in your GI tract forever. They stick around for maybe two or three weeks. They do their good work. They secrete lactic acid, they lower the pH levels, they modify some of the populations in the gut, and then your body gets rid of them.And so they go in, they remodel the gut, which is critically important.

So I'm a big fan of those. Bacillus have been in use since the 1950s in Europe. They were, I believe, over the counter if not a pharmaceutical probiotic back in the day. So they have a long history of use. Of course, they're also soil organisms, so they come from soil. So whenever we eat soil, we go for a hike, we just get outside for a walk as it is, you are ingesting these bacillus bacteria species. So the research is really compelling. And to your point, Greg, you only need a few of them. I mean, some of the studies are at 15 million, with an M, showing pretty significant benefits in humans.

Lauren Alexander: Awesome.

Dr. Greg Kelly: And just to clarify for the audience, when Nick says bacillus, these are the three types of probiotic organisms we have in [inaudible 00:28:13] synbiotic, bacillus coagulans and bacillus clausii and bacillus subtilis. Some of those are used in fermented food traditions throughout the world. So there are things we would've normally got exposure to in our diet and in our environment. And in my mind, they're the best zookeepers to introduce into the system. They're stable, they're reliable, and they do a great job keeping things clean and organized.

And the last myth I wanted to bring up is, and this goes to this idea of next generation probiotics that we've talked about, Lauren, is that think of things like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria as probiotics 1.0, but that version of it. And in part of it was because these things are in yogurts. They're in fermented foods, and there's things that can survive with oxygen. So when scientists first started to look for probiotic organisms, it was easy to find ones that could survive in oxygen. Since our external world has that. Lactobacillus is one of the best at that.

But our internal gut microbiome is not an oxygen-rich environment. So they just couldn't find these things until genetic testing that's evolved over the last two decades. But with that, they've realized, wow, lactobacillus have a really minor role in a healthy gut. And these other organisms like Akkermansia and Faecalibacterium and [inaudible 00:29:43], and one called Ruminococcus bromii, which is a resistant starch degrader. These are crazy important, and we just didn't realize it. And these are the ones that seem to map much more, keep our immune system in balance and keeping us metabolically healthy and keeping us thinner and keeping us with a stable and healthy and positive mood. And so they name those next generation probiotics, not in the sense that we have those available today to give us probiotics because most of them don't exist to be taken orally, but in the sense like, oh, these are the keystone species. These are the things we really need to be supporting if we want to really create health through the gut-brain access and these other gut active that Nick mentioned.

What Are Keystone Species and What Role Do They Play in Shaping Our Gut Ecosystem?

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah, I'll add on top just quickly too. Keystone species are interesting. I mean, it's not about their quantity, their benefit, their importance is not due to their abundance in the gut, generally speaking, it's due to their function. And so they're not always the most abundant, they just have a really critical role. And most of the other bacteria live in relation to them. And so they're critically important to hold down these various ecosystems throughout the gut. And we're learning more and more about those. We're starting to see some of them arrive in the supplement space as oral bacteria that you can take. But there certainly are ways to support these keystone bacteria, one of which is prebiotics. We know that there is a resistant starch from potato, which we have in Qualia Synbiotic that has been shown to increase Akkermansia in the gut specifically, so.

Dr. Greg Kelly: And since you mentioned Akkermansia, and I mentioned it before, let's finish up with that because that's about to be a keystone species in what's called the mucin layer. So I would think many of the people in our audience would know of the term intestinal permeability. But the general idea is that think of our cells and our stomach as these bricks that are almost stacked really close together with not much room between them. And we ideally want to keep it that way. We don't want a lot of gaps between the bricks that big molecules can come in. So immediately outside this one layer of cells, because that's it, it's one layer of cells thick that separates our internal world from the gut microbiome. Those cells secrete gallons of mucus every day. And then that mucus layer has two layers. So the inner layer is really thick, and it's got things that prevent bacteria from growing there because our cells don't want to be encroached upon.

And then the outer layer is a little bit thinner, and that's where Akkermansia lives, and it's like the primary species that regulates that ecological niche. So when there's enough Akkermansia there, not only is that healthy, but Akkermansia then shapes intestinal permeability. It literally remold the surface area of our gut lining, making it much more functional. It closes those gaps so that bigger molecules can't get through. So it ends up being this crazy important thing, not only for its niche, but by it doing its job, it then has this reverberating effect. And the story we had talked about, Lauren, was when they reintroduced the wolves to Yellowstone Park. Within a couple of years, it had changed the flow of rivers. That was its dramatic effect. And so in a very real way, when you think of a species like Akkermansia, which this resistance starch from potatoes, an ingredient called Solnul helps thrive, is that's then going to have a ripple effect reshaping the permeability and the tightness of these junctions between ourselves and ultimately making that whole mucus layer healthier.

And I think the last point to understand is, and because some of our audience will be having diets, maybe keto or carnivore, that may be relatively fiber poor. And one of the things that's fairly clear is if we don't get enough fiber in our diet, some of these species that live in the mucus layer start consuming that. And over time, it can then impact in almost the opposite direction, causing bigger molecules now to easily get through. So those diets can be great for some people, but it's also great to augment these resistance starches and other things that are going to get down and feed these important mucin-living organisms.

Lauren Alexander: The Yellowstone analogy that you gave to me, really, and making the connection between the wolves. And for those of you not familiar, in 1995, there were like 31 wolves that were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park in the US. And what happened over a very short period of time is that, like Greg said, about the waters reshaping, but the deer population had literally stripped every last blade of grass off the trees, et cetera, and really had, it was overgrown. And when the wolves were reintroduced, it caused the deer to have different migration patterns, which introduced the beavers back near the river rivers and had the willows start growing, which then rerouted the streams. And literally looking, I mean, I urge you all to Google a picture before and after, it's remarkable, the flora and fauna reaction to just 31 wolves being introduced to this very huge area of space.

And so to think about how one of these next generation probiotics having just this massive impact cascade over the gut ecosystem, which is massive in itself, but then linking that again to the more and more we unpack the impact of gut health, it's really affecting every aspect of your quality of life. From the way you feel, your happiness, your longevity, all your bathroom and digestion stuff, the way food tastes, the nutrient absorption, how often you're getting sick, immune system. I mean, it's mind-blowing. And so this huge, huge impact. And then to have something so potent as a keystone species like these next generation probiotics having being able to reshape these things, it's very inspiring.

Okay, here we go. Let's transition a bit about our formula, which you guys have worked so hard on Qualia Synbiotic, and maybe Greg, you can share a couple notes of what makes this formula really innovative.

Cience-Backed Ingredients to Support Optimal Digestion, Immune Function, and Key Aspects of the Gut-Brain Connection

Dr. Greg Kelly: Yeah, I mean, where do even begin? So I think to me a few things, there's a couple of the ingredients that were pioneering. They're used. They had solid studies, the rationale for using them made a lot of sense, but they hadn't been embraced yet. And so no, that resistance starch we've mentioned is one that in their human study it increased Akkermansia about three and a half fold. So huge difference. So causing the equivalent of the wolf population drive. But areas that are very unique is what I think of as the prebiotic category or fermented foods. So we've talked a lot about prebiotics so far, about probiotics, but the last category of biotics is postbiotics, and these are inactivated cells. So instead of being a live probiotic organism, they're one that was a alive but now has been inactivated. And it's even better when you could give that with the fermentate, the culture medium where it grew because all the metabolites that it would've made would also be in that mix.

And so, we have three different ingredients, but they contain collectively about 13 different pro-biotic foods. So it's called InstaKOMBU, but black tea leaves that are grown in these high mountains in Taiwan, like a really prized tea leaf that have been fermented. We've got 10 berries and an ingredient called Berriotics. We've got a fermented turmeric. And turmeric was my highest rated gut-brain ingredient by a wide margin. It's just phenomenal for both. And so not only did we want to put these important foods in, we wanted to put versions of them that had been fermented, and that still had these prebiotic versions of the organisms because those really have a profound impact on our immune systems health. More so even than the live organisms. These prebiotic ones are just super friendly for these immune cells that are lining our gut because they're giving all the same information, but think of them as since they've been inactivated, they're not putting up as much of a struggle. So they're gentler on our immune system. And that piece, no one else is doing other than us at Qualia.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah, I mean, we as a team looked at over 140 different ingredients, again, ranking all of them based upon the science available and the efficacy and how it relates to the other ingredients to create a holistic formula. And ultimately we landed on these 13. And so I think what really separates this formula, in my eyes anyways, is that it is a comprehensive formula. It's designed to do a lot. It's not singular and it's focus. It's not just a prebiotic, it's not just a probiotic. Again, we're introducing genuine, which are meaningful. They're these inanimate and non-living bacteria that can incite these immune responses within the GI tract. And then we're adding some foods. We're adding the energy, as Greg alluded to earlier, which I really like. So there's a lot going on. There's a lot of technology. I know I've been using this product personally for the past month, and I've just noticed incredible results. I love the flavor of it, I love the effects. It certainly now is going to be a keystone element of my daily regimen. And I have enjoyed taking the product.

Dr. Greg Kelly: Before we move on, a few other just ingredients or things to think about too is that many things, if it's just a probiotic or prebiotic, those are really largely supporting what I think of as the lower GI, right? Our gut microbiome, which is important, crazy important, maybe the most important. But you still want to make sure that people are digesting their food because it's the food that's flowing into there and the energy and nutrients that are going to really make a huge impact on how healthy that ecosystem is. So that's why we put digestive enzymes, and not only digestive enzymes, but ones that had been clinically studied, a mix called DigeZyme. And then Nick's mentioned his love of Ayurveda, Qualia, we've always loved Celastrus. When we used that particular plant extract Celastrus seeds, we've just found it produces better cognitive and mood effects.

And so we added a bit of that. Which one of the interesting things is we've always described it as a nootropic at Qualia but in Ayurveda it was used both for the brain and for the gut. So it had that commonality.

And then the last thing is when we selected fibers, there's lots of prebiotics out there. And as Nick alluded to, we rank all of them. Our ranking system is one to five, so five's a rockstar. Five, we've got to have this. We've got to figure out a way to have enough of it to be meaningful. And a lot of them were threes and fours, so solid they do something. But often coming with that three and four is they were also something called FODMAP [inaudible 00:42:08]. So there's a subset of the population that's very susceptible to things that are FODMAP. So these are fermentable oligosaccharides, your sugar alcohols, things like lactose. And we wanted to make sure that our product would be suitable for everyone. So we only chose things that we thought were five stars and that weren't FODMAP ingredients.

Lauren Alexander: So one of my favorite things about launching a new product at Qualia is that Greg, you prepare these ingredient stories and they're amazing. And so I thought it'd be fun. Will you tell us your favorite ingredient story?

Dr. Greg Kelly: Well, a lot of where those come from is me learning a little bit about that plant and how it was used and how it's grown and who makes it and supplies it. And so baobab for sure is my favorite one that came out of this. In part the baobab tree grows as a loner in isolation on Savannahs in Africa. So think of the tree from avatar for that tree symbol in Lion King, like this lone tree that's the tree of life for that ecosystem, that baobab for a lot of Africa.

And the other thing I learned that I didn't know is that baobab grows on and doesn't fall off. Most fruits, once they're rip, they fall off the plant, it stays on it, and inside the shell becomes drier and drier. So the baobab pulp powder that we use would just be the natural powder just ground up from these fruits. And then the last two pieces is that's something that evolutionarily we as all humans would've encountered baobab. It's still a staple food in the diets of the hunter-gatherers in the African Savannahs. And the last piece is the sustainability piece, that it's not a factory farm tree. These are little families or villages will own a tree or trees and pick the fruits. And so it's a great sustainability story and environmental story that this one ingredient is supporting at a local level, these people in villagers in a continent way.

Lauren Alexander: I remember you noting something about insoluble and soluble fibers being a priority of achieving that. Can you elaborate on that?

Dr. Greg Kelly: Yeah. When they say soluble and insoluble, insoluble are usually thought of as bulking fibers, things that add bulk to stools. And then the soluble, and this is a generality, but soluble are more of the food for our gut microbiota, that probiotic. And one of the neat things about baobab is it has both, it's about 50% fiber, but it's also rich in vitamins, minerals, and it had, like I said, both of those two types of fibers. And the last thing, the more variance, all fiber is not the same, resistance starch feeds different things than the Sunfiber we use, which feeds something different than what are called pectins. Pectins would be the main type of fiber and fruits. Is a next generation organism. So another one of our ketones species called Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, I think is how you pronounce it, loves pectins. So we wanted to make sure we gave it plenty of food. And baobab does that. Lauren Alexander:

Yeah, it's pretty amazing that this formula has so much fiber in it. I think that that's something that not everyone notices at first glance, but there's nearly six grams of fiber in the formula. And obviously when we're trying to get 20, 30 grams of fiber, depending on your weight and what your goals are, that's definitely... And then the nuance between insoluble and soluble, the balance there is really a appreciated and there.

So Nick, what's your favorite ingredient and can you tell us about it?

Dr. Nick Bitz: Where do I even start? My all time favorite digestive ingredient is bacillus coagulans. And it's just because I've used it clinically, I've used it personally. I give it to my daughter. It just works. It's very effective. I mean it's at a dose of 2 billion, you're getting this whopping dose and effect. Has really good science behind it. It's one of those ancestral organisms that we've co-evolved with over time. And so among all of the probiotic species that are out there, that's the one that I really experience and I get tangible benefits from. Both personally and through patients as well. The other revelation for me was Solnul, which is idea of resistant starch. Solnul is clinically studied at a low dose, 3.5 grams. It's part of the fiber component of this product. So even though this product's giving six grams of fiber, seven grams per fiber, it's actually giving a really effective dose overall. And so we don't need to give 20 grams of fiber. It works at a very small dose and it's fermentable in the colon, and that's really where the magic happens. It's these metabolites that are produced by the bacteria as a result of feeding on these resistant starches and that impart a lot of the benefits, the nutrient benefits that we're getting from these organisms. So I would say those are the two ingredients that I'm most excited about.

Dr. Greg Kelly: Oh, by bacillus coagulans, it's a specific one event. It's a specific strain, lactose [inaudible 00:47:48] that both Nick and I... Because similar to Nick, it's the one that my experience goes back almost 30 years with, it has been my favorite perennially as well.

Results From the Qualia Synbiotic Pilot Study

Lauren Alexander: So we talked or you started mentioning some of the effects, and I know that maybe you could speak a little bit about the effects you've seen are that you expect and what you've seen in the pilot study that we conducted at Qualia and some of that area and the benefits category.

Dr. Greg Kelly: Yeah, so when I think of the gut end of the gut-brain access, the things as someone that used to work with patients I care most about are upper GI issues. So this is your sense of heartburn, gas, loading, and then lower GI. Are you having normal bowel habits? How frequently those? What's gas? Things like that. Functionally, how is the GI performing? And I honestly put a lot more weight on that than I would on, "Oh, well this probiotic increases the [inaudible 00:48:57] bacteria." It's like, well, that's great, but how did that translate into GI performance?

And then for the brain, when I think of the gut-brain, it's primarily three things. Stress would be number one, is there an impact on this person feeling like they're under more or less stress? How resilient are they? And then it's mood related things. So when we both evaluated research but then set up our pilot study, those are the areas we wanted to measure total in upper GI performance, lower GI performance, but then get a sense of what's going on in the brain in these areas with stress and mood. And then we followed that pilot study up with another one just pre-launch that really your team was super involved in, Lauren. That we saw such a promising first, I guess glimpse at stress and mood that we focused on that equally to GI performance. And so bottom line is what we've seen to date is within two to three weeks, just profound improvements in GI performance and in areas of stress, feeling calmer, having a more positive mood, those areas. And by profound, I mean like 50, 60, 70% improvements.

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah, it's remarkable. And I think this formula is designed to give you that immediate benefit. When you take it, you notice that you're taking a product and you feel it. The gut modifications that occur certainly take the course over days, maybe weeks. The brain benefits generally are much longer. They just take a little bit longer to get to. But I will say there is that sense of ease that people note, it's that emotional response. People feel a little less nervous, a little bit more at peace. That's what we're seeing so far. So I think you get this whole range of effects over the course of days to weeks using this type of product.

Dr. Greg Kelly: And then the last thing, and this is more something we're starting to look at is we've had a few anecdotal, I guess pieces of feedback as well as we think their mechanisms might support it is it changing subtly over time the foods that you gravitate to or the amounts of those foods, things to do with appetite regulation, because a lot of that is dictated by gut peptide since made in the gut, that signaled the brain. So that's something that the science team currently is looking into and exploring. And I know it's something I'm paying a lot of attention to personally.

Lauren Alexander: So exciting. Now I know that it's time for us to wrap. Last question really is, what's your favorite thing that we haven't discussed about the formula that maybe won't be instantly appreciated by someone that isn't as informed about every nook and cranny as you are?

Dr. Greg Kelly: Nick, do you want to go first?

Dr. Nick Bitz: Yeah, I'll jump in. I mean, for me it's the taste. That was a big emphasis from the very start. We tested a bunch of ingredients, we ruled out a bunch of ingredients that just tasted awful. We know that somebody's experience with a product will dictate whether or not they stick with it. And so in creating a powder, that was a primary goal from the outset. So I would say by and large, all of the ingredients that we chose just tasted great. They tasted neutral to pleasant. And overall, the flavor just really works for me. I've noticed that I personally have started craving it on a daily basis, whether I use the unflavored version or the tropical version, which I've been trading off back and forth. I crave it right now. Right now, I can taste it in my mouth. It has this very subtle tea essence, and it just really works

Dr. Greg Kelly: When I think for me, I get much more nerdy in the like, "LOL, they put this great ingredient in, but it's only 20% of what is used in the study." So I think the main thing just to communicate to the audience is that, as Nick mentioned earlier, we literally researched hundreds of ingredients. We picked ones we thought were the best. We then ruled some out because of taste. And the ones we settled on, we made sure we incorporated enough to do what the ingredient's supposed to do. And I know I'm a hard grader, but you're constantly sending me links to products, Lauren. And quite often it's like, yeah, this ingredient was a nice choice, but why are they using so little of it? And that's one thing, unless someone knows the science, they won't appreciate that we've made that distinction for them so they can rest assured when they take a scoop of Qualia Synbiotic, they're getting the amounts of these things needed to make a difference in their health and performance.

Lauren Alexander: Wow. Well, I have certainly learned a lot and I'm sure our listeners have as well. Thank you both so much for giving us so much information here. Everyone that's listening, if you're curious to give Qualia Synbiotic a try, please head over to or use code Insights for an additional 15% off any discount that's already on the website. You can try it for up to a hundred days, and if you're not delighted and absolutely in love, you can get your money back. So why not?

And again, thank you and have a great day.

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