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Prebiotics and the gut brain connection for digestive health

Up to 50% of the population in the USA suffers from some kind of serious digestive complaint. Are prebiotics and the gut brain connection being overlooked?

Digestive disorders at epidemic levels

Up to 50% of us have poor digestive health and suffer from a metabolic condition associated with digestive imbalance.

Chronic constipation, Indigestion and acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease are very common.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services each year the following number of people are affected in the USA alone. (5)

Chronic Constipation

  • Prevalence: 63 million people
  • Ambulance visits: 4.0 million
  • Hospitalizations: 1.1 million
  • Mortality: 132 deaths

Indigestion and acid reflux

  • Prevalence: 20 percent of the population 
  • Ambulance visits: 8.9 million 
  • Hospitalizations: 4.7 million
  • Mortality: 1,653 deaths

Gastric Ulcers

  • Prevalence: 15.5 million people
  • Ambulance visits: 669,000
  • Hospitalizations: 358,000
  • Mortality: 2,981 deaths

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Prevalence: 15.3 million people
  • Ambulance visits: 1.6 million
  • Hospitalizations: 280,000
  • Mortality: 21 deaths

Crohn’s Disease

  • Prevalence: 359,000 people
  • Ambulance visits: 1.1 million
  • Hospitalizations: 187,000
  • Mortality: 611 deaths

Add these together and you get nearly 50% of the population of the United States. I think you get the picture, and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digestive disorders. Often these complaints come in combination, and one can lead to another. The begs the question “What is going wrong?” nearly 50% of the population may have constipation, acid reflux, ulcers, irritable bowel or Crohn’s disease, and we haven’t even talked about Celiac disease, food intolerances, hemorrhoids, gallstones or colon cancer which are also very common digestive disorders.

You can imagine the total number affected by all of these combined.


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The Gut-Brain Connection

We all know stress and emotions affect our gut, but just how profound are these effects on our digestive health? 

  • There is a powerful link between the brain and the gut. Called the brain-gut axis it comprises a neural-neuroendocrine circuit between the brain’s hunger-satiety and hormonal reward systems in conjunction with the gut microbiota, which regulates our emotions and food-decision making. However, the consumption of high-sugar and high-fat diets have overridden this energy/pleasure circuitry to the point of addiction. (13) Addiction, depression, and anxiety can all be linked to this gut-brain connection or disconnection.
  • You may feel worried, embarrassed, or even sad and depressed about having a bowel condition and you may, therefore, be having a psycho-somatic (mind-body) influence. The gut-brain connection is well documented and is, therefore, a major consideration. 
  • Addressing negative attitudes and beliefs and learning to curb these influences can have a profound impact on any health condition, but especially those relating to the intestine. This is because the intestine acts as our emotional brain and our emotions can be affected by our beliefs and attitudes.
  • You have a powerful mind and the healing effects of positive thinking should be used whenever possible. Try meditation, reading and perhaps some type of social activity that involves an emotional support network of kind friends.
  • Energy healing, massage or other relaxation technique would be well worth investigating. learning and practice. Find something that resonates with you and take the plunge.  

Gut Brain Connection


Digestive Tract - A Quick Look?

The most complex system in the human body, the digestive tract starts at the mouth, through the esophagus into the stomach, small intestine (ducts from the pancreas and gallbladder) then into the large intestine or colon. It is far to complex to even begin to understand in detail but I will make a grand statement that may explain the basics. 

Your digestive system works in a similar way to your home garden compost heap. You throw your scraps on your compost and a little while later you have a nice pile of fertilizer come out the other end. The difference with your gut is that there's a permeable membrane that filters out the good stuff, the nutrients that your body needs, and what is left behind become the compost. 

A very important point to remember about what you eat relates to this simple fact. Don't eat anything that you wouldn't throw on your compost heap because it simply won't digest properly. For example, most factory processed foods are preserved with chemicals and these will upset your digestion. 

What we want to eat are foods that break down naturally like unprocessed fruits and vegetables.    

Digestive system


Probiotics - Good bacteria

There is a lot of talk about probiotics recently and for good reason. With our processed food diets, we have become deficient in the healthy bacteria and other organisms that should be alive in our gut. 

Billions of microorganisms live in our digestive systems - they live in an antagonistic/competitive way fighting against one another constantly. Most of these organisms have a win-win relationship with us. The digestive system makes a nice warm environment for them as well as feeding them. In turn, we get benefits such as:

  • Improved bowel motility - the ability to move spontaneously and actively, consuming energy in the process
  • Give nutrients - such as folate (needed for healthy cell reproduction), vitamin K for blood clotting, B12 which helps make DNA and red blood cells, biotin for cell growth and fatty acids which help maintain healthy cells in the bowel wall.
  • Develop and maintain a healthy immune system and bowel wall. 
  • Produce chemicals that hinder the growth of other types of bacteria.
  • Breakdown the complex carbohydrates that our digestive systems can't digest - such as cellulose and starches
  • Facilitate the breakdown of cancer developing carcinogenic substances that enter the bowel (1)

These microorganisms mainly come from the baby coming in contact with intestinal flora and the mother's vagina. Unfortunately, this does not occur in a Caesarean section and can make a big impact on the type of organisms that settle in the intestine in the babies early life. This may have an effect on the immune system - (2)       


Dysbiosis - What is it?

It refers to the microbial imbalance on or inside the body. The most common form reported is in the gut - a number of diseases can be associated with it and they include:


What are the symptoms of Gut Dysbiosis?

  • Bloating, belching and flatulence
  • Indigestion, constipation, diarrhea
  • Acid reflux
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal pain or discomfort


Gut Bacteria

Prebiotics to treat Gut Dysbiosis?

None of the microbial species that are normally in our gut are bad overall. Some yeasts and bacteria can get our guts back in shape. Prebiotics are the answer. Quite simply they are indigestible food ingredients that stimulate the maintenance and development of good gut microorganisms.

Just in case you didn't know - Probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gut whilst prebiotics act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that is already there. These agents have great potential to improve or maintain a balanced intestinal microflora to enhance gut health and general well-being. (3) 

Prebiotics in fiber can be soluble or insoluble and can be found in lots of fruits and vegetables. 

Insoluble Fiber - It goes into our bodies and pretty much comes out the same! It doesn't dissolve water and goes through us pretty much intact. It provides bulk and stimulates the bowel wall to move. You can find these fibers in vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains and the skins on apples.

Soluble Fiber - It turns to a gel by taking in water. It slows down digestion and the uptake of nutrients. Through this process, soluble fiber stops a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and they make us feel full. Some examples of soluble fiber include linseeds, slippery elm, psyllium hulls, chia seeds, lentils, strawberries, beans, nuts, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.  

Psyllium is classified as a mucilaginous fiber due to its powerful ability to form a gel in water. This bulking fiber acts as a sponge, absorbing water and waste material in the bowels. Psyllium husks significantly increase the level of stool moisture and both wet/ dry stool weight, this is why it has such great effect on relieving constipation and improving bowel health.              


Digestive Enzymes

Papaya and pineapple are two of the richest plant sources, as attested by their traditional use as natural "tenderizers" for meat. Papain and bromelain are the respective names for the protein-digesting enzymes found in these fruits and these are included in the Herbal DETOX and BodiTune DETOX ‘n SLIM products to assist in the digestive process. 

Organic Food

A study, called the largest of its kind, has found that organic foods have more nutrition than conventional foods, including more antioxidants and fewer, less frequent pesticide residues. (4) Eating a wide variety of foods, especially whole foods that are unprocessed, organic or as minimally processed as possible. Eat more washed and raw fruits and vegetables. Raw organic foods contain lots of bacteria and fiber to feed and nurture the natural gut bacteria. These bacteria are also Prebiotics along with fiber as we discussed above. 

Read more about these great Herbs for intestinal health:


Herbal Detox

Our Herbal Detox program contains almost all of these herbs above and provides your digestive system with a complete cleanse, balance and restoration process. It is simply one the best things you could ever do for your intestinal balance and general health.

Benefits of doing a Herbal Detox

I highly recommend completing a herbal detox program once or twice a year to maintain a healthy digestive system.     

Remember "You are what you eat" or even more accurate "You are what you absorb"

Brett Elliott ®

Ultimate Herbal DETOX



Click Here to Download the Ultimate Herbal Detox User Guide NOW





(1) Berg, R.D: (1196) The indigenous gastrointestinal microflora. Trends Microbiol. 4:4.30-435.

(2) Biasucci, G: Benenati, B: Morelli, L: Bessi, E: Boehm, G: (2008). Cesarean Delivery May Affect the Early Biodiversity of Intestinal Bacteria.  

(3) Journal of Nutrition, Prebiotics: The Concept Revisited

(4) BizJournal Organic or conventional? New study sides with organic, all the way. 

(5) The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases




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