I decided to take a look at some products which claim to support the digestive system through the use of prebiotics.
One of the products I’ve come across through researching super greens and other products by this company is Dr Gundry (Gundry MD) and their range of Prebiothrive products. As I’ve already looked into their Primal Plants (and a little at the Vital Reds) I thought a delve into this area of digestive supplements would be interesting.
Prebiotics and probiotics are in an area being continually looked at by medical and dietetics researchers as they are linked with gut health and can therefore be considered to form the base of dietary supplement use – what we eat and drink is after all the foundation of our health.
Prebiotics are largely considered to be the ‘fuel’ for probiotics (the good gut bacteria which promote healthy digestive environments).
So is there such a thing as a supplement which can support good gut bacteria to do even more of a good job? Let’s have a look.
The Gundry MD website describes Prebiothrive as a ‘cutting-edge formula’ of ‘five advanced prebiotic ingredients to help promote a probiotic-friendly environment in your gut’. This seems like a simple enough formula. But I feel I need to know more, as at $79 USD for 30 days supply this is a rather expensive supplement!
‘Good gut bacteria’ already exist in your gut. This is something research has proven and one of the reasons that probiotic products could be considered to be a waste of money.
If you feel that for some reason your gut environment is not adequate or is underperforming (and there are people out there that will tell you that symptoms of this could be low energy, poor immunity etc) you may want to think about improving your diet. Likewise, if you suffer from any digestive issues (such as IBS) you may find yourself constantly searching for that product which will ameliorate symptoms.
If you believe that taking probiotics is only half of the story, you may wish to supplement your supplement-taking with prebiotics, giving you an extra dose of ‘fuel’ for your probiotic organisms to keep them super-powered.
Background on Gundry MD
Dr Steven Gundry MD was a cardiothoracic surgeon who turned to Restorative Medicine as a way of helping patients to turn around health complaints that arise through poor nutrition and lifestyle.
He claims to have ‘discovered unconventional truths’ about human nutrition and is on a mission to bring to the world products which essentially support gut health in order to improve overall health.
He has authored several books (the most popular one being ‘The Plant Paradox’ which seeks to prove that otherwise-assumed ‘healthy’ foods can actually cause disease). I’ve taken a longer look at the background to the doctor and his products in my review of the Primal Plants products.
The story is compelling and the medic seems to have a legitimate vision, with solid research and health credentials, but some of the products he promotes are problematic for a variety of reasons.
I was initially quite impressed by a nutrition professional with this medical background, however I do feel personally that at some level the marketing and cynicism takes over and the products start to lose their credibility.
With a little further research I have found a few sites seeking to debunk Dr Gundry and his products, and his Plant Paradox theory. It’s unfortunate that a premise that may have initially had an element of truth and medically-sound thinking has become far too diluted and now Gundry MD is linked with aggressive marketing, misinformation and scams.
The product description on the website claims that the ingredients are: acacia gum, agave inulin, flaxseed, galacto-oligosaccharides, and guar gum. Unfortunately they don’t tell you how much or how little of these ingredients are included in each serving.
As there are so few, let’s break down what we know about the individual ingredients.
Acacia gum is a water-soluble dietary fiber. Not enough studies have been conducted to give a conclusive recommended dosage.
Inulin is a plant fiber – here they have used inulin which comes from the agave plant (as opposed to the more commonly-used chicory inulin). Inulin has been used in studies to treat constipation.
The recommended dose is 15g daily – we don’t have enough in here.
Flaxseed is the seed of the flax plant. Another fiber, it has been taken to treat a range of digestive disorders (from constipation to diverticulitis), doses of about 30g daily are recommended to treat a range of health issues.
Galacto-oligosaccharides are plant sugars that are characterised in dietary supplements as prebiotics (food for probiotic bacteria). The most common application is in infant colic formula, and the recommended dose for this is around 8g.
Guar gum, like acacia gum, is a plant fiber derived from the seed of the guar plant. Studies have been conducted using guar gum to treat issues ranging from constipation to IBS, where doses of between 5-20g have been used.
These ingredients are plant-based and can be categorised largely as fibers, but you can see from my research above regarding dosage that there is no way the individual serving can contain enough of each fiber to give any meaningful health effects or benefits.
How Does Prebiothrive Taste?
The feedback seems to be that Prebiothrive has no discernable taste, and there don’t appear to be any flavours added.
As with other supplements and foods containing dietary fiber the side effects can be bloating, excessive gas and digestive discomfort. It is generally advised that you increase dietary fiber slowly, gradually increasing your daily intake rather than taking large amounts at any one time.
Does Prebiothrive Actually Work?
So, we know what Prebiothrive contains (if not how much), so, what should the effects of this product be? How do we tell if any product would be working, for that matter?
For some customers it would be about whether or not there was an improvement to an existing (or perceived) issue. We know that no research has been done to ascertain whether a serving of Prebiothrive contains the appropriate amount of dietary fiber for your daily needs, and no research has been done to see whether there has been any benefit for users.
We can look at whether studies have shown other prebiotic products to be effective, and we could look at whether any research has shown prebiotics to have uses beyond just ‘feeding’ good gut bacteria.
I really wanted to understand the case for prebiotics, and I found the below in an article in Today’s Dietician magazine explaining that promoting good gut bacteria could help to reduce the number and effect of gut pathogens.
The most well-studied prebiotics are fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS), inulin (a type of FOS), and galacto-oligosaccharide. Once fermented, they’re associated with an increase in short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), especially butyrate, acetate, and propionate. These SCFAs help improve laxation, may decrease cancer risks, and provide fuel for colonocytes, helping to maintain a healthier gut barrier to pathogens and other substances that may cause illness
So, if you felt that your diet could use improvement in the sense that you weren’t taking enough plant fiber, you could supplement it.
Again, looking at the article from Today’s Dietician:
According to a recent study by Sanders and colleagues, ingestion of prebiotic formulations can improve calcium absorption, and reduce duration, incidence, and symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea; alleviate IBS symptoms; prevent specific allergies; reduce energy intake and markers of insulin resistance; improve body weight management; and increase satiety and decrease appetite.
As prebiotics are naturally-occurring plant components we can assume that it is possible to get adequate ‘fuel’ for probiotics through our diet if we are eating enough plant-based fiber. But here’s the issue, most people aren’t, and so the clever people who make supplements find ways of selling it to us.
At Gundry MD they use their marketing clout to find new and clever angles to inform customers about areas of their diet that may be lacking in order to neatly package and supply these ingredients in an easy-to-take form.
For me, however, I would prefer to take a probiotic and prebiotic blend.
That way I know that I’m boosting my probiotic culture and also feeding it. It looks to me as though the research surrounding taking prebiotic supplements is inconclusive, and, although there can be assumed benefits from improving the gut environment, I’m just not convinced a supplement such as this could do enough.
Prebiothrive Customer Reviews
This is where we really get to know more about Prebiothrive and what people who have bought it and tried it think. I looked for reviews on the Gundry MD website and found no negative reviews for the product, but of course any feedback would be screened to ensure sales aren’t affected.
There are 633 reviews on their own site.
Some Prebiothrive reviews are penned by people in the medical field who claim to need to have evidence-based facts before they take a product. This definitely gives the product further clout, and the people at Gundry have been clever in ensuring they cherry-pick the reviews to ensure their products are endorsed by such professionals.
Reviewers claim that Prebiothrive helps with conditions such as IBS, digestive reflux and general bowel health (increased or improved bowel movement).
There are 26 reviews on Amazon, 13 of which are 5-star and the average being 3.6.
A one-star reviewer on Amazon claims that the product doesn’t dissolve adequately in water. Another says ‘Its gritty and took a little to get used to but it works great in a smoothie’.
Money Back Guarantee / Returns Policy
Gundry MD has a 90 day guarantee.
Where to Buy Prebiothrive?
You can buy Prebiothrive in 30, 90 or 180 day supply at the official website here.
Amazon.com also stock his range of books and supplements too.
Is It Worth the Price?
For me, no.
There’s not enough evidence that this supplement would be beneficial to my health and I feel that at $79 it is far too expensive for me to experiment with!
I’d personally rather spend my money on nutritionally big-hitters, that is to say a supplement which has enough nutrient-dense ingredient to really make me feel I was powering-up my body with healthy stuff.
It’s also worth noting that Gundry MD recommend taking Prebiothrive alongside another probiotic product which obviously would increase your overall cost.
The Bottom Line
The main issue I have with this supplement, as with many (I’m fast discovering) is that they are not transparent about the ingredients, what (or how much) I’m getting in each serving.
With the little digging I have done I can see that if I really wanted to see benefits from taking plant-fiber as a supplement I would perhaps be better off taking, say, flaxseed in a single dose, or maybe drinking another fermented plant-based product (maybe I should take to kombucha-making?!).
I also don’t feel that I am sufficiently convinced that there is a case for taking prebiotics as a supplement (as opposed to probiotics, which is another matter).
You would definitely be advised to do some more research around the proven effectiveness of the individual ingredients and decide for yourself whether or not Prebiothrive was a product worth buying, but for me the answer is a no.