The Charger Blog

Nutrition Sciences Major Breaks Down the ‘Power of the Gut Microbiome’

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 discusses prebiotics and probiotics, and she examines their impact on bacteria and on the human body.

March 27, 2024

By Beatrice Glaviano ’26

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 looks forward to a tasty meal.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 looks forward to a tasty meal. .

Hello, everyone. It is quite a rainy day in New Haven today, but I was released into the wild by my manager and well...

Author, looking directly at the camera and cracking open her laptop dramatically: “It’s a beautiful day to procrastinate.”

Should I be studying for Orgo II? Probably. But I already studied for it earlier this morning and, so far, stuff’s sticking. Lately, I’ve become increasingly engrossed in the power of the gut microbiome (as you can tell from previous articles) and I’m yet to overcome the addiction. So far what I’ve uncovered is mostly the “what” of the gut microbiome (it’s composition, location, species, etc.) in addition to its function, yet I’m still quite puzzled as to what makes it flourish.

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 suggests foods that support the microbiome.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 suggests foods that support the microbiome.

Of course, fibrous foods supply a good deal of fermentable carbohydrates that can be recycled into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) to support the intestinal wall barrier, but I really want to delve into what those foods are and, potentially, make a ranking. Additionally, what about the specific species? Are some better than others? I.e., is a higher concentration of Bifidobacteria better than Firmicutes or Proteobacteria? Outside of food, what do our microflora respond best to in terms of activity or lifestyle?

There are so many questions to ask, and, frankly, I’m not so sure I’ll be able to answer all of them in one blog post. Though, I suppose I can try.

Firstly, the biggest thing to differentiate between is what is a prebiotic vs. probiotic. In simple terms, prebiotics are the things that help probiotics – gut bacteria – grow. Essentially, it’s like feeding your cat their favorite brand of cat food meant for that specific breed of cat.

...except your cat is made of a bunch of squiggly dudes and will inform you that Taco Bell was a bad idea.

Most times, ensuring that you’re eating a wide variety of foods (meaning that within each macronutrient category you’re eating different things within that section) is the best way of ticking all your microbiome boxes. However, if we’re going to get into the real nitty-gritty of things, let’s talk about the cool kids on the block:

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.

Now, these are phyla, meaning that they are home to several genuses responsible for the many species of bacteria under those phyla. For the sake of simplicity, though, we will be sticking with the phyla of the gut microbiome. This won’t sacrifice any needed information, as the bacteria of these phyla will mainly be consuming the same stuff or be in the same food groups.

“But Beatrice,” my lovely audience says, “If they’re in the food that you’re eating, wouldn’t the probiotic be made of the prebiotic.”

Author, squinting: “Well, sort of?”

In order to establish a colony, you need to be able to a) feed it, and b) propagate it (which you can do by consuming it, apparently).

Take Lactobacillus, for example. These little guys are commonly found in fermented dairy products, such as kefir or yogurt. However, if you wanted to feed the dudes already pre-existing in your body, just eat some dairy. Lacto – in relation to milk – is what Lactobacilli metabolize to create energy. So, like any fermented product, you will have a bunch of broken-down lactose (milk sugar) and a large quantity of the thing that ate the sugar for you, such as Lactobacillus.

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 explains the digestive system.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 explains the digestive system.

In terms of Bifidobacteria (which sounds an awful lot like “Bilbobacteria”, haha) they typically utilize a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e., apples, blueberries, almonds), prebiotics (i.e., onions, garlic, bananas), whole grains (i.e. barley and oats), and fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut (Robertson). These little guys are key in disease and illness prevention, and they are one of the biggest populations within the gut. More interestingly, vaginal births are recommended due to the fact that the child will be born with a higher concentration of that bacteria. Isn’t that crazy? Like, bacteria baby?

Actually, never mind. That’s only giving me the mental image of some weird symbiote child with flagella (little whip-like extensions) for fingers. Ahghghgg.

As a whole, prebiotics are sourced from carbs. While I’m not sure how great bagels are for your microbiome, vegetables such as onion, celery, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory roots, and bacon potato (Rolim) are pretty darn swag when it comes to watering your microflora garden.

On a side note, I’d also like to make something super clear that people may not be aware of: Stress is incredibly impactful on your body. You will put it, and everything it houses, into survival mode and you will not be able to function adequately because of that. Stress unwinds your proteins, man, meaning that you’re basically deleting yourself biologically.

I’m not saying procrastinate your chem test like I am. What I am saying is to let yourself breathe, re-evaluate, and go from there. I know it’s easier said than done, but believe me when I say that you can do it.

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 cooks up a steak.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 cooks up a steak..

Then there’s the fact of how you treat your body. And I don’t mean hitting the gym or eating right, no, no. I mean what you say to it. How do you make your body feel? If you tell someone that they’re bad at something or that they look funny, do you think that they’ll want to try doing a new thing or show themselves?

Absolutely not.

The body hears what you say about it and what you think about it, and it will quote you when you have a dinner table argument. They say that the gut is the second brain, and this has rung true for me on countless occasions. That stomach flip you got before something terrible happened? Your body knows things. It’s in tune with the world more than your conscious mind will ever be. So, if you’re craving chocolate, maybe it’s because – I dunno – a physiological bundling of DNA that’s been perfected over the past millions of years has a good idea of what it wants, when it wants it.

Trust isn’t easy. If you’re a woman and this is your body, it’s not easy. If you’re a man and this is your body, it’s not easy. If you are neither or both of these things and this is your body, it’s not easy.

All I can say is to give yourself time and listen. When the body wants to be heard, it’ll let you know what’s up.

I hope that this article has given us some insight, and that perhaps it’s shifted a few thoughts around. Always question anything and everything. It pays off most of the time, especially in school. Education collects clutter.

Dust those shelves.

Alright, everyone. I think that’s a wrap. Please take care, and walk the rest of the week with a lighter foot. You can do anything that you set your mind to.

With peace, plenty of love, and all of the peanut butter,

Works Cited

  • Robertson , Ruairi. “Why Bifidobacteria Are so Good for You.” Healthline, 25 July 2017, Accessed 23 Mar. 2024.
  • Rolim, Priscilla Moura. “Development of Prebiotic Food Products and Health Benefits.” Food Science and Technology (Campinas), vol. 35, no. 1, Mar. 2015, pp. 3–10,, Accessed 23 Mar. 2024.

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 is a nutrition sciences major at the University of New Haven.