Allochthonous or nonindigenous microorganisms Transient microbes derived from food and water and do not colonize a habitat except under abnormal circumstances.

Antibody Protein substance produced by plasma cells to fight infections. An antibody has a specific amino acid sequence which allows it to interact with a specific antigen. Antibodies are classified according to their modes of action: agglutinins, bactertiolysins, hemolysins and precipitins are some examples.

Antigens These are substances that are capable of inducing a specific immune response and of reacting with the products of the response such as specific antibodies or T-lymphocytes.

Autochthonous or indigenous microorganisms Microorganisms which are ubiquitous in the gastrointestinal system and live in all habitats available. Some can be pathogenic and live without harming the host until the ecosystem is disturbed.

Bacteria Microscopic organisms that have a simple, one-celled structure and live in a variety of environments, including water, soil, plants and living bodies. Bacteria lack nuclei and endoplasmic reticulum.There are billions of bacteria living naturally in the human digestive system—some beneficial and some potentially disease-causing.

Bacteroides Pathogenic bacterium that produces urease, which results in excess ammonia production.

Candidiasis Infection with the fungus of the genus Candida which usually affects the moist areas of the body including the mouth, respiratory tract or vagina.Candida albicans are a normal part of human microbiota and reside in low numbers in the mouth, vagina and GI tract of healthy individuals. Levels of candida are affected by microbiota mix, hormones, stress, and innate and adaptive immunity. Colonization has been linked to a number of diseases: atopic dermatitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and yeast syndrome.

Colonization A population which is stable in size and which multiplies at a rate great enough to sustain numbers without reintroducing the bacteria.

CFU An acronym for Colony Forming Units, the scientific term for “number of organisms” (i.e., how many microbes are in the colony of microbes in the product, or in your intestine). While there is no scientific standard for the number of CFUs required to be “probiotic,” the legitimate, science-based research studies we’ve seen all use quantities in the billions.

Colon A muscular, tube-like organ, approximately five feet long, that is part of the digestive system. It was long believed that its only function is to extract water from food and store waste until elimination. But experts now believe that the colon plays a part in the regulation of intestinal well-being, particularly through its complex bacterial microflora and maintenance of intestinal equilibrium.

Culture A colony of living microorganisms (e.g. bacteria), grown by humans for a specific purpose.

Commensal Living on or within another organism and benefiting without harming or benefiting the host.

Dysbiosis Disruption of the intestinal ecology by any substance or situation which alters the physical, chemical or physiological integrity of the gastrointestinal tract.

Enteric Pertaining to the intestines.

Fermentation A type of chemical reaction that converts complex organic compounds, especially carbohydrates, to simpler ones, such as ethyl alcohol. When live cultures are added to milk, fermentation occurs. This is how buttermilk, sour cream and yogurt are produced.

Fiber Dietary fiber is a carbohydrate component of fruits and vegetables. Its chemical structure prevents it from being digested by humans. Since it cannot be metabolized to glucose, it contributes no calories to our diet. Instead of being broken down and absorbed, it passes through the colon, where it helps keep stool soft.

FOS FOS, fructo-oligosaccharides, is a group of compounds related to, but not identical to, inulin. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

Fructan A class of carbohydrates made up of chains of fructose molecules. The prebiotic inulin is a fructan.

Functional Foods and Beverages Foods that serve a helpful effect on the body beyond normal satiation and nutrition. There are actually two kinds of functional foods. The first is naturally-occurring foods, e.g. cranberries, which help with urinary tract health; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.), which contain elements which may increase activity of enzymes that help to detoxify carcinogens. The second is modified foods, where an added ingredient imparts the functionality. Examples include calcium added to orange juice or water for bone strength, or electrolytes and minerals added to flavored beverages to create “sports drinks” that help the body re-hydrate more quickly.

Intestinal Microflora The mixture of 400 to 500 different species of bacteria in the intestine.

Human Microbiome Project A strategy to understand the microboial components of the human genetic and metabolic landscaoe and how they contribute to normal physiology and predisposition to disease.

Inulin A prebiotic fiber that nourishes or helps to stimulate the growth of probiotics. Inulin is perhaps the best-known prebiotic. It is a naturally-occurring fructan. Inulin occurs naturally in thousands of edible plants, including asparagus, artichokes, bananas, barley, chicory, garlic, rye and wheat.

Lactic acid bacteria A group of gram-positice, non-sporing bacteria which cause fermentation of sugars.

Leaky gut syndrome Increased permeability of the intestines.


Microbe A microorganism.

Microorganism A general term for simple, one-celled organisms like bacteria.

Oligosaccharide & Oligofructose A short chain of sugars (usually less than 60 linked sugar molecules). Oligofructose is an oligosaccharide consisting of fructose molecules.

Pathogen A microbe which causes disease.

Prebiotic A prebiotic is a food source for probiotic bacteria thus making them more effective. Some prebiotics have been shown to enhance the absorption of important minerals like calcium. They can take the form of items commonly added to foods, such as dietary fiber.

Probiotic Probiotic means “for life.” The generally accepted definition is the one issued by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), which defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a beneficial health effect on the host.” These microorganisms do not promote or cause disease. They comprise multiple species and subspecies of bacteria, as well as one species of yeast called Saccharomyces.It is important to note that to date, the term “adequate amounts” of live microbes has not been defined by any official body or research authority. No general guidelines for type, quantity, or delivery system of probiotics that would restore regularity have ever been established, nor is there evidence that a mix of strains are inherently better at this than is any single strain.

Starter Bacteria The bacteria in the culture used to start a fermented product—cheese, kombucha, sour cream, yogurt, etc. The term references both the particular strains of bacteria and the numbers of bacteria required. The number of bacteria required by the National Yogurt Association’s Live & Active Cultures definition, for example, refers to the amount of bacteria in the starter culture, not in the finished product.

Symbiosis The harmonious relationship between two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Synbiotic The combined beneficial effects of probiotics and prebiotics. For example, yogurts that contain live, active cultures as well as the prebiotic inulin produce a synbiotic effect. Synbiotics also refer to nutritional supplements containing probiotics and prebiotics.

Virus An intracellular parasite that depends on host cell metabolism for replication. More than 400 species of viruses live in the gastrointestinal tract. Many cause no harm but others cause illnesses including colds and flu.