Why You Need Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics: The Trifecta of Good Gut Health

It’s no secret that the health world has been obsessed with probiotics for over the last decade now. So much research and investment has gone into developing and testing out different strains, seeing how they modulate our microbiome and protect the all-important gut environment. 

Prebiotics are the next most popular, as we’ve learned that certain foods and compounds support probiotics to do their jobs for us. And what are those jobs? Probiotics make postbiotics, the newest “biotic” on the block. As it turns out, postbiotics might be the most revolutionary of them all for our health and wellbeing. 

So here’s an in-depth look at prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics—three P’s in a fermented pod. 

Table of Contents: 

Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Postbiotics

That’s a lot of biotics. And we’re not even going into synbiotics and psychobiotics

The first thing to know about these three biotics is that they work in a continuum: prebiotics feed probiotics, which create postbiotics. And only one of these, probiotics, are actual living organisms. The prebiotics and postbiotics are the nutrient imports and exports that feed and are produced by probiotics. Still with us? Let’s dig into each of these equally important biotics separately. 

What are prebiotics? 

Prebiotics are the fuel for the probiotics and mostly take the form of certain whole foods we eat, but we can also synthesize certain prebiotic compounds and add them to supplements or processed foods. The whole food sources are usually plant foods and are high in fiber, which probiotics love. 

What is a probiotic? 

The word “probiotic” comes from Greek, meaning literally “for life.” That alone gives you an idea of how important probiotics are for our health. [1]

In expanded terms, a probiotic is a beneficial microscopic organism, usually bacteria but also some species of fungi, that live within or on our bodies and confer a health benefit to us, its host. Basically, we give the probiotics a place to live, and they give us nutrients and maintain their environment, whether that’s our skin, gut, sinuses, etc. It’s a win-win for both of us. 

What are postbiotics? 

Basically, postbiotics are what probiotics produce when they consume prebiotics. While research is still developing around this brand-new subject, postbiotics are generally classified as beneficial substances to both the host and the microbes that produce them. So we definitely want to keep postbiotics around and encourage our probiotics to make more of them. [2]

So far, the most popular postbiotic for its health-promoting effects is butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and protective effects on the gut lining. 

You can check out our full blog on Butyrate here. 

Why you need pre, pro, and postbiotics for better health

Okay, now that we have the basics down, let’s review why you actually need prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics for outstanding health—and how you can get them. 

Examples of prebiotics

As we mentioned above, prebiotics are mostly plant foods high in fiber. The fiber content means that we can’t actually digest these foods, but the probiotics can. So when you hear that you need to get more fiber into your diet, that’s why. You feed your probiotics fiber, and they give you postbiotics that benefit your health. Let’s take a look at a few prebiotic foods you can incorporate into your diet regularly.  

Prebiotic foods

Delicious and nutritious prebiotic foods include: 

  • Apples
  • Almonds
  • Artichoke
  • Barley
  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion greens
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Whole grains.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. Which of these foods are you already eating on a regular basis, and which can you try to add? For even more benefit, try to rotate the foods you eat to get a variety of colors and textures, which will not only keep your meals interesting, but also contain different nutrients, like polyphenols and antioxidants. 

Health benefits of prebiotics

Along with their high fiber content, prebiotic foods provide a number of different health benefits as they are digested by probiotics in the colon. 

Foods like dandelion greens and garlic have shown antipathogenic effects, helping to protect the GI tract and maintain a healthy microbiome. Almonds contain magnesium and vitamin E and can be a great healthy fat source. When chia seeds absorb liquid, they form a mucus-like consistency that can support peristalsis and gut lining integrity. 

Some prebiotics also increase the calcium absorption in the body. They can help reduce allergies and inflammation due to their modulation of the microbiome and probiotics. They can also help stabilize blood sugar and regulate hormones. [3]

Types of probiotics

Types of probiotics commonly include bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, and less commonly lactococcus, streptococcus, and enterococcus. Saccharomyces is beneficial yeast strain that is also commonly found in probiotic supplements. 

Common strains you’ll see in probiotic supplements and probiotic-enriched foods include: 

  • L. acidophilus
  • L. casei
  • L. gasseri
  • L. plantarum
  • L. reuteri 
  • L. rhamnosus
  • B. bifidum
  • B. breve
  • B. infantis
  • B. longum
  • Lactococcus lactis
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae (boulardii).

  • Soil-based probiotics 

    Soil-based probiotics have been touted as superior to other probiotics due to their survivability through the stomach and small intestine as well as their sourcing from nutrient-rich soil, where we naturally should be getting our probiotics on the food we consume. However, because our soils are often depleted of living microbes and nutrients and our food commonly travels far distances from the field to our plates, we don’t get exposed to these organisms as often as we should. 

    Soil-based probiotics form spores, which are able to resist the harsh acidic environment of your stomach and make it all the way to your colon, where they can actually go to work making those beneficial postbiotics for you.

    There’s no definitive answer on whether soil-based probiotics are better or worse for you. As with so many health products, the response is individual. One person may respond well to a soil-based probiotic, while another may have GI-related side effects like bloating. It simply takes experimentation to find what works for you. 

    If you are immunocompromised or already dealing with significant health issues, you may be better off focusing on eating the prebiotic foods that work for you to increase the probiotics in your gut. [4]

    Probiotic foods

    Then there are certain foods we can eat that already contain the beneficial probiotics we need. These are fermented foods such as: 

    • Yogurt
    • Kefir
    • Kimchi
    • Sourdough
    • Sauerkraut
    • Kombucha
    • Raw cheese
    • Miso
    • Tempeh.

    What probiotic foods are in your diet? 

    Health benefits of probiotics

    Probiotics have been well-studied and shown to have health benefits for many different conditions as well as general health. 

    One study found that a combination of multiple strains of probiotics significantly improved blood pressure control. [4] Probiotics have also been shown to be able to modulate the immune system and reduce symptoms in microbiome-related diseases like IBS and IBD. [5] They may directly combat pathogenic bacteria or simply work to balance out the distribution of microbes in the gut, allowing for better digestion and lowering inflammation. [6]

    Probiotics have many health benefits, and we will likely continue to discover more uses for them in the coming years. 

    Types of postbiotics

    Now for the new kid on the block: postbiotics. There are a number of types of postbiotics, including exopolysaccharides (EPS), enzymes, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), vitamins, aromatic amino acids, and more. Since the research is still relatively new (and complex), we’ll mostly focus on the category of SCFAs. 

    Health benefits of postbiotics

    Short-chain fatty acids, including acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are postbiotics with incredible health benefits. In general, SCFAs have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects. They modulate cellular activity and the immune response. They help control glucose stability, appetite, and cardiovascular effects. 

    While acetate is the most abundant SCFA in the human body, butyrate has been studied the most due to its presence in the gut as the primary fuel source for the colonocytes, cells in the lining of the colon. Butyate has been found to enhance intestinal barrier structure and function as well as mucosal immunity, which is great news for anyone with a leaky gut. [7]

    Postbiotic foods

    Just like prebiotics and probiotics, you can get some postbiotics from the foods you eat. There aren’t a lot of foods that contain postbiotics (SCFAs) themselves, but there are many foods that provide the fuel for probiotics to produce postbiotics, especially SCFAs. 

    Some postbiotic foods are: 

    • Dairy, including butter and cheese (contain postbiotics)
    • Cooked, cooled oats
    • Cooked, cooled rice
    • Cooked, cooled potatoes
    • Legumes
    • Bananas, especially underripe ones
    • Onions
    • Asparagus.

    All of these foods except for the dairy are postbiotic fuel for your microbiome. The grains, potatoes, and legumes contain resistant starch, which ferments in the colon and produces SCFAs. The bananas, onions, and asparagus contain fructo-oligosaccharides, which also fuel butyrate production. [8]

    For more explanation on these butyrate-producing foods, check out our article here. 

    Postbiotics supplements

    Finally, you can get postbiotics from high-quality supplements. So far the postbiotic market is focused on butyrate for its gut-protective effects, which we could all use in our high-stress, toxic world. 

    A butyrate supplement might be helpful for you if:

    • You have IBS or another gut-related illness
    • You struggle with constipation
    • Your digestion is weakened and you can’t digest fiber well 
    • You want added immune and anti-inflammatory protection. 

    Still, this category of supplements is relatively new, and there are many unreliable products out there. BodyBio has been making BodyBio Butyrate for 25 years, and we always prioritize quality in all of our supplements, leaving out fillers or additives. 

    Learn more about BodyBio Butyrate here. 

    Are postbiotics the new probiotics? 

    For now, postbiotics are relatively undefined and a bit of a dark horse in the health and wellness and supplement world. As a product of probiotics, the question naturally arises: should you skip probiotics altogether and go straight for the postbiotics? 

    The answer, as you might expect, is not cut and dry. If you are using a probiotic supplement or regularly incorporating probiotic foods and find that it is helping you, by all means continue. But if you are one of the many that have not found relief from digestive issues using probiotics, maybe postbiotics are a better option. 

    Since everyone’s microbiome is unique, probiotics can sometimes make digestion worse by adding the wrong kind of probiotic bacteria to an already imbalanced microbiome. But everyone needs postbiotics, especially SCFAs like butyrate, for gut health. So, for some people, postbiotic supplementation or increasing postbiotic-rich foods may be more beneficial for their personal microbiome and gut environment.  

    Get a Postbiotic Boost with BodyBio Butyrate

    Postbiotics may be the next frontier in the alternative health space. With so much more research to be done, we’ve barely scratched the surface of these remarkable probiotic-made compounds. 

    Fortunately, you can start taking advantage of the power of postbiotics through your diet and postbiotic supplements like Bodybio Butyrate today. 

    We can’t wait to see how the world of postbiotics continues to grow and evolve!

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