Probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics

Since the improved understanding of the gut microbes after the Human Microbiome Project completion in 2013, there is a lot of attention to how it impacts your health. Truth be told, the medical community is in it’s infancy of understanding the ins and outs of probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics.

This article will break down what you need to know about the three.

Probiotics

Probiotics are bacteria or live microorganisms found in supplements or food that add to healthy gut bacteria. Gut bacteria growth promotes a variety of health benefits in the body.

People with difficulty handling blood sugar who experience blood sugar spikes, often also experience a weakened immune system. Supporting the gut microbiome through probiotics will decrease inflammation and increase immune functionality.

Probiotics will not decrease blood glucose immediately like insulin or other supplements claim to do.

Taking probiotics is associated with a gradual increase in immune, digestive, and brain health. Some specific bacteria strains are used to target specific areas of wellness.

Supplementing with probiotics may decrease inflammation and protect the gut from cellular damage.

Prebiotics

Eating a diverse diet that is adequate in fiber is essential to naturally growing healthy gut bacteria.

Foods that gut bacteria prefer to eat are called prebiotics. Fiber is considered starch that the human body cannot break down, but bacteria can.

Diversity in starches provides the gut with the optimal power meal.

Common prebiotic foods are:

  • apples
  • bananas
  • berries
  • leeks/onions/shallots
  • asparagus
  • garlic
  • oats
  • beans and legumes
  • winter squash
  • green beans
  • carrots

Polyphenols can also act as prebiotics. These are compounds naturally found in plants. They are responsible for bright colors of fruits, vegetables, grains, and spices.

Foods high in polyphenols are:

  • dark chocolate
  • tea
  • coffee
  • pomegranate
  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • black elderberry
  • black beans

Importance of Fiber

One of the critical factors in maintaining blood sugar is eating adequate amounts of fiber. Women need at least 25 grams of fiber daily, and men need at least 38 grams daily. Increase fiber slowly by adding one to two new servings daily for a few weeks before increasing again.

Postbiotics

The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) defines a postbiotic as a “preparation of inanimate microorganism and their components that confers a health benefit on the host.”

Postbiotics are intact inanimate microbial cells and microbial cell fragments/structures with or without metabolites/end products. This “dead” material is still beneficial by signaling health benefits to our cells.

Some of the postbiotics material includes:

  • Short-chain fatty acids
  • Peptides
  • Secreted proteins
  • Enzymes
  • Bacteriocins
  • Cell walls
  • exopolysaccharides

Unlike probiotics, supplement companies are marketing postbiotics tied to unsupported health claims. Beware of supplements that are selling postbiotics. Postbiotics are more shelf stable than probiotics because it contains dead bacteria pieces.

Although postbiotics may signal health benefits to our cells, gut bacteria do this naturally after ingesting prebiotics. More research is needed to substantiate health benefit claims.

Probiotics for the Win

Focus on probiotic supplementation or fermented foods for optimal health benefits.

Probiotic research findings support health benefits for immune and gut function. Prebiotics support the growth of gut bacteria either through supplementation or diet, or both.

If your diet contains adequate fiber, buying a more expensive probiotic containing a prebiotic and postbiotic is unnecessary.