Meet Pre, Pro, and Postbiotic: The “Biotic” family
You, prebiotics, and probiotics go back for years. From the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you ate as a child to the miso soup you order every Friday night, prebiotics and probiotics are with you wherever you go. When it comes to matters of the gut, they’re a pretty big deal, and the proof is embedded in their meanings (probiotic means “for life,” and prebiotic means “before life”). What are we trying to say here? Probiotics and prebiotics are essential to our well-being, and this element is what we’ll delve into in this conversation about our intestinal health.
Pre and probiotics share the wealth with your entire body.
Eating prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods or supplements is terrific for your gut. You’re probably asking yourself, prebiotics, probiotics, aren’t they the same? Nope. They both may benefit your intestines, but their functions differ.
Prebiotics are food for the good bacteria in your gut that help good bacteria multiply1. Probiotics are living microorganisms (live bacteria), supporting the balance of your gut’s microbe levels and digestion1. Prebiotics are typically considered fibers, which are what we need to support our gut and keep it at the top of its game. Oddly enough, we can’t digest some fibers. Some pass through the stomach, small intestine and are fermented by microbes in the colon before leaving the body2.
Why do fibers like this matter if it’s something that you can’t digest? Fiber is a carbohydrate that passes through your digestive system and gives good bacteria the fuel it needs to thrive. When good bacteria thrive, it can help support the improvement factors in your health, including the support of normal blood sugar levels and weight loss1. There are even science-based recommendations for fiber. The daily fiber intake for women and men is 25 and 35 grams, respectively.
Get out the good that you put in with pre-and probiotics.
Despite the advances in understanding the importance of digestive health, we’re still exploring the wonders of pre and probiotics. However, we do know that both have major health advantages. We’ll start with the prebiotic benefits first:
• May help promote bone health – As it turns out, the gut microbiome plays a more significant than-imagined role in bone health. Good bacteria within the microbiome help support the absorption of calcium and other minerals essential to our bone structure. There’s still much to learn about the relationship between prebiotics and our bones. Scientists call this “learning curve” or “blank space” the prebiotic gut-bone axis. This axis could be the key to learning how immune molecules and metabolic cells can aid bone health3.
• Encourage the growth of good bacteria – Prebiotics stimulate good bacteria growth in our guts, and it all comes from what we ingest. Since some fibers like prebiotics can’t be digested, it selectively ferments in your intestines, resulting in intestinal changes4.
• Help aid digestion – By introducing prebiotics to your digestive system, good bacteria have what it needs to support growth and neutralize the gut environment5.
• Can help support gut health – Prebiotic bacteria protect your gut. They keep the function of your intestines running smoothly and support the fight against harmful bacteria.
• Help support gut health – Probiotics are the good bacteria that are one of responsible factors for restoring the normal balance in your intestines5.
• Immune system support – Probiotics can support aspects of the body’s natural immune functions. Microbes also relay the presence of good bacteria back to your immune system giving your gut two thumbs up.
Pre and probiotics are foodies too.
Prebiotic and probiotic foods sound ordinary, but they’re “A-list” superstars to your gut. Bananas, artichokes, beans, and nuts are prebiotics. Foods such as yogurt with live cultures, sourdough bread, kombucha, and miso are probiotics.
There are two types of fibers, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers absorb water and dissolve during digestion6. It can be found in beans, seeds, nuts, oats, vegetables, and fruits. Stone fruits are the best example of fiber-rich fruit. These types of fruit are classified as “drupes,” fruits with a thin, rough covering surrounding a seed, like that of cherries and peaches. They’re winners in terms of gut health7.
How to get the most out of your pre-and probiotic supplements.
Choose the prebiotic and or probiotic supplement that fits your needs – You’ll need to know what you’re getting from them. Making an informed decision is the best decision. A prebiotic might be the best option if you are looking to maintain a balanced gut, healthy bowels and support a healthy level of metabolism. A probiotic could be your best bet to support aspects of your body’s natural immune functions.
Make sure the product does what it says it does – There are many pre and probiotic supplements on the market. To spare yourself the potential loss of time and resources (a.k.a. money), research is needed to discover what product is truly best for you.
Follow the instructions on the label – The effects of a supplement aren’t common knowledge if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you are taking. Get to know your pre and probiotic a little more by glancing at the nutritional label and reviewing its ingredients, fine print, and recommended dosage.
Store the supplements properly – Make sure that you read the label to understand how the pre and probiotic supplements should be stored. For instance, some health experts recommend that probiotics remain refrigerated before and after you buy them to maintain optimal freshness.
Give your pre and probiotics some time to work – Great things take time. Prebiotics and probiotics can take up to a few days or a few weeks to work. Trust us. It’ll be worth the wait.
Throw out your probiotics once they have expired – Yes, probiotics can expire. Over time, its strength can decline, reducing your probiotic’s effectiveness.
What to watch out for when taking pre and probiotics.
Prebiotics and Probiotics are safe, but you should always be in tune with your body’s response. When taking probiotics for the first time, your body needs a period to adjust. Prebiotics should be worked into your diet gradually, and that’s because of the effects it has on supercharging the microbiota, which are bacteria inside your gut8.
Have specific questions about probiotics and prebiotics related to your health? Don’t hesitate to talk with a healthcare professional.
Are my pre and probiotic early birds or night owls?
If you were to ask a panel of doctors about gut health, we bet that prebiotic and probiotic supplements would be one of the topics of discussion. Many physicians agree that both should be taken together. There’s one thing they may disagree on: the best time of day to take them. Some healthcare professionals recommend taking probiotics on an empty stomach before breakfast because it’s thought that taking them too late can throw off your microorganism’s circadian rhythm. Others doctors advocate taking them at night before bed because your gut isn’t as active. Following the bottle’s instructions is always best if you’re taking supplements.
Quick rundown. We now know of probiotics, living microorganisms found in your gut, and prebiotics, nutrients for healthy bacteria, but are you familiar with postbiotics? Postbiotics are the additional compounds left behind in your gut after prebiotics and probiotics have done their jobs. Postbiotics include vitamins B and K, and antimicrobial peptides9. While researchers don’t completely understand how postbiotics work, studies have linked postbiotics to butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid produced by good bacteria in your digestive tract that helps support energy levels and key functions of the body. Scientists have found that if butyric acid in your colon is unavailable, your bacteria might starve. If it’s present, the good bacteria will multiply. The more fermented foods you eat, the greater the presence of postbiotics.
Postbiotics have some impressive advantages that can benefit your overall health. Postbiotics aren’t hard to find. They can be found in buttermilk, cottage cheese, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, miso soup, and sourdough bread. These items can be found at your local grocery store.
Four tips on how to choose the right pre or probiotic for you.
1. Understand the prebiotic or probiotic supplement – Identify what you are taking the supplements for.
2. Verify the bacteria – You’ll want to pay close attention to the number of bacteria per dose (at least 1 billion colonies recommended), types of bacteria strains used, the strain/brand names studied, and their effectiveness.
3. Know your cultures – Make sure your probiotic contains live, active cultures, which can help you achieve a healthy gut.
4. Check the label – Research the ingredients of probiotics and prebiotics supplements.
Whether you decide to take a pre, pro, or postbiotic, the most critical decision is choosing the fiber food and or supplements that are best for you. You don’t have to settle, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy gut. There are several ways to get pre and probiotics to help address your intestinal health1. Our guts are firmly connected to our bodily makeup. So, it’s important to keep a balanced gut. Your immune function, intestinal health, and overall health can benefit from prebiotic, probiotic and postbiotic support.
1 How to improve your gut health – MD Anderson Center
2 Nutrition and healthy – Mayo Clinic
3 Prebiotics, bone and mineral metabolism – National Library of Medicine
4 Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota – National Library of Medicine
5 Probiotics – Mayo Clinic
6 Soluble vs. insoluble fiber – Mount Sinai
7 Stone Fruits: Growth and Nitrogen and Organic Acid Metabolism in the Fruits and Seeds—A Review – National Library of Medicine
8 What are prebiotics and what do they do – Cleveland Clinic
9 What are postbiotics? Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School
10 The Nutrition Source – Harvard School of Public Health
11 Probiotics and Prebiotics – National Library of Medicine
12 Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What’s the difference? – Cleveland Clinic
13 Prebiotics, probiotics and your health – Mayo Clinic
14 Are Prebiotics important for gut health? – New York Times
15 Probiotics and prebiotics: What you should know – Mayo Clinic
16 Health effects and sources of prebiotic dietary fiber – National Institute of Health
17 Prebiotic: Definition, types, sources mechanism – National Institute of Health
18 Nutrition & Health Info Sheets prebiotics and probiotics – UC Davis Department of Nutrition