Gut health was huge in 2018 and seems like it won’t be slowing down as we roll into 2019. As a result, probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods are popping up everywhere. Lately, you may have even heard of something called “Postbiotics”. When it comes down to it, all of these supplements have the same end goal: to enrich, maintain and feed our healthy gut bacteria housed in our microbiome. However, what is the difference between all of these?
We are born with trillions of gut bacteria lining our digestive tract, and these little guys are necessary to survive. Historically, we obtained bacteria from our foods which were either grown in nutrient-rich soil or fermented. Due to poor agriculture practices today, we aren’t getting the same kinds of bacteria into our system as we once did. Our society’s overuse of antibiotics also isn’t helping; they kill off our beneficial gut bacteria. Because of this, some people need to take additional supplements to ensure a thriving microbiome.
Prebiotics are digestive fibers found in fruits and vegetables. They pass through our stomach and small intestine undigested. They traveled into our large intestine where they are fermented and used as food for the trillions of bacteria that live there.
Probiotics are bacteria, living or deactivated. These supplements are comprised of good bacteria, and we take them to prevent the over colonization of harmful bacteria in our guts. The deactivated bacteria allows for the storage of the probiotics to last longer than living bacteria.
Postbiotics are the byproducts of the fermentation process that the bacteria undergo. When probiotics feed on certain kinds of fibers, probiotics, there is a waste left behind that is beneficial to regulating the microbiome. You may be thinking, how could a waste product be helpful to your gut? The research is still emerging, but studies suggest that postbiotics play a role in defending against pathogens and helping our immune systems adapt to any changes in our gut composition.
The flow of the system goes: probiotics feed probiotics, and postbiotics are the beneficial waste products. It’s as simple as that! But not really, because there is still so much research to do on the matter. For now, though, we’ll stick to that simplified process. Sources of these different “Biotics.”
Sources of these supplements
Prebiotics are, unfortunately, in less-than-appetizing foods. For many people looking to up their intake of probiotics, they take a quality supplement. For those with a keener interest in a more natural method, prebiotic-rich foods include:
Probiotic supplements are everywhere nowadays. If you’re going to take them, make sure to buy from a quality brand and not the mass-produced brands out in drugstores. Probiotics are living organisms that can easily die. The bacteria must stand the manufacturing, delivery, shelf-life, and digestive process. If quality testing isn’t conducted, your probiotics could be dead before they even reach your mouth. Spend a bit more money, and time, finding a great brand that ensures the quality of their product.
An alternative to supplements is eating probiotic-rich foods such as:
Yogurt (watch out for the high-sugar kind)
Postbiotic supplements aren’t something you can buy — seeing as they are a result of a chemical process. What you can do is naturally increase your intake of foods rich in both prebiotic and probiotics such as:
Apple Cider Vinegar
The microbiome is tricky for some people. Simply using these different supplements won’t necessarily be the answer to all of your digestive woes. With that said, talk to a healthcare professional to see what they think. Do your research on specifics that could help you. Make sure to take into account lifestyle changes that could also be beneficial to your problems. And my final thought: don’t fix what isn’t broken. If you have regular bowel movements and feel great, there is no reason to take these supplements. When it comes to the balance of your microbiome, there can be too much of a good thing.