You’ve heard of probiotics? But do you know what prebiotics and postbiotics are? Read on to find out what’s the difference between pre, pro and postbiotics. Your gut health depends on it.
Is it possible to supplement your way to gut health?
Probiotic supplements for gastrointestinal health generated over $40 billion in sales worldwide in 2019, and by 2026, that figure is expected to reach nearly $76 billion.
In light of this, are the roughly four million Americans who take probiotic supplements benefitting from them? Is it possible that probiotic capsules and powders, not to mention foods and drinks that contain these supposed health-conference live microorganisms?
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that may improve the portfolio of the gut microbiota. In other words, probiotic supplements are designed to boost the number of friendly microscopic bugs in the gut.
(Microbiota refers to the gut as a home for the microorganisms where as microbiome specifically refers to the microorganisms.)
Having a gut that is host to a plethora of friendly bacteria is believed to offer numerous health benefits, and not just digestion. An improved gut microbiota helps the microbiome flourish and thrive, which in turn may improve several facets of health and wellness, including:
- Skin health
- Immunity (Approximately 75%-80% of immune cells reside within the human gut.)
- Mood (Improved gut health increases neurotransmitter activity and gut-brain communication.)
- Energy levels
- Weight management
- Blood sugar management
But are probiotics really effective? And moreover, is it really probiotics that are responsible for the positive ripple effect that comes from achieving more robust gut health?
Do Probiotic Supplements Work?
To answer the first question, it depends. Some probiotic supplements may help boost the number of friendly microorganisms in the gut. But many probiotics just might be a waste of money.
Why? We answered this question in greater detail in a previous article. But to sum up, it’s mainly because most probiotic supplements are not formulated very well; the friendly bacteria do not survive the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach.
But then there’s also the issue of expecting miracles from a probiotic supplement. If you eat the standard American diet (SAD, arguably the most appropriate acronym in human history) of highly-processed foods devoid of nutrients, popping a probiotic might not be the magic elixir you’re hoping for.
Want More Probiotics In Your Gut? Feed Them With Prebiotics!
When we talk about probiotic supplements helping to colonize the gut with more friendly bacteria, it’s important to understand where exactly in the gut the bacteria should flourish.
The answer is in the colon, aka the large intestine. The five-foot long large intestine, which contains four parts—the ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid colons—is where the overwhelming majority of your gut bacteria should reside.
It’s here in the colon (colons?) that friendly bacteria plays a major role in the digestive process, by helping break down nutrients.
But if you’re not eating a healthy diet, simply taking a probiotic pill may not be enough to improve the health of the gut microbiota.
That’s because probiotics can only colonize in large numbers in the large intestine if they become fertilized with their preferred food source: prebiotic fiber, or simply, prebiotics.
Prebiotics are undigested fiber particles that ferment in the gut. Admittedly, that may not sound very pleasant. And indeed, for some people with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), the consumption of lots of fiber can worsen digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
But for most people, all the health benefits that are promised with the consumption of probiotics actually comes from prebiotic fiber.
Want to know the best sources of prebiotic fiber along with one of the best probiotic supplements that also contains ultrahigh natural vitamin C as well as 20% vitamin A? When you’re done with this article, give this one a glance.
Prebiotic fiber is indigestible plant matter that travels through the digestive tract and ferments in the large intestine (colon). It’s here in the large intestine that your friendly bacteria feast on the fermented fiber.
Great gut health can only be achieved by consuming enough foods with prebiotic fiber. If you eat a SAD diet, for your friendly gut bacteria, it’s like going to a buffet and when they get there, all the food is gone. Your beneficial bacteria can only flourish if they get fertilized by prebiotic fiber.
Postbiotics: The True Source Of Great Gut Health
Let’s sum up: prebiotics are food for probiotics, which are the friendly microorganisms in your gut.
All the positive benefits of having a very healthy gut microbiota (remember: microbiota is like a home for the microbiome, the trillions of bacteria) actually come not from prebiotics or probiotics. Yes, prebiotic fiber is a precursor of a well-colonized gut microbiota. But it’s actually postbiotics that exert the physiological effects.
So what are postbiotics?
After your probiotics gobble up prebiotic fiber, your probiotics, for lack of a better and more uncouth word, excrete (‘poop’) postbiotics. Postbiotics are short-chain fatty acids. Recent studies like this one suggest postbiotics just might be the most critical part of your microbiota.
So all the while you were thinking that probiotics are the most important part of your gut, it’s actually the metabolic byproduct of what your probiotics are eating that are keeping you healthy.
These short-chain fatty acids that are produced by probiotics consuming prebiotics are chemicals that can help repair the lining of the gut. This is an important factor to consider for anybody who has symptoms of leaky gut such as autoimmune disorders, brain fog, chronic fatigue, etc.
Some health supplement companies have realized the potential therapeutic value of postbiotics.
The Difference Between Pre, Pro & Postbiotics … Conclusion
But for most people, consuming a diet full of nutrient-rich superfoods can provide an excellent source of prebiotic fiber. The prebiotics, will in turn nourish your gut’s friendly bacteria, which will produce the chemicals your gut needs for optimal health.
So let’s sum up one last time:
Prebiotics: Indigestible fiber that ferments in the colon; feeds and fertilizes probiotics.
Probiotics: Living, friendly microorganisms that reside mostly in the colon.
Postbiotics: Short-chain fatty acids that are the metabolic result of probiotics eating prebiotics; these chemicals are believed to be responsible for the positive effects that arise from having a healthy gut microbiota.
Consuming a daily serving of SUPERFOOD powder is the easiest way to consume prebiotic fiber. And if you love hot chocolate, COCO LOVE, our vegan-friendly hot chocolate powder with raw cacao and 14 adaptogenic mushrooms are also a source of prebiotics. Finally, there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a very high quality probiotic supplement, like SUPER-C-BIOTIC powder, a high-potency vitamin C powder that contains 5 billion colony-forming-units of dairy-free live bacteria and 20% daily value of vitamin A.