What are they and why are they important? Where do they come from and how do they support my gut health?
With increasing health claims showing up on products throughout the grocery store, it often feels daunting to sort through all of the jargon. Prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics – What are they and why are they important? Where do they come from and how do they support my gut health? Let’s dive in.
Your Microbiome Can Change!
First, let’s talk about what we already know for sure: the billions of microbes living in our gut (remember Microbiome 101?) are critically important to our overall health and play a crucial role in supporting our immune system, mood regulation and energy, heart health, and a host of other functions. These microbes make up our microbiome.
Landmark study recently concluded that identical twins have vastly different microbiomes! What does this mean? We are all unique, even on a microbial level! And while we can’t alter our genetic makeup, our microbiome is not permanent and we can take steps to modify and improve it! (Spoiler: by using pre-, pro-, and postbiotics!)
The Symbiotic Relationship of Pre-, Pro-, & Postbiotics
Prebiotics are the fiber (or food) for the beneficial gut inhabitants. Probiotics need access to these prebiotics to work effectively.
Probiotics are actual good bacteria that can live in your gut, and will hopefully provide us with health benefits.
Postbiotics are the helpful chemicals released from the bacteria that live in your gut when they feed on fiber molecules.
These three work in conjunction with each other, creating a symbiotic relationship within our guts. Probiotics are nourished by prebiotics, which are specific kinds of fiber found in certain plant foods including onions, garlic, leeks, soybeans, and bananas, as well as in honey. These prebiotics (little bits of fiber) take quite a journey to become food for beneficial bacteria. After they’re consumed, prebiotics remain undigested until they reach the gut, where they begin to ferment. This process of fermentation produces short chain fatty acids that feed the beneficial bacteria populating your colon.
And it doesn’t stop there! Prebiotics also inhibit the bad bacteria, making it easier for beneficial bacteria (probiotics) to flourish and release the helpful chemicals (postbiotics) that support positive physiological outcomes.
Where do they come from?
Balanced diets rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fermented foods often provide a healthy amount of pre- and probiotics, without the need to rely on supplements. Want to up the prebiotics in your diet, so that the beneficial bacteria in your gut can thrive? Try increasing your intake of asparagus, dandelion greens, apples, and flax seeds. Good news: even cocoa contains prebiotics!
If you’re looking to add more probiotics into your diet, well, you might see where this is headed-- Fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut contain live bacteria and act as probiotics!
There is a lot going on in our gut - an entire ecosystem of microorganisms, sharing food and energy! Keeping the gut bacteria in balance is vital to overall health and wellbeing, and it starts with diet. Healthy foods create healthy guts, and a happy, healthy YOU! Cheers to that!