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Prebiotics, Probiotics & Postbiotics

What are they and why would you take them?

So chances are most of you have heard of probiotics, and maybe some have been hearing all about prebiotics, but what in the world is a postbiotic?

Well this is a very simplified explanation of the 3, whilst we won’t go full in depth it will give you an outline of what these 3 do and how they can impact your gut.

Something very important to note is that prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics work in a continuum. Probiotics are living organisms. Prebiotics feed the probiotics and postbiotics are essentially the outcome of probiotics digesting the prebiotics. If you think of it like a garden at a macro level:

Prebiotic = soil and fertiliser

Probiotic = the plant

Postbiotic = the fruit produced by the plant/tree

Probiotics have had their time in the limelight, lots of research has been put in on their effects on our gut microbiome and ultimately our health. We know that specific strains hold specific powers and support specific functions. We also know that these probiotics need to be within a specific range or ratio for a healthy gut to flourish, this can also help prevent the nasty gut bugs from taking over and running rampant. Which can see us with side effects of gut and digestive disturbances – flatulence, food intolerances, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, cramping and further afield – skin problems, fatigue, sluggish, altered metabolism, pain and more.

Prebiotics are fuel for the probiotics and are mostly found as food sources. They are primarily plant based and high in fibre which our probiotics love to eat. Therefore, the food we eat controls what our probiotics eat and the good gut bacteria love to feast on our typical ‘healthy’ foods and the not so good bacteria enjoy eating the typical ‘unhealthy’ foods. This is where diet is super important!! However, for some with a disrupted microbiome balance/ratio eating all the healthy foods and fibre can cause digestive discomfort as they’re not quite ready to eat the type or quantity of fibre. It’s best to take a gradual approach when increasing fibre.

Probiotics are the good bacteria and fungi that help maintain our gut health. They’re sensitive little things and like their environment to be just right – not too much food, not too much of the wrong food, not too stressed, not overfed, not underfed and it goes on. But their actions are what can determine our overall health with far reaching consequences, including skin (eczema, acne, psoriasis), weight, energy, nutrient absorption and so on.

Postbiotics are produced when probiotics consume prebiotics. The most common one we know of and that has been researched the most is butyrate, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that has incredible anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating properties, See the blog post on apples and stewed apples to learn more about butyrate.

Whilst postbiotic supplements are coming onto the market, I would argue you may be better off ensuring you are eating a quality diet, that’s diverse, up to 30-40 different plant foods per week and supplementing with a probiotic if needed (either a multi strain or strain specific, depending on your circumstances) and then your gut probiotics can produce the postbiotics naturally. So essentially seed – put the probiotics in if needed, feed – nourish the good bacteria to allow them to dominate and obtain gut homeostasis and health status and weed – this will prevent the bad bacteria predominating.

In some cases, doing a stool sample and/or investing in a GI mapping to determine the type, quantity and ratio of bacteria, yeasts and fungi making themselves at home can be really beneficial in targeting your treatment appropriately. Especially if you have a long history of gut dysbiosis and all the digestive discomforts. It is possible to get back to trusting your gut and enjoying food again.

Stayed tuned for part 2 - what types of foods and supplements are pre, pro and post biotic?

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