Apr 12, 2021
The Relationship Between Probiotics and Postbiotics
There is much discussion about the gut microbiome in the health industry and the importance of pre-, pro-, and postbiotics to the continued health of that system. While many people are beginning to understand the complexities of good bacteria and its balance within their bodies, there is still confusion about these three essential contributors. To simplify pre-, pro-, and postbiotics' scientific explanation, it is easier to consider each component in a basic consumption and expulsion pattern: Prebiotics are the food source for probiotics — the good bacteria — which then create postbiotics. The remainder of this post will discuss probiotics' intricacies and the benefits of postbiotics to the body.
When you consume probiotics, you are taking in live bacteria and yeasts to benefit your digestive system. While the natural assumption is that all bacteria are disease-causing and therefore bad for you, probiotics are on the opposite end of the bacterial spectrum. These organisms are good for your health, helping combat the rise of bad bacteria and contribute to your overall well-being.
While good bacteria naturally exist within your body, probiotic supplements or foods, such as yogurt, can help rebuild populations after significant losses. You can lose good gut bacteria when taking antibiotics to fight an infection — medicines do not discriminate between good and bad bacteria.
Probiotics aid in digestive health and promote healthy skin, oral health, urinary and vaginal health, and some research suggests they can alleviate or prevent allergies and colds. The use of probiotic supplements is beneficial in many instances, but as with any dietary supplement, you should consult your doctor before taking anything.
Though not an appealing analogy, postbiotics are essentially the waste products of probiotics. While the idea of a bacteria's waste product aiding in human health does not sound plausible or comfortable, it is true. Postbiotics are responsible for many necessary productions and processes in the body. Carbon substances, organic acids, bacteriocins, and enzymes all come from the natural waste process of the gut's living organisms.
Many of the positive attributes initially thought to begin and end with probiotics are actually the result of postbiotics. While many researchers initially thought that probiotics were responsible for treating and preventing diarrhea, further study revealed that the organisms' metabolic products — their waste — and not their direct interaction with intestinal lining helped treat the condition. Additionally, upon the deeper study of probiotics, researchers found that postbiotics greatly influenced immune system benefits, obesity prevention, inflammation reduction, and antimicrobial properties, in some instances more so than probiotics themselves.
While the understanding of postbiotics is appreciative, it does not negate the significance of the entire ecosystem. Postbiotics need probiotics, and probiotics need prebiotics. You cannot have one without the other. Prebiotics are the nutritional support of the micro-organisms or probiotics, and postbiotics are the precursor's beneficial aftermath. Your gut microbiome, while complex, is dependent on the sustained balance of this fragile ecosystem. With knowledge and dietary supplementation, it is possible to support this system throughout your life, but remember to ask for help from those more knowledgeable.
How do you maintain the delicate balance of your gut microbiome? Do you take supplements, or do you focus on nutrition and diet? Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.