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November 13, 2023

Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics: What’s the difference and are they even worth it?

Filed under: Fitness — Tags: — admin @ 11:11 pm

The health food and wellness market is so saturated, it can be hard to know what products to buy, what foods to eat, and what’s all just a giant scam.

One thing that tends to trip people up a lot is probiotic supplements – should you take them as part of your diet?

“Once upon a time, there were just probiotics we had to get our head around. Now there are pre-, pro- and postbiotics, and it can be very confusing,” says dietitian and nutritionist Jaime Rose Chambers.

“However, they all do play a very important role in gut health, as well as our general health. And it’s believed that the combination of the three – known as a tribiotic – is more powerful together than having them individually.”

Here’s everything you need to know.

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Woman taking vitamins

What’s the difference between probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually good bacteria) that feed the beneficial microbes found in our gut. Probiotics populate in the gut and interact with our immune cells, with our brain and have been shown to influence almost every system in the body.

Prebiotics are non-digestible substances – like fibre – that feed and support the growth of those probiotics and other beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Postbiotics are the byproducts of probiotics’ activity in your gut, which can also have positive effects on your health.

In short, probiotics are the good bacteria, prebiotics are their food, and postbiotics are the helpful substances they produce.

“Eating balanced proportions of prebiotics and probiotics keeps your gut flora in optimal health and promotes immunity and optimal digestive function,” says Dr Sonja Coetzee, a GP at InstantScripts.

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Do you need to take a pre-, post- and probiotic?

Though it sounds like a lot, these three things work together to promote healthy gut activity.

All our bodies are different, and many people find that taking biotic supplements can help their gut and their health overall.

To make things easier, a tribiotic supplement is a combination of all three in one hit. 

Which foods are probiotic? 

You don’t necessarily have to take supplements to maintain your gut health.

“Probiotics are living bacteria, found in certain foods or supplements, and provide a wide range of health benefits,” says Dr Coetzee.

Notably, yoghurts, Kefir, kombucha and cottage cheese naturally contain probiotics.

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Other examples include:

  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • kimchi
  • sourdough bread

Which foods are prebiotic?

While many brands sell prebiotic capsules, you can also change up your diet to include more prebiotic foods.

There are certain types of fibre that the microbes in your gut love. They come from plant foods, like oats, golden kiwi, leek and onion, and legumes and lentils.

Why are the gut bacteria beneficial?

Dr Sonja Coetzee tells 9Honey Coach that the microbes found in our guts “play a role in supplying essential nutrients and producing vitamin K and short-chain fatty acids.”

“Short-chain fatty acids are the main nutrient cells lining the colon large intestine. They promote a strong gut barrier and keep out harmful substances, viruses and bacteria.”

They also reduce inflammation, aid in the digestive process, support the immune system, and potentially influence mental well-being.

However, when the amount of bacteria in our gut changes, or its composition changes, they can be potentially harmful to our health.

Coetzee says this can come from antibiotics use, illness, stress, aging or poor diet choices.

That’s why having the right balance of biotics is important – which is why taking pre-, post- and probiotic supplements are particularly helpful for some people.

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Woman Sitting On Sofa Suffering From Stomach Pain

What are the signs you need prebiotics?

“There can be many indicators that you need pre-biotics,” says Coetzee. “Most notably, digestive problems, irregular bowel movements and bloating may be due to an imbalance of the gut bacteria.”

Furthermore, frequent illness may be a sign of a poor immune system. Taking a prebiotic can help promote immunity by the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Also, as serotonin is produced in the gut , anxiety, depression and gut health are all interrelated.

How long should you stay on probiotics?

“There is generally not a time limit on taking probiotics as long as they’re taken in correct doses,” says Dr Coetzee.

“If you’re taking pre-biotics and probiotics regularly and in the correct doses, you should be able to tell if they are working if you have an improvement in symptoms.”

Always, if you experience any adverse effects, it is wise to consult your health practitioner.


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