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Prebiotics vs probiotics vs postbiotics: Why all three are crucial for gut health

Your microbiome is its own ecosystem teeming with trillions of microorganisms that play an important role in your overall health. Gut health, in particular, affects everything from digestion to sleep to how you feel mentally. With trillions of tiny inhabitants making up your microbiome, maintaining a harmonious balance in the gut is a complicated, ever-changing process—one that’s different for each individual.

Luckily, our bodies are up to the challenge.

Three key players—probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics—are behind a lot of the activity that takes place in a healthy, diverse microbiome.

The role of “biotics”

It’s normal to have both beneficial and adverse bacteria in the body, but prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics help ensure you have more bacteria working for you, rather than against you. These “biotics” are found in certain foods, but their effects extend far beyond digestion. More and more studies are showing the effect they can have on metabolic diseases, mood, and sleep quality.

With so much of our overall health being linked to gut health and the microbiome, it’s little wonder scientists get so excited about these “biotics.” Let’s explore each in more detail.

Probiotics: Friendly bacteria

The best known of the three, probiotics are live microorganisms, primarily bacteria that, when consumed in the right amounts, provide health benefits. They are colonized in the intestines or sourced from foods or the fermentative processes, working alongside our native gut flora to maintain balance.

The most common probiotic strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Some foods, such as Greek yogurt, kimchi, and fermented soybeans, contain probiotics naturally. Other foods have probiotics added to them, such as certain drinks, other yogurts, and cereals. You can also get probiotics in supplement form, like Probionic Plus. (Get more tips on supporting a microbiome-friendly diet here.)

As for the benefits, probiotics bring a lot to the table. Probiotics can help support the healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, which is important for efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients, which is needed to help keep our bodies functioning optimally. Probiotics can also play a role in the gut-brain-connection to help manage mood and support brain function.

Prebiotics: Nourishment for probiotics

Prebiotics are also found in foods, typically non-digestible fibers in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Again, you’ll also find them added to certain yogurts, cereals, and beverages, as well. Don’t look for the term “prebiotic” on food labels though, because it most likely won’t be there. It’ll be listed as a variety of other words instead, such as beta-glucans, chicory fiber, or inulin.

Because we don’t have enzymes to digest these prebiotics, they move through the digestive tract to the intestine instead, where they become food for probiotics. In addition to acting as a fuel source for probiotics, prebiotics may also improve absorption of calcium and magnesium, support digestion, and help support normal, healthy blood sugar levels.

Postbiotics: Beneficial byproducts

Finally, we have the least well known but no less important postbiotics. Postbiotics are the metabolic byproducts of probiotics as they ferment prebiotics in the gut. In other words, when you eat foods rich in prebiotics, the probiotics in your gut consume the indigestible fibers and produce postbiotics. These include short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate, and propionate.

These “biotics” help keep the good bacteria in the gut and boot the bad bacteria out, which is exactly what we want to happen. They also help support healthy metabolism, as well as provide support for immune health.

Teaming up for your health

Probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics all have their individual roles to play, but what truly sets the stage for optimal gut health is what they can do together. By nourishing the beneficial microbes with prebiotics and reaping the rewards of postbiotics, we can cultivate a thriving gut microbiome that supports not only digestion, but also our immune system, metabolic health, and brain function. When you’ve got all three biotics working in your favor, then overall good health is easier to achieve.

If you’re wanting to prioritize getting more probiotics in your diet, consider Unicity Probionic Plus. It contains eleven probiotic strains to support gut health, which are micro-encapsulated so they can pass through the stomach undamaged and exert their full effect in the digestive system. Make sure you’re consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, too. Consult your doctor before making major changes to your diet or lifestyle.

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