By now you probably understand the importance of gut health — after all, a healthy gut is the foundation for other bodily health. But you might be feeling overwhelmed by the world of pre, post, and probiotics. In this article we’re going to explore the difference between postbiotics and prebiotics, and hopefully that will help you understand the importance of both. All of the biotics are part of this equation: prebiotics feed probiotics, who then produce postbiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria in the human gut. They can occur naturally or can be found in supplements. In terms of the biotic equation, probiotics are the “workers.” They use prebiotics as fuel, to then create metabolites which support your health.
What Are Postbiotics?
Postbiotics, in simple terms, are the “beneficial molecules” that probiotic bacteria produce. They are sometimes referred to as the “waste” of probiotics. But they are not waste in the traditional sense of the word, because they have many important functions for boosting gut health.
Some research suggests that many of the benefits we have always attributed to probiotics are actually the work of postbiotics. Furthermore, postbiotics can create a base for the processing of prebiotics, ensuring a “healthy prebiotic population.” It is possible to produce postbiotics in labs and use them for therapeutic processes, delivered through pills and direct application.
The benefits of postbiotics include lowering blood sugar, preventing obesity, supporting the immune system, and reducing inflammation.
Natural Ways to Get Pro and Postbiotics
There are many foods that naturally contain both pro and postbiotics. There is usually overlap, since the consumption of probiotics leads to the creation of postbiotics. Here are some of the best foods for increasing postbiotics in the gut:
Yogurt is a great way to get probiotics. Eating yogurt has many health benefits, such as improved bone health and helping with high blood pressure. Some doctors even recommend that children eat yogurt to reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotics. Yogurt can also relieve symptoms of IBS. When buying yogurt with the intention of getting probiotics, it is important to make sure that you choose yogurt with active or live cultures. This is because some processing techniques kill the live bacteria.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk. These grains are cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. Did you know that the word “kefir” comes from the Turkish word “keyif,” which translates to “feeling good after eating?” Kefir can improve bone health and digestive problems and can even protect against infection. It is generally well-tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant.
When finely shredded cabbage is fermented by lactic acid bacteria, the result is sauerkraut. It is a common side dish with a sour and salty taste. It contains plenty of probiotics, and is also rich in fiber. When shopping for sauerkraut, make sure to check that it is unpasteurized. Pasteurization kills the live or active bacteria, so you won’t reap all the benefits.
Tempeh, a fermented soybean product, has an earthy flavor that people describe as similar to a mushroom. Many vegetarians eat tempeh as a high-protein substitute for meat. Even if you are not a vegetarian, consider adding tempeh to your diet for the benefits of probiotics.
Kimchi is a Korean side dish that is fermented, and typically has a spicy flavor. The main ingredient is typically cabbage, and it is flavored with seasonings like red chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, scallion, and salt. It contains lots of vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, riboflavin, and iron.
Miso, a Japanese seasoning, is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (a type of fungus). You’ve probably heard of miso soup, which is a popular breakfast food in Japan. Miso has lots of protein and fiber, as well as vitamin K, manganese, and copper.
Kombucha has grown a lot in popularity over the last several years. It is a fermented black or green tea drink that is fermented by colonies of bacteria and yeast. It is originally from Asia, and has many potential health benefits.
Pickles are cucumbers pickled in salt and water. Along with being a great low-calorie snack, they are also a good source of vitamin K, a nutrient that is essential for blood clotting. The important things to keep in mind about pickles are that they can be high in sodium, and that pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.
Traditional buttermilk is the liquid leftover from making butter. It is mainly consumed in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The cultured buttermilk found in American supermarkets generally doesn’t have the probiotic benefits you may be looking for. Traditional buttermilk also contains vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorus.
Like tempeh and miso, natto is also a fermented soybean product. It is a “staple” in Japanese kitchens, and has a distinctive smell and strong flavor. It is rich in protein, and has been suggested to prevent osteoporosis.
- Some cheeses
When buying cheese, look at the food labels to see if it contains live and active cultures. In Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese, good bacteria are able to survive the aging process. Cheese is nutritious and a good source of protein, and when consumed moderately, it may lower the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to naturally get probiotics. But there is always the option to introduce supplements as well if you want to ensure you’re getting the right amount.
If you’d like to read more about gut health, check out some of Dr. Emil’s blog posts for all you need to know about the best supplements for a healthy gut.
Once you start taking care of your gut, you will surely be feeling a lot better!