Revitalize Your Gut: How Prebiotics, Probiotics & Postbiotics Work Together

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

August 4, 2023

Revitalize Your Gut: How Prebiotics, Probiotics & Postbiotics Work Together
Have you heard about prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics? These “-biotics” are not related to technology and robotics, but rather are critical team players in your health. They are on the frontlines of your gastrointestinal health, brain health, and overall wellbeing. Healthy “-biotics” deserve your attention!

Prebiotics: The Essential Fuel

Prebiotics act as food for your gut flora in the large intestine. They are types of carbohydrates that resist digestion in the stomach and small intestine as they travel down to the large intestine.

Prebiotics work to stimulate the growth of probiotics by microbial fermentation. Prebiotics and probiotics work together to help maintain the health of your gut microbiome as well as modulate cholesterol metabolism and so much more.

The most studied prebiotics include oligosaccharides such as FOS. Other types of prebiotics include GOS, XOS, inulin, pectin, beta-glucans, and resistant starches, etc.

Prebiotics are found in foods such as asparagus, bananas, barley, chicory, dandelion greens, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, leeks, oats, onions, soybeans, and wheat. Prebiotics feed the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria and inhibit the growth of non-beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics: The Friendly Flora

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and other microbes that naturally live in your body. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are two genres of good bacteria essential to human health.

The largest site of probiotics is in your gastrointestinal system. These beneficial microbes help digestion and influence the function and health of all other tissues in your body.

Probiotics are found in foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, and some cheeses. They are also found in probiotic supplements like Super Dophilus and Vital UT.

Postbiotics: The Healthy Result

The “-biotics” equation is incomplete without a discussion on postbiotics as prebiotics + probiotics = postbiotics. Postbiotics are the byproducts of prebiotics and probiotics in your large intestine that have health benefits. Postbiotics do not contain live microorganisms.

Postbiotics include compounds such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and several others. These compounds are vital for modulating gut health, the gut-brain axis, and immune and inflammatory responses throughout your whole body.

One of the most important SCFAs is butyrate. Butter is the richest source of dietary butyrate.

Butyrate and Gut Lining Integrity

The postbiotic butyrate is so important to gut health that it is considered the preferred energy source for gastrointestinal repair, more so than glutamine. Prebiotic fibers like FOS assist with butyrate production which is critical for daily maintenance and repair of the intestinal tract barrier.

Butyrate and other SCFAs are necessary for mucous production that protects the gut lining and motility. When butyrate levels are inadequate, intestinal lining is more apt to breakdown and develop leaky gut syndrome which increases oxidative stress in the gut and throughout the body.

Additional information may be found in the articles, Healthy Mucosal Barriers Makes for a Healthier You and Leaky Gut Syndrome: More Than Just a Gut Problem

Butyrate and Food Tolerance

Butyrate modulates immune cells like T-regs, which regulate inflammatory responses and immune tolerance to foods. Management of T-regs and intestinal lining integrity is vital to develop and maintain a healthy tolerance to all types of foods.

FOS/prebiotics and butyrate/postbiotics are critical for the development of food tolerance, neurodevelopment, and immune stability in early childhood.

Absorption of Nutrients

Butyrate promotes a lower pH in the colon which helps with absorption of calcium and other minerals. It also helps with the management of sodium and water in the colon which helps bowel consistency, motility, and electrolyte balance.

Other Metabolic Effects

The effects of butyrate and other SCFAs have been found to support activation of brown fat, energy production and homeostasis, mitochondrial function in the liver and brain, appetite and weight control, blood sugar, pancreatic beta cells, and insulin secretion.

Butyrate is also involved with inducing apoptosis, or cell death, of rogue cells in the colon. Butyrate has been found to enhance non-REM sleep quality due to its effects on gut flora, liver metabolism, and central nervous system support.

FOS, Butyrate, and Blood Brain Barrier Integrity

FOS and butyrate have been shown to protect the integrity and regulate the function of your blood brain barrier like it does with the intestinal barriers. These effects either directly or indirectly support your mood, mental sharpness, memory, focus, neurodevelopment, social behaviors, movement and balance, neurotransmitters, and aging well.

Clinical Trials

Here are two recent studies that confirm the beneficial effects of pre-, pro-, and postbiotics.

A recent clinical trial supplemented children ages 2-8 with FOS plus probiotics. After supplementation, there were increased levels of Bifidobacteria and short chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Metabolite levels of serotonin and dopamine were better balanced. Positive effects were seen with behavior, mood, and neurodevelopment.

Results of another recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated the combined benefits of FOS and probiotics in adults. Those who consumed FOS plus probiotics experienced improvements in bowel habits, consistency, comfort, regularity, and decreased gas.

Is Your Diet Helping Your "-biotics"?

FOS and dietary fiber are required to produce short chain fatty acids. Individuals on a restrictive diet such as a keto diet, high protein diet, other low carbohydrate diet, grain-free diets, or the highly processed foods of the Standard American Diet will likely lack adequate fiber and prebiotics and even probiotics. This prevents the natural production of postbiotics and short chain fatty acids.

Intake of FOS and other prebiotics is limited in the American diet compared to other countries due to low dietary fiber intake. Consumption of dietary FOS and other prebiotics is approximately 1-4 grams/day, whereas in European countries, it is 3-11 g/day.

Check out the article Fiber and Your Gut Mucosal Lining for more information.

Supplements to Boost Your Postbiotics

Wellness Resources supplements that support postbiotic production include:

GI & Muscle Helper with FOS, the amino acid glutamine, and NAGs. This combination of nutrients provides prebiotic support that leads to postbiotic production. GI & Muscle Helper works to support gastrointestinal lining integrity and mucosal barrier lubrication. It is a powder with a light, sweet taste and mixes well in water or other beverages.

Super Dophilus is a prebiotic and probiotic supplement. It contains FOS with a hearty blend of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. It can resist stomach acid and travel to the large intestine. It is excellent for children and adults. It is shelf stable for up to 30 days without refrigeration. Keep refrigerated for long-term storage.

Fiber Helper also provides prebiotic support with a blend of psyllium, oat bran, and arabinogalactan fiber that assists the natural production of postbiotics. It may be used with Super Dophilus and GI & Muscle Helper. Fiber Helper is a powder that has a light oat taste and mixes well in water or other beverages.

Introducing FOS into the Diet

FOS is a “short chain” prebiotic fiber that rapidly increases fermentation. This may cause minor gas and bloating as you implement it into your diet. To avoid this reaction, start with small dietary changes and then gradually increase. Individuals with bacterial overgrowth from Klebsiella, E. coli, or some Clostridium species or are fructose intolerant may need to avoid or reduce FOS supplementation or foods.

This is a brief glimpse into some of the benefits of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. The positive effects of these “-biotics” span farther than ever imagined. Stay tuned for more information! Until then, make sure your diet and health routine contain these beneficial “-biotics”!

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