Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics: the Trifecta Approach for Ultimate Gut Health

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By Jill Levy

For many reasons, you can think of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as the center of your health, considering it’s where 70 percent or more of immune cells are housed. A properly functioning GI system/gut is home to a diverse collection of microorganisms, including what we refer to as “beneficial bacteria,” or probiotics.

Probiotics have garnered loads of attention in the health community over the past two decades, but they are not the only beneficial microbes or compounds that benefit your body, such as supporting digestion, elimination, nutrient absorption and a healthy immune system.

A healthy microbiota (or microbiome), which is the large collection of microorganisms that live in symbiosis within the human body, depends on interactions between the three main categories of components that contribute to gastrointestinal balance: prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.

What Is the Trifecta Approach?

Something that makes Ancient Nutrition’s probiotic supplements unique is what we call the “Gut Health Trifecta,” which describes prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics all working together to support gut health.

Healthy microbes found in foods and beverages and the human gut thrive on prebiotics, then naturally create postbiotics, which in turn help regulate the composition of the microbiome. As a team, these organisms “condition” our immune systems so that they know how to better support our overall health.

Here’s more about how each one of these components in the trifecta works:

1. Probiotics

You may already be familiar with probiotics, the “good” (or “friendly”) bacteria that colonize the digestive system and support many functions. One of their most important jobs is to form a connection between the gut microbiota and immune system. By supporting your gut flora, they can also affect how you produce neurotransmitters, which generally impacts your energy, outlook and sleep.

2. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are organic (carbon-based) substances that provide a food source for probiotics. They include hydrocarbons and fiber compounds that are digested by gut microbiota.

They essentially “feed” the healthy microbes in our guts. They help them survive and reproduce through the process of fermentation. Examples of prebiotics are polysaccharides, fructooligosaccharides and galactooligosaccharides.

3. Postbiotics

Also called metabolites, postbiotics are compounds produced as a byproduct of the fermentation process carried out by microorganisms of bacterial and fungal kingdoms. They help to ensure the growth and survival of good bacteria in the gut and contribute to homeostasis (or balance).

Examples of postbiotics include: organic acids, heteroglycans, vitamins, short chain fatty acids, bacteriocins, lipopolysaccharides, carbonic substances and enzymes.

Benefits of Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics Together

The microbiome is an internal ecosystem that benefits us in many ways, including by helping us to absorb nutrients, regulating our appetite and body weight, and more. Simply put, gut health is tied to overall health — and a key to fostering a healthy gut is supporting the growth and benefits of probiotics through and even beyond their entire life cycle.

The combination of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics can help to avoid dysbiosis, a fancy word for the “normal” imbalance of organisms residing within the gastrointestinal tract.

When “unfriendly” organisms are kept in balance by competition from beneficial microbes, i.e. probiotics, this is the opposite of dysbiosis: symbiosis. Symbiosis describes the interdependent relationship among the hundreds of intestinal microbial species living within the human body.

When a healthy gut is in balance, the intestinal flora that we want to thrive have adequate “fuel” (prebiotics) to live off of. Prebiotics pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and remain undigested because the human body can’t fully break them down.

Once prebiotics pass through the small intestine, they reach the colon, where they’re fermented by the gut microflora. Fermentation describes the chemical process by which molecules such as glucose are broken down anaerobically by microorganisms.

By providing a source of fermentation, superfoods found in Ancient Nutrition’s SBO Probiotics, including compounds found in organic seeds and mushrooms, can help to support proper absorption and utilization of healthy microbes.

Microflora in the gut then produce beneficial organic compounds such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid. These typically increase the acidity of the intestine and help to deter non-friendly microorganisms, acting as an internal shield.

What does all of this mean for our health? The Gut Health Trifecta approach can lead to some of the following benefits:

  • Supports healthy digestive function and healthy immune system function
  • Promotes healthy body composition and fat metabolism
  • Helps promote athletic performance and recovery
  • Can help reduce occasional diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating

How to Use

One of the best ways to benefit from the Gut Health Trifecta approach explained above is to consume probiotic supplements with soil-based organisms (SBOs) in a base of fermented botanicals and organic mushrooms in addition to eating a nutrient-dense, high-fiber diet and to follow other healthy lifestyle approaches.

Supplements made with probiotics combined with prebiotics are often called “synbiotics.” Taking these can provide additional benefits beyond standard probiotic supplements because prebiotics support the growth of probiotics.

Ancient Nutrition’s SBO Probiotics are specifically formulated with an organic fermented blend of botanicals and mushrooms that offer prebiotic superfoods to help set the stage for the soil-based organisms (SBOs) along with postbiotics, including polysaccharides, enzymes and organic acids.

See our new line of SBO probiotics here:

Why are probiotic supplements, and specifically SBOs, helpful? Many researchers believe that people living in developed nations in today’s over-sanitized society are no longer exposed to large enough quantities of healthy microorganisms — which are found in dust, soil, air, water and on organically grown foods.

When we supplement with soil-based organisms (SBOs), we help our guts to populate with, and become familiar with, a wider variety of beneficial microbes.

Here are other steps you can take, related to your diet and lifestyle, in order to benefit from the effects of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics:

1. Eat prebiotic and fermented foods daily

Fermented foods naturally feature probiotics and postbiotics, so regularly include such foods (like yogurt, kefir, and cultured veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi) in your diet.

To help probiotic bacteria thrive, be sure to eat enough high-fiber foods, especially those high in prebiotics such as chicory root, dandelion greens, leeks, onions and garlic. Other great sources of fiber include: vegetables, fruits, coconut, avocado, legumes/beans, algae, mushrooms, and sprouted ancient grains.

2. Choose organic foods

Organic produce typically features a natural source of organisms living in the soil. While much of the soil used to grow conventional foods today tends to be sterilized with pesticides and herbicides, which destroys both beneficial and unfriendly bacteria, organically-grown, local produce is one of your best bets for acquiring more microorganisms from your diet.

3. Spend time outdoors

Restore your connection to the soil and reacquaint yourself with nature by doing activities like gardening, swimming in the ocean, playing with pets, lying on the beach, walking on the earth barefoot and hiking in the mountains.

4. Avoid over-sterilizing everything

Today most are using disinfectant dishwashing soap, body soap, hand sanitizers, etc. — but over-washing our food can limit the amount of healthy microbes that we come into contact with.

Jill has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.