From Probiotics to Postbiotics: Separating the Best from the Rest
by Hei Laam Cheng, PharmD Candidate
What is the difference between prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics?
Prebiotics are foods or supplements that contain an ingredient that is not digestible, but stimulates the growth or activity of a selective group of bacteria in the colon. They are biological nutrients that are degraded by the gut microflora in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Microorganisms in the GI tract use them as metabolic fuel. They are resistant to the pH of the stomach and cannot be absorbed in the intestinal tract. Some natural prebiotic foods include garlic, onions, chickpeas, asparagus, wheat, and bananas.
Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms that primarily affect the GI tract, which can change the microflora of the host, and depending on the strain, can exert many different health benefits. Some benefits include the inhibition of growth of pathogenic microorganisms, gut barrier reinforcement, toxin neutralization, and reduction of luminal pH in the colon. Some natural foods that contain live microbial cultures include fermented foods. Commercial yogurts contain probiotic microorganisms, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, are able to survive through the digestive tract and still be alive when reaching the intestines. They are also available as dietary supplements, containing multiple different strains and doses. The use of probiotics has been shown to help with preventing and treating atopic dermatitis, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and more.
Postbiotics are metabolic byproducts or non-viable bacteria products from probiotic microorganisms in the host. They are inanimate microorganisms that give the host health benefits and are the waste that is left behind from prebiotics and probiotics. Some examples of postbiotics are vitamin B and vitamin K and antimicrobial peptides, which help slow harmful bacteria growth. The outcome is similar to probiotics, where they help with the immune system, bowel problems, and preventing or treating diarrhea. They are well tolerated, and since they do not contain live organisms, they are easier to store than probiotics and have longer shelf lives.
How to determine if a probiotic is of high quality?
A high quality probiotic is one that is resistant to low pH conditions and is able to survive through the digestive tract, so that they can reach the intestines still alive, has a high number of CFU (colony forming units), contains multiple strains of different bacteria, and able to adhere to epithelial cells and proliferate. Being able to adhere to epithelial cells is important since the longer the probiotic is in the intestines, the longer they can modulate immune function and compete with other harmful organisms. The last quality of a probiotic that makes it high quality is when the specific strain of a probiotic is listed on the bottle. With a specific strain shown, we are able to look up and reference the study that was done to show the effectiveness of it.
What is the difference between GastroActive Daily, GastroActive Intensive, and GastroActive Complete?
All of our KC Pro-Nutrients probiotics are vegetarian/vegan, and exclude wheat, gluten, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, animal and dairy products, ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives. They all use gastro-resistant capsules, which are specifically designed to support the resistance of low pH environments in order to deliver the microorganisms to the small intestines and used to promote a more targeted release. Our capsules are packaged in sealed, nitrogen-purged aluminum blister packs, which protect against heat, moisture, and oxygen, since they can compromise the stability of the probiotics.
GastroActive Daily is a four-strain probiotic with 30 billion CFU per capsule. These are researched strains of beneficial bacteria and have proven health benefits with well established safety. They have shown resistance to low pH conditions, ability to survive the transit through the human GI tract, and excellent adhesion to human epithelial cells. This can be used for everyone who wants to improve their gut health and microflora.
GastroActive Intensive is very similar to our GastroActive Daily probiotic and contains the same four strains, except it contains 100 billion CFU per capsule. This can be used for someone who has experienced a significant change to their gut microbiome due to illness or use of antibiotics.
GastroActive Complete is an 18-strain probiotic that contains 45 billion CFUs per capsule. It contains the same four strains as the GastroActive Daily and GastroActive Intensive, plus 14 other strains to support a healthy gut microbiome. In healthy individuals, the gut microbiome contains a plethora of different microbiota species, so taking a variety of probiotic species and dietary diversity are methods to support healthy microbiomes. All of the other strains are well-researched and were selected for their health benefits. Some of the positive outcomes that have been demonstrated with the other strains include: populating vaginal tissue, reducing levels of E.coli and enterococcus after antibiotic therapy, helping maintain upper respiratory health, maintaining healthy fluid balance, and many more. This can be used for someone who is looking to restore their microbiota and have a diverse GI microbiome.
What happens when you take probiotics every day?
Many studies have shown that the probiotics have shown to decrease the mean whole-gut transit time, which means that they help with constipation. In studies with preschool-age children, it was shown that taking probiotics daily helped with healthy iron status and weight gain. In older adults, it was shown that daily probiotic use significantly increased the beneficial organisms bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Individuals have seen a positive effect in functional GI symptoms. Some have also seen a significant reduction in body mass index, significant improvements in cholesterol and low density-lipoprotein metabolism, and significant decreases in tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6. Probiotics have an extensive list of uses and health benefits when taken daily.
In conclusion, probiotics are important for everyone to improve their gut microflora since they have shown numerous health benefits and especially important for those who have experienced a significant change to their gut microbiome.