Gut Health & Probiotic Supplementation 

Probiotics? Prebiotics? Synbiotics? Postbiotics? These terms are everywhere & it feels like a different type of “biotic” is released every other day! It can be overwhelming seeing these different but similar terms frequently talked about online. In today’s post we will be discussing what each of these terms mean, and if all the hype that surrounds them is worth it.  

Let’s start with prebiotics. Prebiotics are typically abundant in foods that are high in fiber. Their purpose is to positively influence gut diversity – which if you can recall from our previous posts – gut diversity is what we aim to have! Some foods that are rich in prebiotics include bananas, onion, garlic, & whole grains. Prebiotics are also available to purchase in supplement form. Next, we will focus on probiotics. Probiotics are living, active cultures that promote gut diversity. They are present in food items such as yogurt but can also be found in supplement form. We need both prebiotics & probiotics in our diets to promote gut diversity. For example, think of a garden and the most basic things it needs to flourish – soil, fertilizer, seeds, & water. Think of prebiotics as soil & fertilizer and think of probiotics as seeds & water. When you put those things together – eventually you will have a flourishing garden! Meaning – you need both prebiotics & probiotics to have a flourishing microbiome.  

Some newer terms that have been around lately are synbiotics & postbiotics. Synbiotics are simply a combination of both prebiotics & probiotics – nothing too complicated there. You would mainly see this term on dietary supplements, not so much on food products. Postbiotics are a bit more complicated – they are the remnants of digestion from prebiotics & probiotics. Examples of postbiotics are vitamins, such as B & K, amino acids (building blocks of protein), & short chain fatty acids – which feed healthy gut bacteria. 

Now, the million-dollar question – is it worth it to supplement any of these biotics? The short answer is maybe. The literature isn’t quite there yet to make fully sound recommendations. The evidence for efficacy continues to be conflicting. The good news is we are getting much closer to narrowing down specific strains of these biotics for specific GI issues. The other good news is that if you do decide to supplement these – they won’t do you any kind of serious harm. The worst that would happen is a bit of GI upset.  

When it comes to these guys – there is MUCH more we can talk about. Stay tuned for our gut health class to learn more! 

-Alex Grbcich, MS, RD, LD, CPT

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