Did you know there is a city of microbes thriving inside your gut? And there should be! This internal ecosystem—called your microbiome—is as complex and diverse as the ecosystem of plants and animals living in the city right outside your door. Or even the rainforest. “Although our gut is not as big as the Amazon Forest, and the organisms that it harbours are mere microbes…not tigers and anacondas, it contains many thousands of different microbial species, most of them still unknown to us (EuroScientist, 2019).”
Your microbiome is made up of anything microscopic on and in you, including bacteria (good and bad), parasites (good and bad), and even viruses. Like any bustling city, there are ups and downs, power struggles, communication, trade, even natural disasters (antibiotics and, again, viruses), but there are 3 essential citizens of your microbiome that can help your gut thrive and your body operate optimally as a result. Let’s explore the –biotics—prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics—and how they can benefit you.
You’ve probably heard of probiotics. The term refers to the microbes themselves: the living organisms, mainly beneficial bacteria, already present in your gut. These microscopic helpers “are there to survive, first and foremost…”
“[Probiotics] coevolved inside the human gut to survive. But in doing so, they help us survive along with them. We’re a team.”
- Dr. Jonathan Jacobs, microbiologist and Internal Medicine clinician
Dr. Jacobs reminds us that probiotics also refer to the microbes we consume to replenish and diversify our microbiomes through eating and drinking. But why are probiotics so important to your health?
Science continues to uncover the large impacts the microbiome can have on your body’s health and wellness. Its influence ranges from aiding effective digestion, boosting metabolism, relieving inflammation, and promoting bodily and mental homeostasis. Their impact on the inside is also reflected outside, affecting the health of your skin and hair. The microbiome and the probiotics living there have even been linked to effects on emotional regulation (Leal et al., 2018).
Outside of your brain, your gut has the largest nervous system in your body. (That’s where gut feeling, gut instinct, and the feeling of butterflies in your stomach originate.) By nurturing your microbiome and keeping it in balance to maintain quality communication between your gut and the rest of your body, you can actually improve and better attune to those gut sensations. So then, how can we help our probiotics stay in balance alongside the other two -biotics so that all 3 can best help us?
This is where pre-biotics enter. Prebiotics are commonly referred to as fiber. The exact “fiber” you’ve been told to eat your entire life. There’s also inulin, a dietary fiber, and even non-fiber, naturally occurring polyphenols (found in kombucha) that fall under the prebiotic classification. Prebiotics are what feed your microbiome, so feed it well! It’s relatively simple to incorporate fiber into one’s gut naturally through a well-balanced diet that includes foods like asparagus, onions, wheat, garlic, oats, and soybeans. Feeding our microbiome helps nurture it so it can continue to nurture us from the inside, out. Remember, teamwork!
Then what are postbiotics? Postbiotics are the output of living probiotics as they digest their food (prebiotics) and live their lives in your gut. Postbiotics are important chemicals that have been shown to significantly affect the gut-brain connection and have far-reaching impacts on our metabolism, digestion, mood, sustained energy, immunity, and more (What are postbiotics? 2021). The production of these beneficial postbiotics by your microbiome’s probiotics is what will ultimately move the needle to optimize your wellness.
Homeostasis simply means natural balance. So, how can you assure your -biotics are balanced? For one, consume fermented foods like kombucha, coconut yogurt, and kimchi, which are plentiful with both probiotics and the postbiotics they develop. Keep in mind, not all fermented foods are fermented equally nor are they inherently -biotically balanced. Some bottled Kombuchas like SYNERGY Raw Kombucha are fermented for a full 30 days, while others are fermented for just a few days or not at all. A few days is not enough time for billions of living probiotics to develop and start releasing their powerful postbiotics and beneficial nutrients. There is no substitute for time. As Dr. Michael McCann, physician and researcher, said (and has been saying for two decades since this lecture in 1999):
“Probiotics will be to medicine in the twenty-first century as antibiotics and microbiology were in the twentieth century.”
So, for the quickest, easiest way to introduce these important helpers into your diet and daily routine – choose foods that contain multiple -biotics, like kombucha (Leal et al., 2018).
For our bodies to run at their best, we must consume natural sources of fiber/PREBIOTICS which will nurture the healthy, living PROBIOTICS inside us that are key to producing POSTBIOTICS in the form of beneficial nutrients. Remember, focusing on just one of the -biotics limits your impact on the complex ecosystem that is your microbiome. Holistic health is all about balance. These small, routine adjustments have the power to drive impactful change for your homeostatic health now and into the future.
- EuroScientist. (2019, May 22). The Tropical Rainforest of our gut. EuroScientist journal. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.euroscientist.com/the-tropical-rainforest-of-our-gut/
- Yadav MK, Kumari I, Singh B, Sharma KK, Tiwari SK. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics: Safe options for next-generation therapeutics. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2022 Jan;106(2):505-521.
- Boyajian,J.L.;Ghebretatios, M.; Schaly, S.; Islam, P.; Prakash, S. Microbiome and Human Aging: Probiotic and Prebiotic Potentials in Longevity, Skin Health and Cellular Senescence. Nutrients 2021, 13, 4550.
- Jessica Martínez Leal, Lucía Valenzuela Suárez, Rasu Jayabalan, Joselina Huerta Oros & Anayansi Escalante-Aburto (2018) A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites, CyTA - Journal of Food, 16:1, 390-399, DOI: 10.1080/19476337.2017.1410499
- Masood MI, Qadir MI, Shirazi JH, Khan IU. Beneficial effects of lactic acid bacteria on human beings. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2011;37:91–98.
- McCann M. “Prevention of Food Allergy with Probiotics and Pancreatic Enzymes.” Quote from his lecture at the conference for the International Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Immunology Georgetown University Medical Center. November 1999.
- Tenney, B. (2022, February 22). The Microbiome and Its Role on Human Health with Dr. Jonathan Jacobs. personal.
- What are postbiotics? Cleveland Clinic. (2021, November 22). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/postbiotics/