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What is a Postbiotic?

We hear much these days about how important our microbiota is to our health.

It’s a very active area of research.

Scientists have found that the microbes that make up our microbiota benefit us in many ways, including helping to digest our food, regulating our immune system, and protecting us from disease-causing microbes.

We also hear a lot about probiotics, which are microorganisms shown to confer health benefits when they are administered alive.

But researchers are now finding that some microbes that are not alive can also provide health benefits.

“Postbiotics” is a term for formulations that contain inactivated microorganisms, either whole or in fragments.

The term postbiotic is derived from “biotic”, meaning living things, and “post”, meaning after. So ‘post-biotic’ means ‘after life’.

The scientific definition of postbiotics is “a preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host”.

To make a postbiotic, you must start with a live microorganism, such as a bacterium or yeast.

That microorganism might be a proven probiotic, but it doesn’t have to be.

Next, inactivate that microbe. The inactivation step may be heat, UV light, sonication, or any deliberate treatment that inactivates the microbe.

The inactivation step may also break up the microbial cells into cell fragments, such as bacterial cell walls or other cell structures.

In addition to inactivated microbial cells, postbiotics may also contain products from cell growth, such as lactic or acetic acid, bacteriocins, or enzymes.

However, if these products from cell growth are purified from the inactivated cells – such as microbe-derived short chain fatty acids – they are not postbiotics, as they have their own chemical names.

Cells or cell fragments must be present as well.

Once produced, the postbiotic preparation needs to be rigorously tested and shown to have a health benefit in humans or other target hosts.

Examples of commercial postbiotics, which must be shown deliver a health benefit,
include heat-treated fermented infant formulas, heat-treated lactobacilli to treat diarrhea and some yeast products used in animal feed.

And similar to probiotics, postbiotics may impact body sites other than the gut, such as the vaginal tract or skin.

Although research on postbiotics is still fairly new and limited, the inactivated components of living microbes may in fact be partially responsible for some of the health benefits we attribute to probiotics, such as development and regulation of the immune system and their support of a healthy microbiota.

Scientists have also learned that some structures on the surfaces of dead microbes have the ability to interact with human cells and impact immune function.

They continue to study the mechanisms of action for postbiotics, to learn when an inactivated microbe is able to confer a health effect.

Further research into postbiotics will unveil new light on the relationship between humans and the symbiotic microbes that call our bodies home.

Please see accompanying information at or ask for recommendations by your doctor or healthcare provider.

What is a Probiotic?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been shown to provide health benefits.

When we consume probiotics, they enter our digestive tract where trillions of other microbes live.

This collection of microbes is called your gut microbiota, and like a fingerprint, no two gut microbiotas are the same.

The vast majority of these microbes help your body function properly, performing a number of beneficial physiological functions.

They help extract vital nutrients from food you can’t digest yourself.

They educate your immune system.

They can improve the integrity of your intestinal barrier.

They even influence your mental health.

When you take a probiotic, you are introducing good bacteria into your digestive tract which can promote these beneficial microbial activities and limit the overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Probiotics interact with our resident microbes, producing health-promoting metabolites as they travel through our gut.

And although probiotics are few in number relative to our gut microbiota, and they typically don’t stick around for long,…

…studies show that probiotics can support digestive health, immune health, and beyond, using many of the same mechanisms that our gut microbiota use.

Probiotics are widely available as supplements and are present in a number of foods, especially some yogurts and fermented milks.

Most often, commercial probiotics are from a few microbial groups, such as the genus Lactobacillus or the genus Bifidobacterium.

Each probiotic should be described by a genus and species name and then even more specifically by a strain designation.

Including probiotics in your daily diet can encourage the activities of the friendly bacteria in your gut.
And may improve several aspects of your health.

If you’re interested in the health benefits that probiotics may provide, check out the ISAPP videos: “Are All Probiotics the Same?” and “Health Benefits of Probiotics.”

And for further questions, helpful guides are available at

Ask your healthcare provider for probiotic recommendations based on your specific health needs.

Please refer to for additional information, or ask your doctor or healthcare provider.

NOTE: The ISAPP board of directors developed this video to accurately represent current science. Industry had no control over final content.

What is a Prebiotic?

The microbiota: a complex community of microbes colonizing the human body.

Most of these microbes live in your digestive tract, especially the colon, with trillions of bacterial cells residing there.

Each of us has a unique collection of microbes that greatly impact our health through immune function, metabolism, and nutrition.

Our resident microbes may also protect us from harmful microbes that we may encounter.

So it’s important to encourage the presence of the helpful microbes that call our bodies home.

Prebiotics can help!

Most prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that are used by the beneficial microbes in your intestine.

In other words, prebiotics are food for the good bacteria in your body: including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and other resident microbes.

Most prebiotics are dietary fibers, but it’s important to note that not all dietary fibers are prebiotics.

Prebiotics can be found – although at low levels – in foods such as whole grains, beans, onions, chicory root, garlic and artichokes.

Prebiotics are also available in more concentrated forms.

They can be isolated from chicory root and also created from linking sugar building blocks into more complex carbohydrates.

Increasing your intake of prebiotics may boost the number of good bacteria in your gut and has the potential to:

Promote healthy digestion,

support the body’s natural defenses,

improve mineral absorption,

and help regulate your desire to eat, your energy balance, and your glucose metabolism.

Prebiotic supplements ­ or foods with added prebiotic – are an effective means to increase your daily intake.

You should try to get about 3-5 g each day of prebiotics.

And since some fiber-rich foods also contain prebiotics, if you increase fiber-rich foods, you’ll also increase your prebiotic intake.

However, the word “prebiotic” is seldom used on labels so it can be difficult to determine if prebiotics are actually present.

Instead, look for the actual names of the prebiotics, such as:
• Galacto-oligosaccharides or GOS
• Fructo-oligosaccharides or FOS
• Oligofructose or OF
• Chicory root or chicory fiber
• and Inulin

Good bacteria love these prebiotic fibers.

So do yourself, and your microbiota, a favor. Eat plenty of fiber, including prebiotics.

NOTE: The ISAPP board of directors developed this video to accurately represent current science. Industry had no control over final content.

What are Fermented Foods?

Fermented foods are everywhere.

And they’re getting a lot of attention from the scientific community for their potential health benefits.

Research suggests that fermented foods may improve your immune system and may reduce risk of some metabolic diseases that are influenced by diet.

A fermented food or beverage is a food transformed by the growth and metabolic activities of microbes – such as bacteria, yeast and even some molds.

More technically speaking, fermented foods are made through desired microbial growth and enzymatic conversions of food components.

For example, yogurt is a fermented food made from milk.

During yogurt fermentation, lactic acid-producing bacteria grow on the sugars and other nutrients in milk.

As they multiply, the bacteria produce compounds that change the flavor, texture, and nutrients in the milk to give us what we know as yogurt.

Other foods, such as fresh kimchi, most cheeses, and sauerkraut are also made by fermentation with living cultures.

When you eat these foods, live microbes travel through your digestive tract. The introduced microbes can interact with your cells and support your intestinal microbiota – the trillions of bacteria that naturally exist in your gut.

The microbes from fermented foods can also help support your healthy immune function and metabolism.

A look back at human history reveals that people used to encounter a much greater number and variety of microbes — in their food and from their environment.

Fermented foods, which are part of traditional diets around the world, contributed to early human exposure to microbes.

Some modern practices, which have played an important role in preventing acute illness and fighting infections, have inadvertently reduced our exposure to microbes and may be leading to a poor community of bacteria in the intestinal microbiota.

Fermented foods containing living cultures safely introduce more of these microbes to our digestive tracts.

In this way, fermented foods may mimic some of the benefits of probiotics.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit.

However, it is important to note that although many fermented foods contain live microorganisms, they may not meet the minimum criteria to be classified as probiotics.

Not all fermented foods have been studied and shown to provide a health benefit.

And not all fermented foods contain live cultures.

Certain fermented foods such as sourdough bread or soy sauce are processed after they are made.

Living cultures cannot survive certain processing so although still yummy, these foods are not a source of live microbes.

To ensure that the fermented foods you eat contain helpful microbes, look for foods that say “contains live cultures” on the label. Or contact the manufacturer directly.

Fermentation, in addition to providing those helpful microbes to our intestines…

may also improve food taste, texture and digestibility,
increase concentrations of vitamins and bioactive compounds in foods,
reduce or even remove toxic nutrients in raw foods,
and increase food safety and shelf-life.

The bottom line? Naturally fermented foods are definitely worth incorporating into your daily diet.

Ask your healthcare provider for probiotic recommendations based on your specific health needs.

NOTE: The ISAPP board of directors developed this video to accurately represent current science. Industry had no control over final content.

Are all probiotics the same?

There are many probiotic supplements and foods available to consumers today.

But it’s important to keep in mind that not all probiotic products are the same.

Different products contain different probiotic microbes, which have specific characteristics and health benefits.

One key way probiotics differ from each other is that their outsides are different. This prompts distinct responses from our digestive and immune systems.

Scientists classify probiotics the same way they classify all living things, by genus and species.

For example, your dog’s genus is Canis and its species is Lupis.

Two common probiotic microbes are Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis.

Probiotics are further defined by their strain.

Just like distinct breeds of dogs can be very different from one another, distinct strains of the same genus and species of a probiotic can differ in significant ways.

If a specific strain of a probiotic supports your immune system, that doesn’t necessarily mean that another strain of probiotic would have the same effect.

Another difference among probiotic products is how much evidence exists for the benefits they confer.

Some probiotics are backed by several good quality studies.

While for others, little is known.

Scientists are still working to figure out exactly how different probiotics work.

The best recommendation is to choose a product that has been tested for the particular benefit you are looking for.

You can find information on the evidence of health benefits at

Probiotic products may also differ by the number of strains in the product or by the amount of probiotic delivered, as indicated by colony forming units or CFU.

This is a measure of how many live probiotics are in a product. Typically, probiotic products deliver between 100 million and 50 billion or more CFU per dose.

Not all probiotics require the same dosage to be effective.

A product with a larger dose does not mean that it will be more effective.

And a product with lots of strains isn’t necessarily better than a product with fewer strains.

The level in the product should match the level shown in studies to provide a health benefit.

It’s important for you to evaluate the differences between probiotics and make an educated decision on which product will work best for you.

Ask your healthcare provider for probiotic recommendations based on your specific health needs.

Please refer to for additional information, or ask your doctor or healthcare provider.

NOTE: The ISAPP board of directors developed this video to accurately represent current science. Industry had no control over final content.

How to choose a probiotic

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits.

But with such an abundance of probiotic products available today, determining the right probiotic for you can feel a bit overwhelming.

So how do you choose?

Not all probiotics are the same. They contain different strains which may be backed by different levels of scientific evidence for health benefits.

Different probiotic strains have different benefits—ranging from improving aspects of intestinal function to helping you fight off a cold.

When choosing a probiotic type, it’s most important to use a product backed by scientific evidence for the health benefits you want.

See videos and infographics that describe the evidence of health benefits at

We’re all unique individuals. We all have different genes, diets and resident microbes. So each person may respond to a probiotic differently.

Try a product for about a month. If you don’t see the benefit you’re looking for, perhaps it’s not the right one for you.

Probiotics are most commonly available in dietary supplements and some foods.

Yogurts, fermented milks and a few other food products may contain probiotics.

Just be sure to check the label for names of the probiotics.

Remember that probiotics need to stay alive to stay effective. Take notice of how the product needs to be stored.

Probiotic foods and even some supplements may require refrigeration.

While other probiotic supplements may offer the convenience of being stable at room temperature.
When choosing a probiotic, you’ll want to buy a product that’s backed by science and made by a reputable company.

Responsible probiotic manufacturers will list the genus, species and strain of the product, as well as the potency of the product to expect through the end of its shelf life.

Also, keep an eye out for the contact information where you can report problems or request more information on the product.

Ask your healthcare provider for probiotic recommendations based on your specific health needs.

Please refer to for additional information, or ask your doctor or healthcare provider.

NOTE: The ISAPP board of directors developed this video to accurately represent current science. Industry had no control over final content.

Health benefits of probiotics

The health benefits of probiotics are actively under investigation. There’s still much we need to learn.

But let’s look at what we know so far.

Probiotics are commonly associated with two main health targets: digestive health and immune health.

Certain probiotics have been shown to improve some everyday digestive symptoms such as occasional constipation, diarrhea or bloating.

Other probiotics can keep harmful microorganisms in check, aid in the digestion of lactose and help reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Antibiotics kill both the bad and good bacteria in your gut, so doctors may recommend probiotics after antibiotics in order to help support the recovery of your digestive tract.

Some probiotics may help reduce recurrences of vaginal infections.

And others may improve heart health by reducing cholesterol.

Infants may experience specific benefits from probiotics.

The introduced good bacteria can help reduce crying time and symptoms in babies with colic may help prevent eczema in infants, may help treat acute pediatric diarrhea, and may prevent a serious medical condition called necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.

Scientists are currently exploring other potential ways probiotics benefit our health.

Preliminary studies suggest that some probiotics may improve psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

This may be achieved through the gut-brain connection, which links the activities of our gut microbiota with our psychological health.

But remember, we’re still at a fairly early stage in this research.

In the future, we hope to better understand if probiotics can prevent or repair disturbances to your colonizing microbiota, an exciting strategy to help alleviate problems that a disrupted microbiota might cause.

Not all probiotics are the same. And no one probiotic strain or combination of strains will have all the effects described here.

When choosing a probiotic, look for one that has been studied for the specific health benefits you need.

Ask your healthcare provider for probiotic recommendations based on your specific health needs.

Please refer to for additional information, or ask your doctor or healthcare provider.

NOTE: The ISAPP board of directors developed this video to accurately represent current science. Industry had no control over final content.

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