pre-, pro- and postbiotics: what is the difference?

pre-, pro- and postbiotics: what is the difference?

At Zirtui, we recognize the critical roles of prebiotics, probiotics, and the latest addition, postbiotics, in fostering a healthy gut and promoting overall longevity. We understand that differentiating between these can be challenging. As a health and longevity-focused brand, we're dedicated to clarifying these concepts for you.


What are prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics precisely? What does the current research say about their health advantages? And how can you incorporate enough of them into your diet? Let’s delve into these questions and simplify the details for you.

Before diving into the world of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics, it’s essential to understand the microbiome. The microbiome consists of a vast array of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, residing throughout your body, particularly in your intestines, known as the gut microbiome. This complex ecosystem plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, such as stimulating the immune system and aiding nutrient absorption.

Each person’s microbiome is unique, and influenced by lifestyle, diet, medications, weight, age, environment, and genetics. An imbalance in gut microbiota has been linked to several health conditions, including gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune diseases, and cardiometabolic conditions. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is vital for overall well-being, and this is where prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics come into play.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that the human body cannot digest. Instead, they serve as food for beneficial bacteria in the gut. According to the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), prebiotics are “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” Essentially, prebiotics help promote the growth and activity of good bacteria in the gut.

Sources of Prebiotics

Prebiotics are found naturally in many plant-based foods. Common sources include:

  • Bananas
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Barley
  • Oats

Additionally, prebiotics such as inulin and oligosaccharides are available as supplements and can be added to probiotic supplements.

Health Benefits of Prebiotics

Consistent consumption of prebiotics offers numerous health benefits:

  • Digestive Health: Prebiotics help alleviate symptoms of digestive discomfort, such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
  • Mental Health: Emerging research suggests a link between gut health and mental well-being, with certain prebiotics potentially reducing anxiety symptoms.
  • Heart Health: Prebiotics may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Weight Management: High-fiber foods can aid in maintaining a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They are often referred to as "good" or "friendly" bacteria because they help maintain a healthy balance of gut microbiota.

Sources of Probiotics

Probiotics are found in various fermented foods and supplements. Common sources include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Sourdough bread

To be considered a true probiotic, a food must contain live and active bacterial cultures in sufficient amounts to confer health benefits.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics offer several health benefits, including:

  • Digestive Health: Certain probiotic strains can help alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as abdominal pain and bloating.
  • Post-Antibiotic Recovery: Probiotics can help restore the balance of gut microbiota following antibiotic use, reducing the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  • Mental Health: Some studies suggest probiotics may improve mental health parameters, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

What Are Postbiotics?

Postbiotics are the byproducts of probiotic bacteria. According to ISAPP, postbiotics are “a preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host.” Unlike probiotics, postbiotics are non-living but still offer significant health benefits. Short-chain-fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, are an example of postbiotics.

Sources of Postbiotics

Postbiotics can be found in fermented foods that contain dead microbes and their metabolites, such as:

  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Kefir
  • Sourdough bread

However, to achieve a consistent and beneficial dose, postbiotics are often available through dietary supplements or foods fortified with postbiotics.

Health Benefits of Postbiotics

Postbiotics offer various health benefits, including:

  • Digestive Health: Postbiotics can help maintain a healthy digestive system and alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • Immune Support: Postbiotics support daily immune health by reducing chronic inflammation and the risk of infection.


Understanding the roles of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics is essential for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Incorporating a variety of these “biotics” into your diet through natural food sources and supplements can significantly improve your overall health and well-being. By nurturing your gut microbiome, you can enjoy better digestive health, enhanced immune function, and even improved mental health. So, make sure to include these beneficial components in your diet for a healthier, happier life.

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