Probiotics, those microscopic, beneficial bacteria, continue to be one of the biggest trends in dietary supplements. Sometimes it seems they’re showing up everywhere: yogurt, drinks, bars, gums, sachets, capsules! Some of the best probiotic formulations are definitely the full potency, refrigerated capsules though. Flora’s refrigerated probiotic line contains a wide spectrum of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, with guaranteed potency at time of manufacture and the end of their shelf life. Probiotic yogurts and drinks and gums simply can’t match these when it comes to providing stable, high potency amounts of probiotic cells to your digestive system.
Part of the success of probiotic supplements can be attributed to an explosion of research and growing awareness of all that they do to support our digestive, immune and overall health but also because, just like superhero movies, they now have their own prequels and sequels. Yes, I’m talking about prebiotics and postbiotics.
Prebiotics are basically anything in your diet that supplies resistant, starchy, fibrous foods for the probiotic bacteria to ferment in your digestive tract. Think fruits, vegetables and grains like bananas, apples, artichokes, sweet potatoes, whole cereal grains, etc. Prebiotics also include polyphenols and cocoa-derived flavanols (great news for dark chocolate and green tea lovers!). Prebiotics encourage the growth of good bacteria, including your probiotic Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species, and so help to reduce levels of pathogenic bacteria.
Postbiotics are the compounds that probiotics produce. These include things like the short-chain fatty acids made via fermentation of fiber but can also include vitamins, enzymes and neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. Basically, having an abundance of prebiotic foods in your diet plus taking a high potency, refrigerated probiotic is the best combination to ensure an abundance of postbiotic compounds in your digestive system.
So why are postbiotics an important part of this equation? Postbiotics like neurotransmitters and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) seem to have important effects on our circadian rhythms. This means they affect our mood, our sleep and our metabolism, or cycle of hunger/feeling sated. One of the amazing things coming out of research on pre, pro and postbiotics is that there is this giant feedback loop between what we eat, what our metabolic health is like, how well we are sleeping and our overall mood. Imbalance in these areas can result in imbalance in our microbiome – in the populations of good bacteria – and this can lead to a vicious cycle of worsening outcomes. Depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and insomnia can have roots in whether our microbiome is healthy or not.
Increasing fiber, like inulin from burdock root, leads to increases in Bifidobacteria, which leads to increases in SCFAs like butyric acid, which supports our overall metabolic and immune health. It turns out that gut bacteria have their own daily rhythms, just like we do. So, our eating habits, metabolism and sleep patterns will impact them and vice-versa. We’re kind of like roommates after all.
When our daily circadian rhythms are disrupted, whether it be due to travel and jet lag, shift work, an all-nighter at the clubs or poor eating habits, it affects our microbiome’s circadian rhythms and their ability to help digest our food, create SCFAs and maintain stable populations of good bacteria. Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, depression, and obesity are higher in shift workers and frequent flyers with jet lag. Inflammation from gut biota disruption in the gut and reduced postbiotic production may be one of the reasons why.
Conversely, taking a good, refrigerated probiotic formula while increasing our fiber and prebiotic intake can help to re-balance our metabolism, relieve our insomnia, and improve our overall mood. It’s all a feedback loop but we can influence it with positive choices.
I’ll end with a quote from the research authors in this area of study who put it succinctly:
“…circadian misalignment and sleep loss in humans are associated with dysbiosis and that the resulting microbiota configurations may contribute to the occurrence of metabolic imbalances. The reduction of an individual's sleep time or the disruptions of host circadian rhythms will lead to a physiological stress response and change the host's normal intestinal microbiota. Furthermore, these changes will cause host inflammatory reactions, metabolic disorders, and impaired immune function. This process will also change the metabolism of neurotransmitters and cause nervous system dysfunction. The individual will then experience sleep problems or psychiatric symptoms, which ultimately initiate a vicious cycle.”
So if you are feeling metabolically sluggish, down in the dumps, or sleeping poorly and could use another lifehack in your tool kit of self-care, try including more prebiotic fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet (or start adding a scoop of our Beyond Greens as an easy to way to get 2 servings at once) along with one of our age specific, refrigerated probiotic formulas. This will naturally increase postbiotic production of all those good metabolites that support balance in our daily rhythms.
Flora is offering you a 15% savings on Refrigerated Probiotics right now, simply apply the code PROBIOTICS15 at checkout.
Robert Dadd is a Master Herbalist (Dominion Herbal College) with a BA in Communications from Simon Fraser University. His areas of research include adaptogens, probiotics, and essential fatty acids. He is currently the Product Information Supervisor for Flora Manufacturing and Distributing.