Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Postbiotics - What's The Deal?

Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Postbiotics - What's The Deal?

Scratching your head about postbiotics and the role they play in gut health?

Whether you’re new to the term, or it’s something you’ve already come across, let’s examine the role of postbiotics in your horse's gut health and how to identify the right gut health product to effectively support your horse.

Prebiotics, Probiotics, Postbiotics...

No, they’re not names for the same thing, they’re all different, and they play different roles in the world of gut health.

So, what is a postbiotic? First, let’s understand what it’s not.

A prebiotic is referring to food for the microorganisms (probiotics/ good bugs) in the horse's gut, which promotes the growth of those beneficial microorganisms. Prebiotics support the growth and development of probiotics during fermentation and allow the production of postbiotics. 

A probiotic is referring to live microorganisms like yeast or bacteria that are fed to provide benefit to the animal. Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFU), which indicate the number of viable cells. Generally this should be somewhere in the realm of 10^9 – 10^11 cfu/g.

Probiotics can strengthen the gastrointestinal barrier against infection, lower cholesterol levels, block weight gain, and have an anti-inflammatory effect.  But they need to stay alive during processing, remain live during transport and shelf life, then survive the acidic stomach environment before they reach the horse’s hind gut, as they need to be live in order to have their positive impact. This is why a product with ‘equine probiotics’ might not be as effective as you’d hoped.

In contrast, a postbiotic is referring to fermentation by-products. Postbiotics are generated when you take a live microorganism, put it in an environment it likes, feed it with specific prebiotics, and let it ferment.

The result is all sorts of useful fermentation end products and metabolites that help support the immune system, supports normal gastrointestinal function, support weight management, and may help reduce inflammation.

Essentially, a postbiotic is the outcome of the following formulation:
Prebiotic + Probiotic + Fermentation time = Postbiotic.

So What Does This Mean?

Now that we’ve cleared up the differences, what does this knowledge mean for you?

At Poseidon Animal Health, we’re committed to being informed by new and emerging research into the science of animal gut health.

We use this research in the formulation of our animal gut health products, and we want to empower animal owners and trainers so that they can make informed decisions about how they support their horse’s health.

Because the results of the research into probiotics indicate a lack of bioavailability and efficacy in horses, our products include postbiotics which have already gone through the process of fermentation, and don’t need to be ‘live’ to be effective in the way that probiotics do.

With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about the products you choose for your animal.

If a gut supplement claims to have a probiotic, you should investigate the following:

  • How effective it is and its level of probiotic CFUs over the entire shelf life of the product?
  • What evidence is there that the probiotic survives the acidic stomach, and is still alive when it reaches the gut?
  • Does the probiotic’s efficacy reduce during transport and storage and does the company test for this?
  • Is the probiotic species-specific? Is there evidence to show that this particular strain works in tandem with the current indigenous microbiome that is native to horses.

It is important to ask questions of the companies you’re purchasing from. They should be able to share their evidence and approach with you openly and honestly, and if not, you’ll know they’re not the right choice for you.

If you’d like to know more about postbiotics and their role in our products, we’re always happy to chat. Get in touch via chat now, or email

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