Sharon Gerdes
Sharon Gerdes is a Certified Food Scientist and author who writes extensively about dairy’s role in health and wellness. Learn more at

There is a growing awareness by consumers that consuming the various “biotics” cultivates a healthy microbiome, and that gut health impacts overall health. Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria were discovered in the late 1800s. The term probiotics was first coined in 1965, and prebiotics were defined in 1995.

In 2019, the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) developed a consensus statement on the definition and scope of “postbiotics,” which is “a preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confer a health benefit on the host.”

Cargill’s EpiCor postbiotic is made using baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) that goes through a natural fermentation process to create a unique fingerprint of metabolites. 

“More than a dozen published studies, including multiple human clinical trials, show that EpiCor postbiotic supports the gut microbiome, immune health, and nasal comfort,” says Justin Green, Ph.D., director of scientific affairs for Cargill’s health technologies business. “Probiotics are inherently less stable than the metabolites in postbiotics because they must remain alive — from processing and packaging until they reach the consumer’s gut.”

Potential applications of this postbiotic include dairy yogurt, chocolate pudding, and chocolate milk.

Microbiome health

According to the National Institutes of Health, the microbiome is the collection of all microbes, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside of us. While the skin and mouth have separate microbiomes, most of current health focus is on the gut microbiome.

Shaping the microbiome begins at birth. Over time, the microbiome evolves, with diet, antibiotics, stress, and even drinking water altering our microbiomes. A higher diversity is the hallmark of a healthy gut microbiome, and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is critical to overall health from cradle to grave.

The dairy industry has long touted the presence of probiotics and prebiotics in its products, and a few companies are beginning to link the presence of these components to the health of the microbiome. 

Good Culture probiotic smoothies contain the BB12 strain. It is clinically proven to rebalance gut flora and help the microbiome, leading to overall improved gut health, as well as boost overall immunity by increasing the body’s resistance to common respiratory infections. 

Pillars drinkable Greek yogurt features proprietary prebiotic fiber, which helps stimulate the gut and microbiome to better absorb the probiotic yogurt cultures. 

According to the website for Gut Microbiota for Health by ESNM (European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility), a more diverse diet yields a more diverse microbiota. The website suggest a weekly target of 30 different plant-based foods (including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds), which are packed with naturally occurring prebiotics to nourish the gut microbiota.

Carla Hunnicutt, LDN, CNS, and a weight loss coach for Cōpare, offers additional suggestions. 

“Probiotics and probiotic-rich foods must be consumed on an ongoing basis; probiotics do not take up permanent residence in the gut,” she says. “Make sure to hydrate adequately and consume plenty of fiber, including fiber in the form of prebiotics, to feed the good bacteria. Probiotics can be found in plain yogurt, plain kefir, certain brands of cottage cheese (for example, Nancy’s, Good Culture), and some cheeses.” 

For a healthy microbiome, Hunnicutt recommends selecting cheeses that have been aged but not heated afterward (such as Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, provolone, edam, and Gruyere), as well as consuming unsweetened yogurt and adding low-glycemic fruits such as berries.

Biotic benefits

Research continues to document unique benefits of probiotics. Originally sourced from Taiwanese kimchi, an L. plantarum probiotic strain — formulated to address athletes' health, performance, and endurance — has been clinically studied to show an increase in exercise endurance.

Recent studies suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on mental health, with some studies finding that nearly 50% of the population experienced symptoms of depression. 

“An earlier (2017) randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial on 423 pregnant women (recruited at 14-16 weeks gestation) found that women receiving NZMP’s LactoB HN001 probiotic strain had significantly lower postnatal depression scores,” says Marshall Fong, senior global marketing manager, active living, NZMP.

The benefits that can be conferred by “biotics” are far-reaching and include lactose tolerance, immune support, reduction in antibiotic usage, shorter and fewer illnesses, gut health, weight loss, reduced hypertension, improved blood lipid profiles, skin health, improved mood and affect, dental health and reduced abdominal pain. 

Sharon Gerdes is a Certified Food Scientist and author who writes extensively about dairy’s role in health and wellness. Learn more at