If you are a health-conscious individual who has researched the amazing world of gut microbiota, you've likely read about prebiotics and probiotics. However, the new kids on the block are postbiotics, and you'll be sure to be hearing a lot more about them in the future once people start to wake up to their potential health benefits.
If you want to find out more about postbiotics, then read on. We’ll explain what they are, how they can benefit you, how they are different from prebiotics and probiotics, and how to get hold of the stuff!
Here's an interesting fact for you - around 100 trillion bacteria live in your digestive system, and they are collectively known as the gut microbiome. In addition to playing a part in turning the nutrients you eat into energy and getting rid of all the waste and toxins from your body; the gut biome is essential for health and well-being.
A healthy gut microbiome is balanced and diverse. An imbalance of bacteria is known as dysbiosis. This is when the neighborhood has turned bad, and there are too many pathogenic bacteria and not enough of the good type. The ideal good to bad bacteria ratio is believed to be around 85% good bacteria and 15% bad; this balanced state is called eubiosis. Having a diverse microbiome with plenty of different strains in your gut will also help combat ill-health.
What are good gut bacteria and what’s their ideal balance? Take a look at this chart:
An unhealthy gut microbiome has been linked to several health conditions, including allergies, leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s disease, mood disorders, auto-immune issues, obesity, and many more. There are many reasons for this imbalance: poor diet choices, stress, illness, or taking medications, especially antibiotics, which are particularly bad for gut health.
Antibiotics kill bacteria, but they don’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria. As a result, a large amount of gut flora is lost to “friendly fire”. Doctors recommend that you take probiotics at least a week after a regiment of antibiotics, and also during. You should take probiotics two hours apart (it doesn’t matter if it’s before or after) from taking antibiotics.
But let’s move on to the pressing question:
Postbiotics are the waste products of probiotic bacterial fermentation. To put it in layman’s terms, probiotics feed on prebiotics, and what the good bacteria excretes are known as postbiotic metabolites. The probiotics will produce many different types of metabolites, depending on the prebiotics consumed. There are thousands of these different metabolite compounds, and depending on how they interact with the host, they offer various health-promoting benefits.
Some examples of postbiotic metabolites include:
While all the above will aid with gut health, research shows that the short-chain fatty acid Butyrate is believed to protect and fight many health concerns. So let's take a brief look at short-chain fatty acids and especially Butyrate.
There three main kinds of SCFA produced when our beneficial bacteria goes through the fermentation process they are Acetate, Butyrate, and Propionate. All three have positive effects on the gut and our health. Acetate is said to regulate gut pH and also helps in the production of Butyrate. Propionate regulates appetite and has anti-inflammatory effects.
The third of these SCFAs, Butyrate, is the most researched and plays an integral part in gastrointestinal health as its primary role is to provide the biggest energy source to the cells that line the intestinal tract.
The importance of the gut lining can’t be underplayed; when working effectively, it functions as a barrier to keep the bad stuff like pathogens and toxins from entering your blood and ensuring that the good things like minerals and vitamins get into your bloodstream. As Buytrates provide these cells with around 90% of their energy needs, you can see the crucial part they play in human gut health. In addition to this vital function, Buytrates offer many other positive health benefits in treating and preventing medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, colon cancer, and leaky gut syndrome.
Even though postbiotics and their potential aren't fully understood, research studies show great promise, making it clear that they play an essential role in gut health.
Research on prebiotics and probiotics has been relatively extensive, and the role they play in gut health is unequivocal; postbiotics, on the other hand, are newer and less well-researched. However, studies show that postbiotics are as crucial as the other two 'biotics', if not more so. Also, some of the health properties we believed that probiotics might have provided us with might actually be the health benefits of postbiotic compounds.
Irritable bowel syndrome [IBS] is one of the most common gastrointestinal issues, and it is believed that up to 45 million Americans could be affected by it and around 11% worldwide. The symptoms vary in severity and include abdominal discomfort, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. The causes can also vary, with some people more prone to it than others, stress, or a history of IBS in the family. Dietary triggers such as consuming an excess of fried food or even too much fiber can also commonly bring on symptoms.
The postbiotic metabolite SCFA Butyrate has proven to be particularly beneficial in the treatment of IBS by restoring microbiota balance in the intestine. It is also said to regulate gastrointestinal intestinal motility; in layperson terms, this means it helps ensure that your trips to the bathroom are more regular.
For those whose IBS symptoms are triggered by too much fiber, gut health balance can be an issue. As prebiotics are produced by certain fibers in the diet, if your beneficial bacteria aren't getting enough of these types of fiber, they won't produce sufficient waste postbiotics to maintain a healthy gut. Luckily probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics can all be taken in supplement form, bypassing the need to eat large amounts of fiber.
Inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] is a condition when the digestive system becomes inflamed. IBD has similar symptoms to IBS but typically is much more serious, for instance resulting in Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Inflammation doesn't only remain in the gastrointestinal system; if you have a leaky gut, then inflammation can travel to other parts of the body. Inflammation is believed to be a cause of many other conditions, including diabetes. Postbiotic metabolites may help to prevent and reduce inflammation due to their role in protecting the colon’s lining and maintaining homeostasis within the gut microbiome.
With briefly touched upon leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability already and how it can cause inflammation in other parts of the body. The postbiotic metabolite Butyrate has been proven to prevent and help treat leaky gut by fueling the cells that line the gut lining. If these cells called colonocytes don't receive enough fuel, of which butyrate is their primary source, the intestinal barrier won't perform optimally. This will cause inflammation and allow pathogens into the blood system, causing further issues.
It is important to note that the three work together; prebiotics feeding probiotics, which in turn produce postbiotics. They all do their bit to maintain balance in your digestive system, leading to other health benefits such as strengthening your immune system and more.
Prebiotics are the non-digestible fibers found in certain foods; this insoluble fiber passes through our digestive system and is used as food for probiotic bacteria once it has reached the large colon. Prebiotics occur naturally in many types of food that we commonly eat, including many fruits and vegetables but are also available in supplement form. By getting a daily intake of prebiotics, we can fuel the beneficial probiotic bacteria and maintain a healthy microbiome.
Probiotics can be defined as live microorganisms that offer several benefits to human health when consumed in large enough amounts. Usually, probiotics are bacterial microbes, but certain kinds of yeast are also classed as probiotics. You can obtain probiotics from supplements or from fermented foods.
By ingesting probiotics, you can increase the number of good bacteria in your gut and provide more diversity, as well as being an aid to healthy digestion; they offer numerous other health benefits that positively affect the whole body.
There are many different types of probiotic bacteria. Two common types are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, which can be further broken down into probiotic strains that each have different health effects on your body. For instance, the strain Lactobacillus Reuteri can stimulate the immune system, help reduce tooth plaque, and more.
To summarize, prebiotics are foods that our good gut bacteria like to eat, probiotics are live bacteria and other microbes that have positive effects on our stomach, and postbiotics are chemicals produced by our gut microbes that are also beneficial to our health. As they all work in tandem to positively affect our body, we have to pay attention that we are providing our body with all three. We can do this through the foods we eat and supplementation; however, an overall healthy lifestyle should be maintained for optimum results.
Now we understand the difference between probiotics, postbiotics, and prebiotics. Let's take a little bit of a closer look at the prebiotic and probiotic foods you can eat to boost the amount of postbiotic compounds in your body. Since Postbiotics are a product of prebiotics and probiotic foods, is there anything we can do better in order to affect the quality of postbiotics our bodies produce? Let’s find out:
Prebiotic foods can be broken down into four main types Beta-glucans, Fructooligosaccharides, Galactooligosaccharides, and Inulin.
Beta-glucans - Can offer health advantages such as helping to improve heart health, reduced cholesterol levels, and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Foods that contain beta-glucans include; barley, oats, certain mushrooms [maitake, shitake, reishi], and algae and seaweed.
Fructooligosaccharides - As well as providing your probiotics with something good to chow down on, Fructooligosaccharides [FOS] are believed to help suppress the toxic bacteria Clostridium perfringens which is linked to food poisoning. Foods rich in FOS include; onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, leeks, asparagus, and green (unripe) bananas.
Galactooligosaccharides - more tasty treats for your probiotics and is said to prevent allergies in infants. Galactooligosaccharides and mainly found in beans and legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and green peas.
Inulin - Is another type of prebiotic that will aid digestive health and may help support weight loss. Foods where you'll get a good helping of Inulin are; onions, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion root, and sweet potatoes.
Probiotic foods are typically fermented. Fermented foods have been eaten for thousands of years by people from all over the world. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea made from fermented vegetables, there are hundreds of different types of kimchi, and they are all great for intestinal health. Traveling to Europe, another fermented vegetable dish Sauerkraut, has been a favorite of Germans over the centuries. Kefir is a fermented milk drink from Russia and the North Caucasus but may have Persian origins that are much older.
If none of these probiotic foods have much appeal, then there are some more common and tasty options. Natural live yogurt that contains lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria. While maybe not common, Kombucha is an excellent alternative for those with a soda addiction; it’s a fizzy fermented tea that is a lot tastier than it sounds. If you're a cheese lover, search out aged Cheddar, Parmesan, and Gouda as they are packed full of healthy probiotics. Olives fermented in brine contain the probiotic Lactobacillus and are a tasty and healthy snack.
In order to improve the quality of the postbiotics we produce, we have to watch what we eat at the very beginning of the cycle. Aside from supplements, we can improve our fiber intake - both soluble and insoluble fiber. This goes in step with most healthy diet recommendations out there - you have to eat more vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens like kale, spinach or collard greens, nuts, seeds, peas and beans.
While a few of us might thrive on a diet of green bananas, kimchi, sauerkraut, and algae, the majority of us will probably fall off the wagon pretty quickly! Joking aside, a diet rich in prebiotic and postbiotic foods will be great for your health, and you should aim to at least add a few of the foods we have just discussed. However, we still might not be getting enough of the foods required to make any lasting change to our gut health. Our bodies need as diverse a range of gut microbiota as possible if we want to see beneficial effects. Each individual has a unique gut microbiome, and if we are already suffering from symptoms due to poor gut health, the fastest and most effective way is to supplement.
However, there are lots of supplements available on the market, and it can be a minefield to find one that will actually benefit you. While most of them won't do you any harm, they also won't likely have any long term health benefits, so you need to do your research first.
First, you should decide if you want to invest in a comprehensive gut health formula or purchase separate supplements, i.e., a prebiotic supplement, probiotic supplement, and postbiotic. The big problem with this is that apart from having to research three kinds of supplements and purchase them separately, you don't know how they will all interact together to achieve the best results.
Primal Gut Restore is a complete gut health formula that contains prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics; it uses a 3-tier approach to gut health that allows it to work quicker than most other gut health supplements.
Additionally, it has plenty of 5-star reviews that show proof that it works. For instance, one customer called it a miracle supplement and commented, “I have suffered from digestive issues for years, and after trying countless remedies, I have found the supplement that has finally worked to correct those issues.” Another previously skeptical customer had this to say, “I have more energy, and I digest my food normally for the first time in years.”
Primal Gut Restore is backed by a 90-day money-back guarantee, so if you don't see improved digestive health or increased energy, you are always covered.
As your body already produces postbiotics naturally in your gut, they are considered safe. However, if you are taking medication, are pregnant, or breastfeeding, it is best to consult your physician before taking any supplements.
Many people are using probiotic supplementation and seeing significant improvements in health. Still, postbiotics might even be an even more beneficial supplementation as they are more stable and have a longer shelf life. However, as we have discussed, the three 'biotics' work in tandem, so a holistic gut supplement combined with a healthy lifestyle will produce the best results.
Research is still in its early stages concerning postbiotics but what it is pointing at is that they could be just as important if not more so than prebiotics and postbiotics for gastrointestinal and whole-body health. What we do know is that all three work together to create the ideal balanced gut microbiome. A healthy diet, supplementation, exercise, stress-relieving methods, and adequate sleep will help achieve this perfect balance and protect against the many medical conditions caused by neglecting your friendly gut bacteria.