Within the last five or so years, probiotics and probiotic supplements have gone from being virtually unknown to anyone outside of nutritionists, to the “IT” thing within the world of wellness and the supplements industry.
The topic of probiotics is deep and easy to become fully consumed by. Some swear by eating yogurt and drinking kombucha, others research and select the perfect probiotic strains and supplements, and everyone has an option on the mind-gut connection. But, no matter how deep your knowledge of probiotics might be, there is a new development in regards to optimizing your gut health and wellness you probably have never heard of: postbiotics.
To be perfectly honest, postbiotics are nothing new. Rather, they are the end goal of a healthy gut. Most people don’t realize or simply don’t know, that the end result of taking a prebiotic and/or probiotic is to create some postbiotics – and have a healthy enough environment within the gut to maintain these endgame biotics.
So if postbiotics are a result of taking pre & probiotics… wait… let’s quickly recap and make sure we are all on the same page.
What are postbiotics? How are they different from pre & probiotics?
Okay, let’s quickly recap Gut Health 101.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually helpful bacteria or yeast) that are beneficial to the body by boosting the immune system, helping reduce inflammation by improving the body’s inflammatory response, aiding in digestion, and even improving mood. Probiotics, make home within your gut and can be found either naturally in food, or in supplements.
Foods such as yogurt, pickled vegetables, miso, kimchi, and other fermented foods are naturally high in probiotics. The luxury of supplementing probiotics is you have far more control over exactly how much of each strain you are putting into your body. But, either delivery option works – so find what works best for you.
Prebiotics are simply food for the bacteria within your gut. This serves to maintain and help good bacteria flourish, and recover quickly if under attack from harmful bacteria and conditions. Some of the most common places to find prebiotics are in everyday food like oats, barley, wheat, rye (thanks to the beta-glucans found naturally within these foods), psyllium, acacia powder, and wheat dextrin.
TLDR: Postbiotics = Prebiotics + Probiotics
Postbiotics are a relatively new term used to describe the “functional bioactive compounds, generated in a matrix during fermentation.” These postbiotics are then used by your body to promote greater health and wellness. In short, postbiotics are the byproducts of probiotics. Probiotics eat food (prebiotics), the food ferments within your gut, and just like that you have postbiotics.
Now, this is where postbiotics can get complicated. There are actually numerous different kinds of postbiotics, and what is created is totally dependent on what your gut bacteria have been eating. This can include short-chain fatty acids, proteins, and metabolites. The different combinations of these food sources can greatly impact the benefits of the created postbiotics, as each of these different compounds serves a different function to the body.
This concept is called, Microbiome Diversity, and this is one of the most critical factors in regard to your overall health and wellness. Microbiome Diversity refers to the amount of different bacteria strains present within one’s intestinal tract. More diversity of beneficial bacteria within the gut generally translates to better health.
Greater Microbiome Diversity promotes better health because different kinds of probiotic bacteria produce different kinds of postbiotics. Think of this like so: your probiotic bacteria produce postbiotic metabolites, these postbiotics are like the tools that make up your “toolbox” for good health.
People who have a wider range of tools in their microbiome “toolbox” are more equipped to repair a wider range of problems and issues, which means they have more resources on hand to help regulate health throughout the body.
However, the ability of your probiotic bacteria to make postbiotic metabolites is entirely dependent on the amount and the diversity of dietary fiber you supply them with (prebiotics). Simply taking probiotics is not enough to solve your problems, you must also learn how to eat properly so that you are feeding the probiotics within your gut what they need to help you thrive.
Different probiotic bacteria strains thrive off different kinds of fibers. These fibers are present in different plant-based foods. Eating a more fiber-rich and diverse diet is essential for the development and maintenance of a healthier gut.
Over 22,000 postbiotics metabolites were identified by 2002, and more of discovered every day. So, here is a shortlist of some of the better-known postbiotics:
- B-vitamin synthesis (biotin, folates, thiamine, and more)
- Short-chain fatty acids: acetic, propionic, and butyric acid
- Glutathione: synthesized by Lactobacillus fermentum ME3
- D-amino acids
- Fulvic acids
- and more
What are the Benefits of Postbiotics?
There are still a lot of mysteries around postbiotics, but there is a good amount of evidence already that they have some long-lasting positive benefits on general health and wellness, including:
Postbiotics can help repair a leaky gut
Leaky gut is a common issue facing many people all around the world. Known more formally as “increased intestinal permeability”, leaky gut syndrome, is when the walls of the digestive tract become permeable (or leak). This “leakage” can cause inflammation throughout the body.
The postbiotic, butyrate, can help reverse the effects of leaky gut. This short-chain fatty acid is produced when one consumes soluble fiber. The fiber gets metabolized and consumed by healthy probiotic bacteria to product butyrate – which then helps repair the gut lining, colon, and more!
Postbiotics may serve to lower inflammation
Pre, pro, and postbiotics have all been connected to lowering inflammation throughout the body by helping to restore, replenish, and replace the population of the good bacteria found within the gut.
Postbiotics have been shown to boost the immune system
This should come as no surprise, over 70% of immune cells can be found within the gut, and there has been a direct link between gut health and immunity for some time now. Even in infants, there has been a connection found between postbiotics and a stronger immune system.
Postbiotics may even be able to aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes
The specific postbiotic Muramyl dipeptide, a peptide created by probiotics, have been found to be successful in preventing diabetes in mice. Researches showed how having chronically out of balance gut bacteria can contribute to someone becoming insulin resistant, or pre-diabetic.
Postbiotics appear to aid in the effectivity of insulin, bringing balance, and stopping the development of diabetes. Again, this has been shown in mice, but there is serious hope that this will become a treatment in the future for human patients as well.
How can you know you are creating enough postbiotics?
Remember, the key to maximizing your postbiotic output is to give your body the pre and probiotics it needs. How can you do this? You can give your body all the prebiotics it needs by eating more fiber, and doing so regularly!
Prebiotics can be derived from both soluble (absorbs in water) and insoluble fiber. But, to keep it simple, by eating a diverse mix of plants and dark leafy vegetables you will get a diverse mix of fiber that your body needs. Consider adding a probiotic supplement (or consuming more natural probiotics) to your daily routine, and you’ll have everything you need to produce postbiotics.
Taking care of your gut and insuring your give it the prebiotic fibers and probiotics that it needs, means you’re on your way to better general health, a healthier gut, better digestion, and so much more!
Remember! Postbiotics = Prebiotics + Probiotics
There are also a number of high-quality postbiotic supplements already on the market, the best of these will provide your body with a “pre + probiotic cocktail” that will result in an optimized delivery method to create a desirable postbiotic. Check out our buying guides to see which brands we recommend. For more info.
Check out this article on signs your body needs a probiotic!