When we think about the importance of organ health, the same words come up time and time again. Healthy heart, healthy lungs, healthy brain; all of this is undoubtedly important, but what about our digestive organs? The condition of our gut is often overlooked, but it is vital to supporting an active and healthy body and lifestyle at all stages of life. By adopting the right diet and by approaching our health in the right way, we can protect our digestive tract and make sure that it keeps supporting our bodies for longer. Research is ongoing into how we can best achieve this, with breakthroughs in digestive health happening all the time. This is where postbiotics fit in. A revolutionary new player in the world of digestive health, postbiotics are something which you need to be aware of.
What Are Postbiotics?
Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Postbiotics: Three Important Concepts in Digestive Health
Postbiotic Foods: How to Increase Your Production of Postbiotics
12 Science Backed Postbiotic Benefits
- Promotion of Good Bacteria in the Gut
- Reduction in Inflammatory Diseases and Oxidative Stress
- Shielding Against Diabetes and High Blood Sugar Levels
- Treatment for Pre-Diabetes
- Reduction in the Presence of Harmful Pathogens
- Lowered Blood Pressure
- Strengthened Immune System
- Possible Treatment for IBS, IBD and Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Potentially Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer
- Tolerable for Those with Suppressed Immune Systems
- Improved Breathing and Respiration
- Potential to Eczema and Skin Conditions in Infants.
What are Postbiotics?
Postbiotics are formed after probiotic metabolism takes place in the gut
. When positive bacteria are introduced to the digestive tract, they interact with the digestive process and carry out a number of functions, including promoting enzyme production, balancing bacteria and pH levels, and assisting in the healthy digestion of food in the gut.
A secondary function of probiotics, after they have been metabolised, is to form postbiotics. It is these postbiotics which researchers believe represent a key ingredient in the fight for reliable and long-term digestive health.
A number of academic studies
point to a wide range of different benefits for people who work to nurture and support postbiotics within their own digestive systems. This can be achieved by eating the right kind of food or by taking postbiotic-supporting supplements. Current research
has proven a number of these health benefits, while the search for other benefits is still ongoing. However, the consensus is that postbiotics represent a major gamechanger in digestive health and even the general health of our bodies as a whole.
Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Postbiotics: Three Important Concepts in Digestive Health
The concept of probiotics is already widely known among medical practitioners and among those who are serious about their health and fitness. Prebiotics and postbiotics are less widely understood, but all three concepts are highly important as we strive to support healthy digestion and more - and each of these three concepts are inextricably linked to the other two.
Probiotics simply refer to the 'good' bacteria
, which exist in your gut and help with digestion and other functions. While the term 'bacteria' has traditionally been viewed in a negative light, it has since been understood that there are good and bad forms of bacteria, and that good bacteria is, in fact, critical to the health of our bodies.
It is research into probiotics which has helped the concept of 'good' bacteria become more widely known. These helpful strains of bacteria make themselves at home in your gut and work to fight imbalance in your digestive system by bringing order to your gut and other digestive organs. This not only aids with digestion, but also helps to keep these organs healthy in the long term. Some of the strains of bacteria you may already be aware of are lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus platarum
While probiotics interact with digestion and the function of the gut, prebiotics
do not - or, at least, not to the same extent or in the same way. Prebiotics serve to nurture the production of probiotics, giving your gut the environment it needs for these good bacteria to take hold. For this reason, prebiotics must be tough. They must be able to survive the journey down into our digestive system so that they can do their work.
are hardy food fibres
. They succeed in resisting absorption on their journey towards the lower tract of our digestive system, and they are impervious to the strong digestive acids that they encounter on their way. Once they have reached this lower tract, they are fermented by the microflora cultures found in this area of the body, helping them to bring about the conditions necessary for the formation of probiotics and, subsequently, postbiotics.
Foods which are rich in these vital prebiotic building blocks are vegetables, resistant starch
, and roots, all of which include the tough fibres required to make such a hazardous journey through the body. You may also be able to get prebiotic fibres from probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut.
So, the ingesting of prebiotics brings about the conditions necessary for healthy probiotic activity in the gut, but where do postbiotics fit in?
Postbiotics are the next step in the three-stage promotion of good bacteria in the gut. These bacterial cultures are formed as a byproduct of the interaction between probiotics and gut function, and many believe that they hold the key to long-term digestive health.
Until recently, postbiotics were considered to be mere waste. When probiotics are metabolised, postbiotics are produced and, as far as scientists could tell, these cultures simply disappeared into the digestive tract. However, research now shows us that this is not the case
Instead of just being absorbed into the gut, postbiotics have been found to provide a broad range of digestive health functions of their own. Once this was realised, research into this new concept began in earnest and continues to discover new benefits to this day.
The following are some of the by-products of probiotics which have been determined to be postbiotics:
- Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) - These SCFAs support healthy digestion and metabolisation of probiotics. They include acetate, butyrate, and propionate lipopolysaccharides, including polysaccharide A and exopolysaccharide muramyl dipeptide
- Indole - Indole is an organic compound which helps to bring about the right conditions for healthy bacterial formation.
- Teichoic Acid - As well as encouraging the production of postbiotics, teichoic acid also helps to regulate cell growth, which can defend against some cancers.
- Lactocepin - An enzyme which catalyses the chemical reactions in the gut, creating the right kind of conditions for postbiotic formation.
- p40 Molecule - p40 is a molecule with a range of different attributes, including the potential to reduce instances of cancer.
- Other postbiotics include - bacteriocins, peptidoglycan derived muropeptides, antimicrobial peptides and hydrogen peroxide.
Postbiotic Foods: How to Increase your Production of Postbiotics
So how can you support the production of postbiotics in your digestive system? Rather than relying upon supplements, it is advised that you introduce some of the following foodstuffs to your diet.
- Apple cider vinegar and coconut vinegar - These vinegars are examples of synbiotics, which provide a bridge between the different stages of the biotic chain. Containing pectin - a known prebiotic - cider and coconut vinegars also promote probiotic and postbiotic function.
- Saukraut and Kombucha - full of beneficial bacteria, these foods are rich in probiotics and postbiotics. When we increase our probiotic colonies in the gut we naturally harness the power of postbiotics.
- Mycelium- A fungus extract containing enzymes and antimicrobials which assist with healthy digestion, Mycelium also secures the growth of healthy bacteria.
- Kefir and Pickled Vegetables - are both gut loving foods which are naturally full of postbiotics.
- Spirulina and chlorella - These two types of algae provide a detoxing and anti-inflammatory effect, as well as nourishing the right types of bacteria in the body, and promoting the production of immunoglobulin A to support postbiotic production.
- Grape pomace - Pomace are the toughest components of grape, such as seeds, stems, and skins. This provides the energy and sustenance which probiotics need to successfully metabolise and produce postbiotics.
- Foods rich in humic and fulvic acids, and Vitamins B and K - B and K vitamins, as well as the humic and fulvic acids discussed above, provide support to probiotics and so nurture the production of postbiotics.
- Fermented aloe - A detoxifier, fermented aloe is also responsible for producing the beta-glucans which help to produce postbiotics during probiotic metabolisation, as well as boosting immunity.
- Shilajit - A herb which provides a good source of fulvic acid, which in turn supports the production of postbiotics. Shilajit is also an anti-inflammatory and antiviral agent.
Bone broth - bone broth contains nutrients which can heal the gut lining thereby creating a rich environment for probiotics and postbiotics to flourish.
12 Science Backed Postbiotic Benefits
1. Promotion of 'Good' Bacteria in the Gut
The concept of 'good' bacteria
is central to the idea of postbiotics. By introducing prebiotics to our digestive systems, and by nurturing probiotic function, we are already taking steps to foster these good bacteria within our bodies.
It is postbiotics which complete this cycle, and which provide further support and promotion to the formation of these all-important positive bacterial strains.
2. Reduction in Inflammatory Diseases and Oxidative Stress
So many of the foods and ingredients which provide postbiotic function are also rich in anti-inflammatory agents, which help to reduce instances of inflammation and associated pain. However, the function of postbiotics in creating a healthy and well-balanced gut can also help to reduce the effects of such diseases.
In addition to this, the molecules which have been identified in postbiotics have been found to have powerful antioxidant properties
, making them also useful in fighting oxidative stress and reducing the signs of aging.
3. Shielding Against Diabetes and High Blood Sugar Levels
Diabetes changes the life of a patient. Regular dialysis, extreme restrictions on diet, and the constant risk of the condition worsening are all things which diabetes patients have to live with.
However, probiotics, and the postbiotics they help to form, have been found to combat high blood sugar levels
. This makes an understanding of pro- and postbiotics an important weapon in the defence against high blood sugar and diabetes.
4. Treatment for Pre-diabetes
The lower sugar levels in the blood reported by users of postbiotic foods could have seriously positive implications for patients with pre-diabetes. While not a cure for diabetes, postbiotics have been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in patients suffering from obesity
; something which could, in turn, reduce the rate at which diabetes worsens over time.
This is thanks to the way in which postbiotics interact with insulin absorption in a host. Insulin absorption is increased when postbiotic food is consumed, helping to decelerate the onset of diabetes.
5. Reduction in the Presence of Harmful Pathogens
Pathogens can cause serious harm and disease within the body if left unchecked. Species such as Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and Listeria moncytogenes, are all infamous for the damage they can do to digestive health.
Postbiotics can form an effective safeguard against such pathogens. These bacteria require the right conditions in order to thrive in the digestive tract, including a high pH level. Postbiotics reduce this pH level
and increase alkalinity, making it difficult for pathogens to survive.
6. Lowered Blood Pressure
High blood pressure - or hypertension - is a common issue for many and one which can have lethal or life-changing consequences. Research has shown that changes to the microbiotics in the digestive system could reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health
As well as lowering blood pressure, postbiotics have been linked to reduced inflammation and endotoxemia, leading to far healthier blood flow for the host.
7. Strengthened Immune System
It has long been known that having the right diet helps to support and even boost the health of our immune system. Postbiotic foods like those discussed above represent a key addition to your diet and one which will help to keep you protected against many common diseases and ailments.
This is because of the effect that postbiotics have on regulatory mechanisms in the body
. A diet rich in postbiotics helps to shore up these mechanisms, increasing your body's ability to respond to potential illnesses before they take hold.
8. Possible Treatment for IBS, IBD, and Leaky Gut Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and leaky gut syndrome cause misery and severe discomfort to the millions of people who they affect. Reliable treatments for these conditions can be difficult to come by, but research suggests that postbiotics could provide an answer.
Ingesting postbiotic culture supplements and foods containing the helpful bacteria have been found to reduce inflammation within the digestive tract
; a major cause of discomfort for sufferers. Testing has also found a correlation between taking postbiotics and a correction of dysbiosis
- or microbiotic imbalance - in the gut, which could also help to combat IBS, IBD, and leaky gut syndrome.
9. Potentially Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer
There has been a great deal of research conducted into the medical effects of postbiotics. One of the most intensive areas of research has been into short-chain fatty acids, including acetate, propionate, and butyrate.
Studies centring on butyrate have found that the SFCA can directly increase the health of the gut by promoting the formation of mucus in the digestive tract
, which in turn protects the gut from damage or abnormalities. Butyrate also promotes healthy cellular activity in the digestive organs, giving it perhaps its most exciting attribute; the potential ability to reduce instances of colon cancer in patients.
Research into this effect is ongoing, but initial findings suggest that postbiotic foods and supplements containing butyrate can indeed help the body protect against colon cancer, a disease which is a serious problem around the world.
10. Tolerable for Those with Suppressed Immune Systems
Postbiotics work gently, introducing positive bacteria to the gut and to the digestive tract in general, fostering a healthier biotic culture within the digestive system. There is no harsh medication and no dramatic alteration within the host's body. Instead, there is an incremental change over time. A change which can have seriously positive effects on health.
This gentle approach makes postbiotics ideal for those with suppressed immune systems, as the biotic ingredients will not be introduced to the body at a potentially harmful rate. This means anyone with an immunodeficiency disorder, or anyone whose immune system is not fully developed, can experience the benefits of postbiotics without risking their health.
Analysis of the use of probiotics and their postbiotic byproducts in cases involving infants with very low birth weights found the bacteria to be beneficial
, underlining its levels of tolerability, even for those with impaired immune systems.
However, for those suffering from serious immunodeficiency disorders, or for parents considering introducing postbiotics to their infant's diet, it is still recommended that you seek the advice of a doctor or another medical professional.
11. Improved Breathing and Respiration
Research into postbiotics continues to find fascinating and exciting ways in which these supplements and foodstuffs can have a positive impact on health. One of the most interesting areas for researchers has been the effect that postbiotics have on the respiratory systems of humans.
Their research has indicated that postbiotics can reduce hyperresponsiveness, which is when the body overreacts to airborne allergens and triggers an asthma attack. While this has not yet been academically proven, studies point to a connection between balanced gut microbiota and a reduction in allergic reactions
Another positive function of postbiotics is to reduce the inflammation of the airways to make breathing much easier. These two reactions are two of the most common symptoms reported by asthma sufferers, underlining how useful a diet rich in postbiotics can be to so many suffering with asthma.
12. Potential Treatment for Eczema and Skin Conditions in Infants
Another ongoing area of research relates to the effects that postbiotics have on eczema and skin conditions, particularly those which affect very young children and infants. Eczema is a common problem among infants around the world and can be a source of infection and severe skin damage with long-lasting results.
As tests are still ongoing, it has not yet been proved conclusively that postbiotics will be effective as an eczema treatment, but early results and indications have been described as 'promising
' by researchers.
Final Thoughts on Postbiotics
While not all of the benefits of postbiotics have been proven beyond doubt by scientists, there is a mounting body of evidence which suggests that these probiotic byproducts do indeed hold the key to the health of the human digestive tract and beyond.
By understanding the function of pre-, pro- and postbiotics, and by recognising the profound connection between each stage in the biotic cycle, you are tuning in to a revolutionary new concept in the field of digestive health. The advantages of supporting healthy postbiotic production, as we have seen, are enormous, both for short-term health and for long-term well being.