The Wonders of Postbiotics

In the realm of gut health, you might have heard about probiotics and prebiotics. Well, now it’s time to make it a trilogy and learn about postbiotics

Not everyone might realize it, but there’s a big difference between probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are bacteria that are beneficial to our health. Prebiotics, meanwhile, are various fibers that feed the friendly bacteria in our digestive system. Both play a significant part in maintaining our health. Now, in 2021, a rising trend in healthy eating is a third -biotic. We’re talking about postbiotics.

First and foremost, let’s start with the “what.” Basically, postbiotics are the byproducts of the fermentation process carried out by probiotics in our intestines. In other words, probiotics feed on prebiotics, and as a side effect, they produce postbiotics. Some call postbiotics the finished goods of probiotic activity, others call it a waste product. Either way, it has been shown that postbiotics—which includes organic acids, bacteriocins, carbonic substances and enzymes—can confer various health benefits to our bodies.

On that note, let’s move on to the benefits of postbiotics. At this point it might be a good idea to point out that we’re basically just starting to develop our understanding of postbiotics. There’s even some debate over the term itself. Still, there is plenty of evidence that postbiotics may have long-lasting benefits, including:

Supporting Probiotics
Put simply, postbiotics can mimic the activities of probiotics in certain ways while also helping probiotics thrive in our digestive system. For example, lactic acid bacteria supported by postbiotics have been shown to help remove heavy metals from the body and inhibit the spread of certain viruses. Another benefit of using postbiotics in this regard is that it can be safer than introducing probiotics—essentially live microorganisms—in persons with impaired immune systems.

Reducing Bad Bacteria
Some of the herbs and plant material regularly consumed by humans have antimicrobial properties that can help suppress the growth of bad bacteria in our intestines, thereby preventing various illnesses. Postbiotics may have the same properties, and there are studies that suggest that it might be effective against pathogens such as salmonella enterica and E. coli.

Fight Off Inflammation
The postbiotic byproducts of some probiotic bacteria s have been shown to help decrease inflammation. One practical application of this concept is by using probiotics and postbiotics together to treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

Lowering Blood Sugar
And there are also studies linking use of postbiotics with reductions in blood sugar levels, particularly in obese individuals who have prediabetes. In short, postbiotics seem to have anti-diabetic effects because they improve the body’s use of insulin. Further studies are definitely required, but from what we know so far, there is a certain postbiotic bacterial component called muramyl dipeptide that can be effective in helping the human body deal with pre-diabetes and Type II diabetes.

So, we have an idea what postbiotics are and the benefits that we know of is nothing to sneeze at. But how do you make sure that you have a healthy amount of postbiotics? For sure, postbiotic supplements are not yet widely available, especially compared to the number of probiotic products on the market today.

The easiest way to ensure postbiotics abundance is, therefore, by remembering the relationship between pro-, pre- and postbiotics. In other words, ensure sufficient prebiotic intake so that the probiotics in your gut produce enough postbiotics. And how exactly do you do that? By eating a diverse mix of plant material that contain a unique mix of both soluble and insoluble fibers.

Basic food items you might want to consider are whole wheat grains, asparagus, soybeans, tomatoes, barley and beans. Another option known to be particularly beneficial for gut bacteria is seaweed along with microalgae such as spirulina and chlorella. Apple cider vinegar, honey and milk—while not exactly what you’d imagine to be fiber-rich foodstuffs—can also help. And in the grand scheme of things, eating foods with probiotic content such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi is not such a bad idea too.

In closing, it should be emphasized once again that postbiotics is relatively new territory. There’s still a lot that we don’t fully understand about the nature of postbiotics and the extent of its potential benefits. All that being said, maintaining a healthy gut flora is proven to be beneficial to our overall wellbeing. And it makes sense that we want to make sure that the good bacteria (probiotics) prosper (by feeding them the right foods, in this case prebiotics). If the byproducts of this process (postbiotics) have the potential to be beneficial in its own right, then perhaps that’s a good enough reason to foster it as well.