You may be familiar with the terms probiotics and prebiotics, and now there’s a third to be added to the pantheon of gut bacteria deities. The term “biotic” is derived from the Greek word biōtikós, which translates to ‘pertaining to life, and speaks to a biological ecosystem of organisms along with their physical environment.
Your gut, for example, because that’s part of what we’re here to talk about for the moment.
The stomach is a house filled to the brim with millions of bacteria, termed the microbiome, and every human has a unique microbiome based on their lifestyle and diet which can reveal reams of information about their health.
Prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics are all part of the gut-ecosystem which help keep beneficial bacteria healthy, thriving, and in balance which in turn has the effect of boosting your immune system, cognitive functioning, better well-being and maintaining top digestive health.
What Are Postbiotics And Where Are They Found?
They’re essentially the byproducts, or “waste” of the fermentation process produced by the living probiotics in the intestine. Prebiotics are substances (dietary fibers you get from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) that feed propbiotics (living microorganism) which then in turn produce postbiotics- organic fatty acids, enzymes and certain proteins called bacteriocins, to name a few.
Because they’re a bi-product of probiotic fermentation, some of the best food sources to promote their existence in your stomach’s microbiome are directly probiotic related. Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses, kefir, sourdough bread, buttermilk, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, pickles and kefir. The wider variety of these types of food you consume, the more diverse and abundant microbiome you’ll have contributing to a greater level of overall, whole bodied health.
If you’re already a fairly healthy person with a diverse diet of fruits, vegetables, and plant based foods you probably already have a well-functioning microbiome.
Importance of Keeping A Healthy Microbiome
Since 2016, there has been a field of studies carried out in the nutrition and health fields solely focused on the importance of a healthy gut. Imbalanced levels of healthy bacteria in your gut have been linked to the following the diseases:
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Allergies, Asthma, other sensitivities
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Cognitive decline and brain disorders (Alzheimer’s, dementia)
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Mood disorders, (like depression)
Not only is it ‘safe’ to have postbiotics in the body, it’s a necessity. However, it’s also important to note that the composition of each individual’s microbiome will vary, as it will vary between populations based on the bulk of their diet, which means that biotics may be metabolized differently and require various amounts from person to person, with varying effects.
One of the ways to test your microbiome directly is to send a fecal sample, but some of the more obvious signs you may have an imbalanced microbiome are pretty easy to tell for yourself. I.e. if you have an upset stomach often, a high sugar and high processed food diet, experience unintentional weight changes often, skin irritations like eczema, or some severe food intolerances.
Health Benefits and Pros/Cons
A few of the direct health benefits of postbiotics have been linked to treating diarrhea. It’s been known for a while that probiotic foods help relieve this, but closer studies have shown that it is not due to the interaction between the beneficial living microbes and the intestinal lining, but rather to the metabolic ‘waste’ of postbiotics.
Others include lowering blood sugar and helping prevent Type II Diabetes, as it’s been shown that a having a well-balanced microbiome with plenty of postbiotics helps ward off obesity. Diets which include high quantity of high processed foods and sugar have been shown to feed unhealthy gut bacteria, which in turn contribute to imbalanced level of pre, pro, and postbiotics and can lower insulin resistance.
Along with this, because one of the roles of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics is to populate a gut with a healthy bacterial ecosystem that promotes the growth of good gut bacteria, they carry anti-microbial properties. Candida for instance, an infectious, mushroom like bacteria which can take over the gut microbiome and cause unpleasant tertiary effects, may be warded off in advance or aided by the beneficial maintenance and bacteria fighting properties of healthy postbiotic levels.
Having a balanced level of postbiotics in your system can directly promote better cardiovascular health, a better overall functioning immune system, and a better functioning system in general leading to higher levels of energy.
Are They Children Friendly?
And are probiotics and postbiotics safe to use for infants and children? Some of the preliminary research suggests that, yes, they’re safe and can help in the reinforcement of immune system development and healthy gut barrier integrity. In children’s nutrition they have shown promising results for the management and treatment of allergies, gut and respiratory infections, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and infant colic. However, it seems much of the studying and testing is still going on and so they should be used with caution in the cases of severely ill children with compromised immune systems.
When and how to take postbiotics and the best products with them
If you are seeking to enhance or repair your gut health, because probiotics are a diverse culture of living microorganisms some of which may thrive if taken before or after a meal, it’s difficult to regulate this and more important to keep a consistent regime and take them at the same time each day.
Although there are beginning to be postbbiotic supplements appearing on the market (most seem to be in skin creams), postbiotics are the natural bi-product of a cycle of interactions happening between micro-organisms in your stomach. Take care of the pre and probiotics, and the post produces itself. If, however, in the case of people with inflammatory bowel disease, probiotics may not be a benefit and may actually be detrimental to inflammation, whereas taking a direct dose and supplement of postbiotics can aid and protect against the inflammation caused by some infectious diseases.
What is The Research Saying About Postbiotics?
It’s a new subject being researched, but preliminary clinical investigations have been saying that, “The advantages of postbiotics in terms of safety, biological and pharmaceutical properties in comparison with live probiotics, includes no risk of translocation from gut lumen to blood, suitable absorption, metabolism, distribution, and excretion potencies, signaling to various organs and tissues in the host and making several biological responses, higher stability and easier to standardize and carrying. On the other hand, postbiotics used in a delivery system reinforce the endogenous probiotics of each host instead of adding unfamiliar probiotic strains to the gut microbial ecosystem that can be considered as a safe alternative for live probiotic microbes and applied in functional foods and pharmaceutical industry for creating and developing health benefits, preventing of diseases and therapeutic aims. Additional metabolomics studies are required for the description of novel postbiotic components and survey their safety and constancy during the production processes, marketplace, and host’s digestive system conditions.”
Frequently Asked Questions
How is postbiotics different from probiotics and prebiotics?
They’re the waste products of probiotics, which feed on prebiotics.
Can I take the three together at the same time?
Is there one that is better than the other?
No, they all work together.
How has postbiotics been around?
It’s a fairly new term picked up in the last forty years, but much longer.
Is it well tolerated by the body?
Yes. Depending on your individual microbiome.
What is the importance of good gut bacteria for our digestive system?
It helps regulate many overall health factors, and ward off disease.
How does diet and nutrition work together when taking postbiotics?
Taking postbiotics is about curating your stomach to create a healthy microbiome,
diet and nutrition does the same thing.
Does postbiotics cause waste in the body?
Can taking postbiotics help with leaky gut syndrome?
What is the relationship between fermentation and PB?
Postbiotics are the product of fermentation, and of probiotics.
Can taking PB cause a sensitive gut?
Can a infant or child take PB?
Why do people have diarrhea when taking PB? How long does that last?
Each microbiome is unique to the individual, so some may experience different effects on one individual’s stomach than another.
I have a bad inflammatory condition. Will taking PB help?
IF so, how consistent do I need to be with my approach of consuming PB?
Very consistent. Every day.
Would PB also help with oxidative stress?
Are PB live organisms like prebiotics?
How does PB help in boosting the immune system?
They help regulate a healthy gut microbiome which in turn keeps the immune system functioning well.
Do I need a medical prescription in order to buy PB supplements?
How do I know if my body has a good level of PB?
You can send in a stool sample to have it tested. If you’re overall a healthy person and eat a diverse diet of plant foods, then you likely have a good level of PB.