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What Are Postbiotics and Why Are They Important

What Are Postbiotics and Why Are They Important

Takeaways

  • Postbiotics can keep your gut microbiota healthy, boost your immune system, fight off infections, reduce inflammation and even stabilize your sleep.
  • Recent research shows evidence that the positive effects we attribute to probiotics are actually because of postbiotics.

Health is something we deem important. Every day we try to introduce different things in hope of making our lifestyle healthier than it was yesterday. I’m sure you’ve heard about probiotics and even prebiotics while trying to maintain a healthy digestive system. However, postbiotics are still not that well known.

These new-era products might as well be the future of our health. Recent research suggests that they might even be more important than probiotics. But what are even postbiotics and why are they important? Let’s break it down.

What Are Postbiotics?

Postbiotics are defined by The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) as “ preparation of inanimate micro-organisms and/or components that confers a health benefit on the host”. But that doesn’t mean a lot to us so let’s make it easy. In simpler words, they are bioactive compounds made when the friendly bacteria in your gut digest and break down fibers. Postbiotics are essentially the waste left behind after the fermentation process carried out by probiotics in the intestine (1).

Usually when we refer to waste it’s something that’s not useful, but postbiotics are responsible for multiple important health-boosting functions. Not only in our gut but in our whole body as well.

Postbiotics come in many forms including short-chain fatty acids (such as butyrate), enzymes, vitamins and amino acids. But they are actually the last step in the whole process of keeping your gut microbiota in check. So let’s look at how it all starts.

Prebiotics, Probiotics, Postbiotics - What’s the Difference?

Distinguishing all the “biotics” can be challenging, but even if their names seem similar, they actually all have different roles. What’s important to remember is that they are in a relationship!

It’s very simple.

Prebiotics are our first step, as their name suggests. Think of them as “the food” for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. You can find them in foods with healthy amounts of fiber, such as beans and certain leafy vegetables.

Probiotics are the live beneficial bacteria which are crucial for good digestion. These microorganisms need its “food” so they can grow and thrive within your gut. They act like factories to ferment prebiotics to make metabolites - which are nothing else but postbiotics.

Postbiotics are then inanimate byproducts from probiotic activity in the gut, like fermentation. It happens in the colon, the lower part of our digestive system, when probiotics consume prebiotics.

But sometimes taking probiotics just isn’t enough. People are different and so is their gut. Probiotics are alive which means they come with side effects and not everyone can take them. Your bacteria may not be able to make enough metabolites as well. But don’t worry because postbiotics can be fermented outside the body by different bacteria or yeast. That way they reach your gut directly and boost your health.

What’s even more surprising is that recent research shows evidence that the positive effects we attribute to probiotics are actually because of postbiotics (2).  Let’s look at some of the benefits that postbiotics provide.

5 Ways You Can Benefit From Postbiotics

1. Support your gut

Postbiotics have the ability to keep your gut microbiota at a healthy composition or lead to it. The gut consists of many microbes like bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that are extremely important. All of these microbes have a role in helping to control your blood sugar, produce vitamins, manage cholesterol and hormonal balance, prevent you from getting infections, communicate with your nervous system and brain and so much more.

Knowing this, we need to take care of our microbes too. Research has shown that postbiotics can support the growth, activities, and functions of gut microbiota. It’s like a boosting effect so that our gut microbiota can fight against pathogenic microorganisms (3).

Postbiotics also support gut barrier function thus possess prospects for preventing metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver (3).

2. Boost your immune system

One of the biggest benefits of postbiotics is their great effect on the immune system. Postbiotics are shown to reduce inflammation, improve immune function, prevent infections and diseases and enhance the activity of white blood cells (4).  One research showed that daily postbiotic supplementation lowered risk of a respiratory infection and improved their ability to produce antibodies that help defend the body against harmful bacteria and toxins (5).

3. Reduce Inflammation

Postbiotics are incredible at reducing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (6).  IBD is an autoimmune disorder in which chronic inflammation damages the gastrointestinal tract. In terms of gut health, postbiotics help reduce intestinal inflammation (3).  This is important because a possible cause of IBD is the incorrect response of the immune system to  environmental triggers, such as a virus or bacteria and we already know that postbiotics improve immune function. They directly activate more white cells that induce immune regulation.

4. Get better sleep

Recent research has shown that postbiotics have an effect on sleep and mood disorders. With daily use, postbiotics can stabilize your sleep with less frequent awakening and improve the quality of deep sleep. The research also showed that postbiotics can reduce some depressive symptoms and lessen the fatigue (7).

5. Safer to use

Like mentioned before, probiotics are made out of live strains and they might not be suitable for everyone. The beauty of postbiotics is that all these benefits come with no side effects. People with autoimmune disorders, infants or other vulnerable patients benefit from taking postbiotics without risking additional infections (8).

Another great thing about postbiotics is that they are not affected by any microbes. This allows for immediate delivery of the beneficial metabolites to your gut. It means you don’t have to rely on prebiotics and probiotics to produce postbiotics. You can take them as supplements and be sure you are gaining new healthy benefits.

Conclusion

Let’s review all the important things about postbiotics!

Postbiotics are simply what’s left after probiotics (alive beneficial bacteria in your gut) consume prebiotics. It all happens in the colon, a  part of your digestive system, during the process called fermentation. Postbiotics are essentially a waste, but much more useful than you think!

They can keep your gut microbiota healthy, boost your immune system, fight off infections, reduce inflammation and even stabilize your sleep.

Also, what makes postbiotics really cool is that they are for everyone! Compared to probiotics, postbiotics are not alive. This means they are safer to consume for vulnerable patients and infants.

In the end, remember that achieving healthiness involves more than just taking supplements. To improve your health, it’s important to take care of other parts of your lifestyle. However, you don’t have to do it alone! Keep up with our future posts for more content that can help you lead a healthy life.

References

  1. Vinderola, Gabriel. “Clarifying the Role of Metabolites in the Postbiotic Definition.” ISAPP, 2023, isappscience.org/clarifying-the-role-of-metabolites-in-the-postbiotic-definition/. Accessed 2023.
  2. Aguilar-Toalá, J.E., et al. “Postbiotics: An Evolving Term within the Functional Foods Field.” Trends in Food Science and Technology, vol. 75, 2018, pp. 105–114, doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2018.03.009.
  3.  
  4. Li, Hang-Yu, et al. “Effects and Mechanisms of Probiotics, Prebiotics, Synbiotics, and Postbiotics on Metabolic Diseases Targeting Gut Microbiota: A Narrative Review.” Nutrients, vol. 13, no. 9, 2021, p. 3211, doi:10.3390/nu13093211.
  5. Ma, Linxi, et al. “Postbiotics in Human Health: A Narrative Review.” Nutrients, vol. 15, no. 2, 2023, p. 291, doi:10.3390/nu15020291.
  6. Kotani, Yoshifumi, et al. “Oral Intake of Lactobacillus Pentosus Strain B240 Accelerates Salivary Immunoglobulin a Secretion in the Elderly: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Trial.” Immun Ageing, vol. 7, no. 1, 2010, doi:10.1186/1742-4933-7-11.
  7. “What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Apr. 2022, www.cdc.gov/ibd/what-is-IBD.htm. Accessed 25 Sept. 2023.
  8. Ho, Yu-Ting, et al. “Effects of Lactobacillus Plantarum PS128 on Depressive Symptoms and Sleep Quality in Self-Reported Insomniacs: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Trial.” Nutrients, vol. 13, no. 8, 2021, p. 2820, doi:10.3390/nu13082820.
  9. Wegh, et al. “Postbiotics and Their Potential Applications in Early Life Nutrition and Beyond.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 20, no. 19, 2019, p. 4673, doi:10.3390/ijms20194673.
Gut Health Vitabiotik A revolutionary supplement designed to improve gut health with postbiotics.
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