You already know about probiotics. Probiotics are the healthy, or “friendly,” microbes that live inside your gut and support your health by converting the food you eat into compounds that have benefits for your health.1 We used to think probiotics were just bacteria, whereas we now know that other microbes can be health-giving too. The yeasts in our kefir are a perfect example of that!2
You also already know about prebiotics, the nutrients that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. We used to think this was just fibre, but we now know that gut bacteria – particularly those that produce butyric acid/butyrate – are able to feed on omega 3 fatty acids3 such as those you get from oily fish, nuts and seeds and some algae. We’ve tended to think of omega 3 oils as “food for the brain”,4 5 6 whereas this new evidence really highlights the essential role of the gut-brain connection in whole-body health.7 8
In recent years we’ve also learned that polyphenols, tiny molecules from fruits and vegetables that we used to just think of as “antioxidants” are also prebiotics. Gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus9 feed on polyphenols and give us a pre-digested, more bioavailable version of them in return. This is wonderful news because this process benefits the health of a range of tissues around the body.
OK, BUT WHAT ABOUT POSTBIOTICS?
So we’ve established that you know about pro- and prebiotics. But what about postbiotics? Postbiotics are the bioactive compounds the probiotic bacteria produce when they consume prebiotics. These compounds have typically been considered as waste products of probiotic bacteria, they offer many health benefits to your body. This is a new and exciting category of molecules that have gained a lot of attention for improving gut health, supporting the cardiovascular and immune systems and even helping you maintain a healthy weight.10
The concept of postbiotics is recent but not completely new. What is new is the granularity of our understanding of what they are and how they are different from other similar molecules. For instance, we used to think of postbiotics as inactivated microbial cells. In plain English, this means cells like Lactobacillus that have been killed by a change in temperature or acidity / pH. Even though these cells are dead, their whole body, as well as just fragments of it, e.g. pieces of their membrane, have the ability to trigger a positive response by the local immune system in the gut. This response can make all the difference in a gut that is prone to inflammation by switching on genes that dampen that down, making the ecosystem more hospitable for probiotics to settle in it.
3 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT POSTBIOTICS
You’ll be hearing about postbiotics a lot in months to come, so here’s what you need to know about them:
- Probiotics that have been killed by acid or heat are known as paraprotiotics, defined as inactivated microbial cells able to provide a health benefit to the humans, by regulating the immune system and managing inflammation. They also have antioxidant properties and antimicrobial properties against pathogens”.11 Because of the overlap between paraprobiotics and postbiotics, they are typically discussed under the same umbrella.
- The medium in which postbiotics are suspended is really important. In Chuckling Goat’s kefir, the whey that floats on top of our kefirs when you it’s delivered to you is literally a complex mixture of healthy metabolic products from the probiotics bacteria and yeast that it contains.12
- In traditionally made kefir, as microbes grow and multiply, they release complex sugars outside their cell wall. These sugars are called exopolysaccharides, which translates as “external complex sugar skeletons” and they have the property to bond together into the sticky physical structure we know as kefiran or “kefir grains”, which in itself has been seen to regulate immunity and support gut health.13
In summary, postbiotics are incredible new allies for supporting the health of your gut, your brain and the rest of your body. Most importantly, science tells us that they are abundant in kefir, which makes us very happy!
Wishing you a healthy week ahead.
Dr Miguel & The Goats