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The power of postbiotics

In recent years, scientist have highlighted the crucial role gut bacteria play in maintaining good health, a balanced microbiome, and overall wellness. This thriving community of trillions of diverse microorganisms living in your gut is called the human microbiome. These little bugs share a symbiotic relationship with you – you need them, and they need you! They are involved in nutrient processing, metabolism, immunity, neurological responses and many other functions.  

You’ve heard of terms, like “probiotics”, “prebiotics”, “synbiotics”, but what about “postbiotics”?1

  • Probiotics are live microorganisms present in our bodies and also found in foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. When consuming an adequate amount of these beneficial bacteria, they provide health benefits by enhancing and balancing your microbiome.
  • Prebiotics are non-digestible whole food ingredients, such as dietary fibre, that probiotics ferment, providing fuel to stimulate their growth and activity.
  • Synbiotics are a combination of prebiotics and probiotics. Mixing our probiotic goat’s kefir in a smoothie with high-fibre fruits such as mixed berries or our Complete Prebiotic powder, creates a homemade synbiotic.

The intricate interplay of these helps balance the gut microbiome and produce postbiotics, which are crucial for healthy digestion, nutrient absorption, immune regulation, brain health, hormone modulation, cardiovascular function, and more!2

What are postbiotics?

Postbiotics are essentially the end products created by the probiotics in your large intestine. These microbiota components or metabolites have a significant effect on human health. This new revolutionary topic is being extensively studied for its potential influence on the microbiome, inflammation, and gut physiology.3 In 2021, the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), defined postbiotics as “a preparation of inanimate (dead) microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host.”4 In plain English, the simplest description of postbiotics is: the beneficial compounds produced when probiotics break down food fibres in your gut.

There are several types of postbiotics, including:5

  • Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)
  • Exopolysaccharides (EPS)
  • Aromatic amino acids
  • Organic acids
  • Enzymes
  • Vitamins

There is still plenty of research to be carried out on a wide variety of postbiotics and their positive effects on human health and wellbeing. The current evidence shows their implications in supporting the gut, microbiome, immune system, brain health, cognitive function, nervous system, mood, and daily bodily functions on a cellular level.6

Currently, the most promising and well-studied postbiotics are the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). There are three types that make up most of the SCFAs produced by the microbiome: acetate, propionate, and butyrate.8 The CG Microbiome test examines your levels of these three postbiotics.

What are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)?

SCFAs are very powerful anti-inflammatory postbiotics that are incredibly beneficial for your health; they regulate cellular function, have antimicrobial effects, support the immune system, and coordinate a healthy inflammatory response.9 They also help in nutrient absorption, modulate appetite and body weight, balance blood sugar levels, and promote cardiovascular health.10

Butyrate, one of the three main types of SCFAs, has been shown to:12

  • Maintain and strengthen the gut barrier keeping the cells tightly linked together
  • Regulate intestinal permeability and prevent toxins and waste from reaching the bloodstream
  • Provides 90% of the energy required by colon cells
  • Supports the gut mucosa
  • Promotes cell differentiation
  • Modulates cholesterol metabolism
  • Enhances mineral absorption
  • Protects brain health
  • Prevents the growth and spread of harmful pathogenic organisms

These postbiotics have been shown to regulate the gut-brain axis, influencing mental health and impacting conditions like anxiety, depression Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).14 Studies demonstrate how butyrate can boost cognitive function by increasing a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).15 This improves neuroplasticity and your ability to learn and retain information.16 The lining of your gut also contains other neuroendocrine cells that pump hormones into the bloodstream to communicate with the nervous system.17

Postbiotics maintain homeostasis in the gut, so probiotics can continue making more postbiotics, creating an endless positive cycle.

What can negatively affect postbiotics?

There is an increased percentage of people suffering from chronic gut disorders, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Food intolerances or allergies e.g. coeliac disease
  • Acute gut infections with pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites

These conditions alongside other factors, such as stress or low mood, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, environmental toxins and chemicals, processed foods and refined carbs and sugars, can negatively affect the levels of probiotics and the formation of postbiotics.18 This can lead to issues such as nutrient malabsorption, microbiome imbalance, inflammation, and weakening of the gut lining.20 The result? Individuals presenting with unwanted symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, cramps, bloating, autoimmune conditions, skin complaints, allergies, fatigue, brain fog, hormonal issues, and sleep irregularities.21 If you are dealing with one of these conditions, it is very likely that you are experiencing microbiome dysbiosis, or an imbalance in your gut bacteria. Dysbiosis means you may not be producing the postbiotics necessary to stabilise your gut environment.

How to increase your postbiotics?

To boost your postbiotics you need to increase your probiotics and prebiotics.

  1. Try to include prebiotic fibrous foods in your diet. Common sources include garlic, onions, leeks, leafy greens, asparagus, root vegetables, artichoke, bananas, apples, quinoa, oats, barley, flaxseeds, seaweed, avocado, chickpeas, beans, lentils, almonds, walnuts, and the list goes on! Whew, I need to catch my breath after that mouthful! Another great option is cooled potatoes, oats and legumes – when cooked and cooled, these foods become resistant starches, which butyrate-producing bacteria love!23 Our Complete Prebiotic is the most diverse prebiotic available, providing 18 prebiotics to feed your probiotics.
  2. Introduce fermented foods rich in probiotics such as kefir, live yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha, etc., to replenish your microbiome. Diversity is key here! We want different beneficial bacterial strains colonising your gut and also including various types of fibres in your diet that the probiotics can feed on.24 Like us humans, they like feeding on different delicious food groups!

Remember to take it slowly – too much fibre too quickly can cause unwanted symptoms. Gradually increasing your intake of both probiotics and prebiotics and experimenting with what agrees with your body and what feels good is the way to go.

Our Gut Health Protocol includes both probiotics and prebiotics to boost your postbiotics, and you can also find some other useful recipes in Claire’s article Do you need to eat more fibre? Meal plans here!.

Any questions? Contact one of our Nutritional Therapists via live chat, weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm.


Questions? Talk to a Nutritional Therapist on live chat!

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