Gut health, it’s taken center stage when it comes to wellbeing and with good reason. Studies are continually proving that our general wellbeing is heavily reliant on a healthy gut. In fact, everything from skin health to cognitive function are impacted by the state of your gut.
When it comes to gut health, the recent focus has been on a combination of a healthy diet, prebiotics, probiotics, and enzymes. And, there is no denying the power of this particular combination. However, there is a new kid on the block that is joining this already powerful crew, postbiotics. So what are they and how are they different from probiotics and prebiotics? Let’s take a look.
In order to understand what postbiotics are, it is necessary to know what probiotics and prebiotics are, as the three are very closely related.
By definition, probiotics are a combination of live bacteria and yeast cells that live in your gut. They exist naturally in the intestinal tract, especially in the colon. However, they can also be found in different foods including kimchi and yogurt. They are also available in supplement forms.
The friendly bacteria coexist harmoniously and symbiotically with gut cells and are actually crucial to the health of the digestive system. Some of their key functions in the digestive tract include:
- Promoting peristalsis and transit of food along the gut.
- Aid in digestion by producing some digestive enzymes.
- Keep harmful microorganisms at bay by offering competition for resources.
Prebiotics on the other hand are compounds in food, mainly fiber, that promote the growth of probiotic colonies as well as their function in the gut. They are common in fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Their benefits to gut health are indirect and include improvements in gut function as a result of the presence of healthy colonies of probiotics. Probiotics feed on prebiotics not only for survival but also as a raw material to produce bioactive products required for their different purposes.
What Are Postbiotics?
Postbiotics are the bioactive products produced by probiotics after consuming prebiotics. To refer to these products as simply waste would be an understatement as they have so much to offer in terms of gut health and overall wellbeing.
Some of these products include enzymes that help us breakdown and assimilate our food. Others include broken-down sugars, peptides, and even vitamins.
For the most part, postbiotics exist naturally in the gut. As byproducts of metabolism within the probiotics, it is safe to conclude that where there are good bacteria there is bound to be this good waste.
There are several foods that are rich in postbiotics and it’s no surprise that these same foods are also rich in probiotics as well. In a nutshell, the large colonies of probiotics in these foods release their postbiotic waste even before consumption. It is common in fermented foods and some of the best options include yogurt, pickled vegetables, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
In addition to providing probiotics and postbiotics, most of these foods also provide prebiotics for improved production of the postbiotic products by existing colonies in the gut. You could also get the same benefits from organic supplement sources that may have one, two, or all three of the biotic treasures.
Benefits of Postbiotics
Postbiotics are so much more than just waste from some random bacteria and yeast cells in your gut. Here are three of the most important direct and indirect benefits of postbiotics.
- Support probiotics. Most, if not all, of the functions of probiotics rely heavily on postbiotic products.
- Keeps gut pathogens at bay. Postbiotics have antipathogenic properties as they help reduce the colony sizes and impact of pathogens from harmful bacteria to parasites. This complements the effect of probiotics which work by offering competition for resources in the gut and therefore limiting the impact of pathogens.
- Promote food transit through the gut. The prebiotics that the good bacteria in the gut feed on are rich in carbohydrates. As a result, postbiotic waste is often full of simple sugars. These are very useful energy sources for the cells immediately adjacent to the probiotic colonies. This energy boost is important for the rhythmic contractions and relaxations that push food along the gut.
The Power of Balance
Postbiotics are clearly not new to the scene in their function as the friendly bacteria in our gut have been producing them for a very long time. However, understanding them and how to boost their levels in the body is without a doubt invaluable information for anyone on a wellness journey.
In a nutshell, it is all about striking a balance with consumption of probiotics and prebiotic fiber sources. With these two in sufficient amounts, postbiotic production is inevitable allowing your gut to reap all the benefits. A healthy diet in general is also crucial to maintain the delicate balance with this surprisingly delicate system.
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