Your Gut and Postbiotics
If you're interested in your gut (like us), you've probably come across the term postbiotics.
We've read a few places that they're the cousins to prebiotics and probiotics but that's not exactly the case.
As with anything sciencey, we have to dig a bit deeper to really understand what's going on.
Before we explain what postbiotics are, their function and whether you might want to take a postbiotic supplement, we need to cover the basics of what your gut microbiome is.
Introducing Your Gut Microbiome
Right, our digestive system is a series of tubes from our mouth to our bum, and is responsible for breaking down our food and passing all the lovely nutrients to where our body needs them.
We're familiar with the struggle to do what's best for us. But this tug of war for our wellbeing is also secretly going on in our gut too.
Our gut is home to trillions of microbes which form the gut microbiome - an ecosystem made up mostly of bacteria. This ecosystem is in constant 2 way communication with our brain, it weighs just as much as our brain.
An easy way to think about a healthy gut microbiome (we think) is to imagine your gut is a city and within that there are communities of different microorganisms - mostly bacteria and yeasts - that live in the lining of our gastrointestinal tract.
In our bodies, everything is connected. So, having a healthy gut microbiome is connected to stronger immune system, better digestion, better mental health and improvements across all aspects of wellbeing.
Our microbiome develops and changes throughout our life depending our levels of stress, what we eat, how much we exercise and infections that we're exposed to.
Getting a balance in our guts
Our bodies are home to a wide variety of microbes that keep us healthy.
We have communities of microbes just about everywhere in our bodies, with the most influential to our overall health in our guts.
In a healthy microbiome, most of these microbes are good for us or neutral. They're our wee gut troopers!
They're always working for us by digesting foods to make the nutrients we need to ... live life!
So thinking about the gut microbiome as a city, the beneficial microbes compete for space, keeping undesirable ones in check.
And when they're not in balance, we can experience all sorts of un-fun gut stuff including stomach cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, upset stomach, diarrhoea or constipation.
We can help manage the environment we create in our guts by eating certain foods or taking supplements.
Bacteria is bacteria right?
Not so long ago, the idea of swallowing live bacteria to boost our health would have seemed utterly ridiculous (or maybe a bit gross!)
But in the past 20+ years, because we're learning more about the gut, there have been developments in market for drinks, foods and pills to boost our beneficial gut bacteria.
First came probiotic supplements AKA 'friendly bacteria'. Then prebiotics, which provide the fuel these bacteria feed off.
Now comes a new breed of biotic supplement: the postbiotics.
What's the difference between prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics?
Again, thinking about the gut microbiome as a city. Probiotics are the factory, Prebiotics are the fuel for the factory. The probiotics 'factories' make the Postbiotics - so they're the goods.
Prebiotics: Microorganisms (including the good bacteria) in your body need to eat. Probiotics feed on prebiotics so Prebiotics are the fuel.
Probiotics: Probiotics are often simply described as good bacteria. When you get sick, you may have too much bad bacteria. Probiotics help fight the bad bacteria until you feel better.
Probiotics (factory) eat the prebiotics (fuel) to make the postbiotics (goods).
Postbiotics: Postbiotics are a byproduct of probiotics when they eat the prebiotics. Their goal is to support the maintain and healthy balance of your gut microbiome.
Postbiotics for your gut biome
The field of postbiotics is still developing.
Most scientific studies on postbiotics has been published within the last decade - using the latest in scientific understanding.
We already know that fermented foods are beneficial to the gastrointestinal system. Research into postbiotics may help us discover why.
Postbiotics may be better tolerated than probiotics. When you consume probiotics, you increase the number of beneficial bacteria in your body.
You can take prebiotics, which help fuel the factories. Or you can add more factories by taking probiotics.
But what if you could just add deliver the postbiotic goods directly to your gut? That's where postbiotic supplements come in.
Since postbiotics don't contain microorganisms, there's a lower risk of complications from adding new bacteria to your microbiome. As some people may not tolerate probiotics well, so postbiotics may be a more suitable alternative.