Postbiotics and Their Role in Restoring Health
While prebiotics and probiotics have gained a lot of attention in recent years, there’s another tool that you should know about and may need.
There is no denying that prebiotics and probiotics are extremely valuable for your gut and overall health and well-being. But postbiotics may be an even more essential tool.
Probiotics, Prebiotics and Postbiotics
I know the terms can be kind of confusing, so let’s first get clear on what each is.
Probiotics — are live healthy or friendly bacteria that naturally reside in the gut or come from an external source such as supplements. Your gut microbiome is made up of probiotics that help you be healthy. The human body and probiotics live in a symbiotic relationship, in which we provide the probiotics with free lodging plus meals and in turn, we benefit from their presence and the byproducts they produce.
Prebiotics — are the nutrients that feed the probiotics or the gut microbes. They are usually dietary fiber that can be found in plants foods like green leafies, vegetables, fruits, starches, and collagen from animal foods.
Postbiotics — are the byproducts of the action of probiotics as they consume prebiotics. These byproducts are bioactive compounds that result when the healthy bacteria ferment fiber. There are actually different types of postbiotics, but one that is widely known is the SCFA or the short-chain fatty acids.
To put it simply, prebiotics are the food for the probiotics or bacteria in the gut. When the probiotics ferment the prebiotics, postbiotics are produced and you get the benefit of that.
A Closer Look at Postbiotics and Their Benefits
The benefits of having a diverse gut microbiome and eating enough fiber all result in the production of postbiotics, particularly the SCFA. SCFAs are the main source of energy for cells lining your colon, so they are valuable in keeping your colon healthy. In addition, they provide about 10% of your daily caloric needs and are essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
SCFA is also associated with decreasing the risk of inflammatory diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other conditions. It also helps to prevent and treat diarrhea, reduce symptoms associated with irritable bowel disease, and reduce symptoms of some allergies.
Technically, whatever benefits probiotics provide is the same as what postbiotics can offer.
The SCFAs in your body are butyrate, acetate, and propionate. But the most commonly studied and most powerful of the three is butyrate. Despite that, other SCFAs are important as well.
Acetate maintains the right pH of your gut, which is just acidic enough for the good microbes to thrive and survive and to keep the pathogenic ones out. It also helps protect you from unnecessary weight gain because it helps control your appetite and regulates the storage of fat. In addition, acetate nourishes the bacteria that produce butyrate.
Just like acetate, propionate also suppresses appetite. It lowers cholesterol, reduces fat storage, and protects against cancer. It has anti-inflammatory effects as well. Meaning, it helps to protect you from various inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis.
In next week’s newsletter, we’ll delve into butyrate and postbiotic supplementation.
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