The search for better gut health continues. Just when we all finally got a handle on the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics, the powers that be have added another "biotic" to the mix. The newcomers are known as postbiotics — and we're here to break them down for you.
First, a quick primer: Probiotics, found in fermented foods and supplements, are "good" bacteria that are thought to help maintain digestive health and boost the immune system. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres found in foods like onions, chicory, and garlic that feed the beneficial bugs in your GI tract, helping them function. The "waste" left behind from that process is what's known as postbiotics.
That sounds kind of gross. But actually postbiotics include substances such as organic acids, enzymes, and proteins called bacteriocins. All of these have advantages, and help do things like lower blood sugar or reduce inflammation. Some researchers even believe that at least some of the benefits we get from ingesting probiotics may be due to the postbiotics.
This is the early days of postbiotics. It's still seen as an evolving term, and experts aren't totally sure how they impact the body, although most scientists agree that they're good for the gut microbiome. Still, that means that as of now, there can be no firm advice given on how to tap into their benefits. There's no postbiotic supplement (yet).
In an article for Natural Medicine Journal, however, Ross Pelton, a pharmacist and nutritionist, writes that different kinds probiotic bacteria produce different kinds of postbiotic metabolites. The more varied your GI microbiome, then, the more diverse your postbiotic community.
Eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics, taking supplements, and exercising all may increase the diversity of your gut bacteria (which is associated with better wellbeing in general). And that could, in turn, impact your postbiotic levels too.
Just... try not to think too hard about all those bacteria, eating their fibre and releasing their waste into your GI tract.