Postbiotics: Getting Ahead of the Game?
You've heard about probiotics, just about got our heads around prebiotics and now postbiotics are entering the scene! Emerging as a further source of support for the development of a strong and stable immune system, this may just be the new buzzword in the health and wellness industry. But before you all get sucked away with the latest wellness trend, here are a few things you should know about postbiotics:
Let’s start from the beginning...
Postbiotics is a new term for the by-products of probiotics. So, for those of you who may not know, probiotics are beneficial bacteria which many people have started feeding to the gut to help the gut bacteria thrive. They are also found in foods such as yoghurts containing live cultures, kefir (a fermented milk drink), kombucha (a fermented tea drink) and fermented vegetables.
The benefits of probiotics appear to be generated by the by-products (or metabolites) of the probiotics.
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are the most commonly known metabolites of the gut’s beneficial bacteria. Acetate, propionate and butyrate make up the majority of the SCFAs. Some of the benefits associated with SCFAs are reduced inflammation in the gut, blood sugar control and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Other by-products and postbiotics include: P40 molecule, teichoic acid, lactocepin and antimicrobial peptides to name a few. (I’m not trying to go all sciency on you here I just want you to realise that there are many more than just SCFAs).
With this being said, a new ‘theory’ or hype that we’re starting to see gather interest is the idea that you could simply switch your probiotics for postbiotics (if ultimately that’s what they’re going to turn into).
But it's not worth the hype just yet!
In theory this sounds great, but the reality is that we still have a few technical problems to solve at the moment...
As this is a very new and emerging area scientists are having to workout how they can culture these postbiotics into a form that we could take. There are so many different types of postbiotics that they’re also going to need to delve deeper to understand the ones which could be most beneficial.
Secondly, scientists are also still unsure as to how they can ensure that these postbiotics survive the digestion process before reaching the gut. The research so far suggests that postbiotics will be destroyed before they reach the gut and therefore will be unable to do their job!
So, whilst this is a very interesting and emerging area of nutrition, I wouldn’t suggest that we get sucked in just yet. Sit tight, let the scientists do their thing and maybe, just maybe, postbiotics might become a thing of the future!
By Nutritionist Jenna Hope (A Nutr), MSc, BSc (Hons)