The Power of Postbiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics have received a lot of attention in the past decade, but have you heard of the power of postbiotics? These beneficial compounds complete the trifecta of good gut health. Let me explain how by first defining the terms prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.
1) Prebiotics feed probiotics and come from whole food plant sources high in fiber such as bananas, artichokes, broccoli, apples, almonds, beets, beans, chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, mushrooms, oats, leeks, and onions - to name a few. You can also obtain prebiotics from supplements or fortified foods, or by synthesizing them from other compounds in your diet.
Prebiotics offer many health benefits such as:
maintaining a healthy microbiome and gut lining
encouraging peristalsis and calcium absorption
reducing allergies and inflammation
stabilizing blood sugar
2) Probiotics are beneficial microbes, usually beneficial bacteria but also some types of fungi, that live throughout the body within the mouth, sinuses, skin, gastrointestinal tract and pretty much everywhere. Humans act as their host and in exchange they provide nutrients to flourish in a symbiotic, or mutualistic, relationship. This is a win-win for both the organisms and the host.
Probiotic health benefits include:
managing gastrointestinal disease
rebalancing and repleting beneficial gut flora
treating and preventing vaginal and urinary infections
appetite and weight management
improved skin and emotional health
Common types of probiotics include bifidobacteria and lactobacillus. Saccharomyces is beneficial yeast strain that is also commonly found in probiotic supplements.
Fermented foods include probiotics such as:
3) Postbiotics are essentially beneficial byproducts, or what probiotics produce after consuming prebiotics. Although research is evolving, postbiotics are considered beneficial to both the host and the organisms (probiotics) that produce them.
As a result, these three work synergistically to promote healthy flora in the body. The high fiber prebiotics are digested by the probiotics, which then produce helpful postbiotics.
Postbiotics include enzymes, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), vitamins, aromatic amino acids, and more. Let's focus on SCFAs, like acetate, propionate and butyrate, since the research is still fairly new.
These SCFAs are postbiotics with incredible health benefits such as:
anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects
modulating cellular activity and the immune response
helping to control glucose stability, appetite, and cardiovascular effects
providing a fuel source for cells lining the colon
enhancing intestinal structure, function and mucosal immunity - great for reducing a leaky gut
supporting regular bowel movements and improved bloating
While there aren’t a lot of foods that contain postbiotics (SCFAs) themselves, there are many foods that provide the fuel for probiotics to produce postbiotics.
Cooked, cooled oats
Cooked, cooled rice
Cooked, cooled potatoes
Bananas, especially underripe ones
Grains, potatoes, and legumes contain resistant starch, which ferments in the colon and produces SCFAs. The bananas, onions, and asparagus contain fructo-oligosaccharides, which also fuel butyrate production.
Another way to consistently consume SCFAs is from high-quality supplements. As of now, the postbiotic market has prioritized butyrate for its gut-protective effects. As you can imagine, butyrate is practical for most people in today's high-stress, toxic world - both of which deplete our beneficial bacteria.
Who might especially benefit from a butyrate supplement:
Those with IBS, a leaky gut, or another gut-related illness
Those struggling with constipation
Those with weakened digestion or difficulty with fiber
Those seeking added immune and anti-inflammatory protection
This category of supplements is fairly new in the nutrition world, and there are many unreliable products out there. My favorite manufacturer is BodyBio, available on Fullscript. They've been making BodyBio Butyrate for 25 years, and produce high quality products while leaving out fillers or additives. I've had good success with their products.
If you're looking to take your digestion to the next level, try sodium buytrate, sodium/potassium butyrate, or calcium/magnesium butyrate. If you've done any genetic testing or digestive stool studies, scan your results for which type of supplemental SCFA is recommended for you. If you're prone to elevated blood pressure or osteoporosis, stick with the calcium/magnesium butyrate. When implementing a new supplement, use it consistently for at least three months for ideal results.