Postbiotics are gaining scientific recognition as a key factor in maintaining long-term digestive health.
When dietary fibre is broken down and fermented in the colon by bacteria, it forms byproducts known as postbiotics. Previously considered as the metabolic waste of probiotic activity, postbiotics are now being recognised as a potential alternative to using whole bacteria, and may produce the same effect on gastrointestinal health as probiotics (friendly bacteria associated with good gut flora).
Probiotics are living organisms. When they die they secrete postbiotics that are believed to mimic the beneficial therapeutic effects of probiotics and continue to improve health.
Despite proven benefits of probiotics, postbiotics have the advantage of avoiding risks linked with administering live probiotic bacteria, especially to vulnerable people such as preterm infants or people with immune deficiencies.
Concerns regarding the side effects of probiotics include the potential to spread antibiotic resistance genes and hindering normal colonisation of other microflora.
Other advantages of postbiotics are its clear chemical structure, safety dose parameters and longer shelf life.
Postbiotics include short-chain fatty acids – *acetate, propionate and butyrate.
The production of short-chain fatty acids is determined by several factors, including the numbers and types of bacteria present in the gut and the specific source of fibre.
Short-chain fatty acids are among the most important products of the gut microbiota. They affect a range of physiological processes, including energy utilization, communication between human and microbial cells, and control of acid levels in the colon. These effects have consequences on the composition of the gut microbiome and general colon health.
* Propionate and acetate are carried in the bloodstream to a variety of different organs where they are used for important metabolic processes. While butyrate is a major energy source for the colon and has an important role in intestinal growth and cells that line the gut.
Image courtesy of ThinkBiome