Postbiotics: The gut-mitochondria axis
At this point in time, most of us are familiar with probiotics, the microbes that commensally live in our digestive tract. If you’re gut health savvy, you may even be familiar with prebiotics, the fuel source utilized by these microorganisms. Postbiotics, however, may be foreign to many as they are the new kid on the block in the field of digestive health. They have the potential to be a significant player in human health so let’s spend some time getting to know them.
Defining the “-biotics”
It can be easy to confuse the terms pre-, pro- and postbiotic as they are very similar sounding; however, their role and function could not be more distinct.
Graphic illustration of probiotic organisms
Graphic illustration of prebiotic foods
Graphic illustration of postbiotic compounds
Exploring the benefits of postbiotics
Several distinct postbiotic compounds have been identified, including short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), vitamins, polysaccharides, proteins, and lipids, each exerting its own beneficial effect. While researchers are still discovering the many ways postbiotics impact our health, the following benefits have been well documented.
- Improved digestion - SCFA’s, including butyrate, propionate, and acetate, are produced by fiber fermentation in the colon. They are an important source of energy for the cells of the digestive tract, and therefore play a crucial role in the turnover and renewal of the intestinal lining. Postbiotics may help preserve the integrity of the intestinal barrier, making them helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive disorders.
- Support the immune system - some types of postbiotics appear to interact with the cells of the immune system. Specifically, 𝞫-glucans may support the cellular response to pathogens like parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Other postbiotics offer protection from infection by helping to seal off the gut lining.
Postbiotics and the gut-mitochondria axis
Postbiotic supplementation is becoming more accepted as a way to prevent and optimize health. They offer an advantage over probiotic supplementation as they are not living organisms and are therefore more shelf-stable. They eliminate the need to introduce live microorganisms, which may be especially beneficial for people with impaired underdeveloped or impaired immune systems. And lastly, they are not dependent on altering the gut microbiota for effectiveness.
In the case of Urolithin A, direct supplementation with Mitopure may be a preferred method to receive the benefits of this postbiotic as few people can produce enough from diet alone. Mitopure provides six times the active nutrient directly to the body regardless of diet or microbiome.
The availability of over-the-counter postbiotic supplements is still somewhat limited as we are in the early days of understanding the whole host of benefits these compounds offer. Recent breakthroughs have made butyrate and Urolithin A available now, but it is anticipated that in near the future a full range of postbiotics options will become important tools for supporting health and wellness. If you are sold on the benefits of postbiotics, the best way to ensure you are producing them is to feed your bacterial friends their favorite foods - a variety of fiber-rich, brightly colored plants!
Knowledge is power
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