If you’re interested in gut health (as we are), you’ve probably heard of postbiotic, which are starting to become available as supplements. The science of postbiotics is still in its early stages, with questions about what they are, how they work, and whether they’re worth taking as a pill. There’s still a lot scientist don’t know.
We’ll get to that later. However, in order to comprehend what we do know about postbiotics, you must first comprehend the fundamentals of microbiome science, so let’s begin there.
THE MICROBIOME OF THE GUT
The gut microbiome is a collection of microbes that live in the lining of our digestive tract, mostly bacteria, and yeasts. Throughout our lives, our microbiome evolves and changes:
Our moms usually give us our first germs after vaginal birth and breastfeeding, and we pick up more throughout childhood, largely from the foods we eat. Genetics also has a role.
The gut microbiome tends to settle in adulthood, although it can still be influenced by some lifestyle behaviors, such as nutrition, as well as disruptions such as stress, travel, antibiotic usage, and some prescription medicines.
The majority of microorganisms in a healthy microbiome are beneficial or neutral. They coexist with our bodies and carry out functions that we couldn’t do on our own, like digesting specific meals and creating certain nutrients.
As they battle for space in our bodies, the bacteria that aren’t so good for our bodies are usually held in control by the helpful ones. Some disruptive events may cause these undesirable germs to overgrow, resulting in yeast infections and illnesses such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
(Our bodies have microbiomes outside of the gut as well: we have colonies of microorganisms on our skin, in our mouths, and in our vaginal canals.)
Probiotics are live and active cultures developed in a facility with the explicit aim of regulating the body’s natural microbiome. They often contain bacteria that are comparable to those found naturally in the microbiome. They’re most commonly found in capsules.
Some of them need to be refrigerated, while others can be kept on the shelf. Probiotic supplements contain a variety of microorganisms. The type of probiotic you take matters if you’re taking them for a specific reason: Probiotic bacteria, like the microbes, found naturally in your gut, perform a variety of activities in the body.
Instead of measuring probiotics by volume or weight, we use colony-forming units or active fluorescence units. They measure the number of viable microorganisms per serving in CFU and AFU, which is often in the billions. CFU will be more frequently than AFU:
AFU uses newer, more precise technology to account for bacteria that aren’t in CFU (if a microbe is active but not culturable, CFU doesn’t count it), but they dont widely use it. Higher CFU or AFU numbers do not always imply improved health. The dose of any probiotic strain that has proven results in scientific research is the best.
Probiotic microorganisms are transitory, which means they travel through the body and do not form permanent colonies in the intestine. That’s why it’s critical to take probiotics on a regular basis—the probiotics you’re making now won’t last long.
There are a number of probiotics we recommend if you want to cover all your bases. The goop Wellness Gut Microbiome Superpowder is the first on the list. It’s made with 10 billion CFU of Lactobacillus Plantarum 299v, a single probiotic strain that’s been demonstrated in clinical tests to help digestive health and function, including occasional stomach distress, bloating, and regularity.
It doesn’t need to be refrigerated because it’s stable at ambient temperature. And it’s also in powder form, so it’s easy to mix into smoothies, iced coffee, or a glass of water.
Another fantastic alternative is Seed’s Daily Synbiotic. Seed’s researchers completed their homework: The Daily Synbiotic has twenty-four clinically tested probiotic strains, many of which are in the dosages that have been found to be helpful in scientific studies. 53.6 billion AFU are contained in each two-capsule serving. That’s a lot of probiotics, so if you’re new to them. Start with one capsule each day until your body adjusts.
They call any chemical that feeds gut microorganisms a prebiotic. Typically, bacteria thrive on fibers that human systems would not digest otherwise, such as inulin and certain oligosaccharides. This mechanism is one of the reasons why we have gut microbiomes at all.
We help them by giving them food and a place to live, and they help us by supporting various bodily functions such as digestion and immunity.
Many plant-based foods naturally contain prebiotics; if you consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you’ll get sufficient prebiotics from food alone. You might opt for a supplement that contains prebiotics if you need more help. (Ask your doctor first; prebiotic supplements might increase symptoms in persons with certain digestive problems, such as SIBO.)
It may be good to take probiotic and prebiotic supplements together. According to research, prebiotics may aid in the viability of probiotics as they travel through the digestive tract. Some organizations have begun to use the term “synbiotic” to refer to a supplement. That contains both prebiotics and probiotics, such as Seed’s Daily Synbiotic.
To summarize, active bacteria and yeasts make up innate gut microorganisms and probiotics. Prebiotics are essential for these bacteria and yeasts to thrive.
The science of postbiotics is still in its early stages. Unlike prebiotics and probiotics, most scientific research on postbiotics is in the last decade. And there is still no consensus on what constitutes a postbiotic.
For the time being, the term “postbiotic” refers to a wide range of bioactive chemicals. That bacteria digests and ferments in the stomach. Some may offer major health benefits and potential medical applications, while others may simply be waste products.
Thira Burns, goop’s resident registered dietitian, feels that postbiotics could be the next big thing in nutrition research. Burns says, “We already know that eating fermented foods is excellent for the gut.” “Postbiotic research could help us figure out why.”
Some postbiotics, like prebiotics and probiotics before them, are becoming more widely available as supplements. We want to be crystal clear: Scientists aren’t sure if there’s a general benefit to taking postbioticsas supplements, and we haven’t explained how or why these substances function in the body. It’s critical to ask questions and conduct research before purchasing a supplement that contains a postbiotic.
And some postbiotics have shown functional results in studies and may be worth a try if the research findings match your health goals. For example, EpiCor, a whole-food fermented yeast that they examine for its link with a healthy immune system, considers it a postbiotic.
Because of that research, we put EpiCor in the composition of Perfect Attendance, our immune support chews. The short-chain fatty acid butyrate, in the gut as a postbiotic, also came into research for its ability to maintain good gut function.
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