Ignoring Our Gut Health can be Detrimental, but “Postbiotics” may Offer New Hope - Juice 107.3

Ignoring Our Gut Health can be Detrimental, but “Postbiotics” may Offer New Hope

Postbiotics are part of "biotics" family that also includes probiotics and prebiotics and can provide a "boosting effect" to our gut.

By Amy ChengTuesday 11 Jul 2023Health and WellbeingReading Time: 4 minutes

Gut health is important to our overall health and the latest discovery in this field may provide additional benefits.

Dr Senaka Ranadheera, a senior lecturer in Food Processing & Preservation at the University of Melbourne, has been looking into the benefits of postbiotics.

“This is still a developing research area, and we need more research to be done, but their effect is almost certain and there’s a beneficial effect for sure,” he told Hope 103.2.

What are postbiotics?

Postbiotics are part of the same “biotics” family, which also includes probiotics and prebiotics; they are the healthy byproducts of probiotics.

Probiotics are the live microorganisms or good bacteria that we consume in our diets and can be found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and some cheeses; to receive their benefits, we need to consume a lot of them.

Prebiotics are what the probiotics feed on and they can be found in fruits and vegetables such as bananas and apples and Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions and garlic.

According to Dr Ranadheera, postbiotics can provide us with similar benefits to probiotics and prebiotics but without the side effects.

Dr Ranadheera said there is also a third member of this family that isn’t often talked about called “synbiotics”, which can be achieved when probiotics and prebiotics are combined.

“For your understanding, when you produce probiotic yoghurt, you can add some prebiotic compounds to that yogurt and it will be a synbiotic yoghurt that can provide more health benefits than just a probiotic yoghurt,” he said.

“The synbiotic approach can be more helpful because they can support probiotics… they make sure probiotics have enough food to feed on and keeps them alive.”

The newest kid on the block, postbiotics, is what is usually generated after probiotics react with food and the gut microbiome, which consists of all the organisms in our intestines.

In summary, the “first one is live beneficial bugs, the second one is food for them, the third one is combining them to get more benefits and the fourth one is the metabolised or healthy byproducts of probiotics,” Dr Ranadheera said.

“In recent years, we found that our gut is related to everything… there’s lots of associations with gut, what we eat and our overall health,” – Dr Senaka Ranadheera, University of Melbourne

Benefits of postbiotics

According to Dr Ranadheera, postbiotics can provide us with similar benefits to probiotics and prebiotics but without the side effects, such as gas and bloating that some people might experience.

They can provide a “boosting effect” to our gut microbiota, which controls our overall health, and help it fight against unwanted bacteria such as Salmonella.

However, this is still a new field and the research is still in its early days, with most studies being cellular-based lab experiments or performed on animals.

Why is gut health so important?

Dr Ranadheera believes that our gut health is linked to our overall health.

“In recent years, we found that our gut is related to everything… there’s lots of associations with gut, what we eat and our overall health.”

The gut-brain axis, for example, is a theory by scientists that the gut and brain are connected and that the gut can control our brain and its function.

Other aspects of our health impacted by our gut include our mental health and physical wellbeing, Dr Ranadheera said.

“Some research shows that probiotics can help with skin health, it can prevent certain allergies and also prevent some cancers, although it is not a cure.”

Ignoring our gut health can be detrimental, he said.

“Your overall health will collapse; we have seen people with obesity because they are not concerned about their gut health.

“(There will be) all sorts of problems if you don’t eat healthy and don’t listen to your gut health.”

“I would suggest you combine healthy eating habits with some exercising, that will be the icing on the top,” – Dr Senaka Ranadheera, University of Melbourne

How to improve gut health

Dr Ranadheera has some suggestions on improving gut health.

“My advice for the consumer, for the moment, is try to include probiotics in rich food products like yoghurts and fibre-rich foods, such as bananas and maybe artichokes,” he said.

“You don’t need to spend too much money on supplements; if you try to include them in your day-to-day diet, that will be really beneficial.

“I would suggest you combine healthy eating habits with some exercising, that will be the icing on the top because it is proven, I can say very confidently, these things can help you lead a healthy life.”

Dr Ranadheera and his team are currently looking at how different foods can bring different postbiotic benefits when included with probiotics.

“I think these healthy habits can save your life and is really important in these days because of the amount of unhealthy food that we have,” he said.