Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Postbiotics: A Veterinarian’s Perspective

Published on: 3/25/2020
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To a veterinary students and medical students these are very enticing words, words in vogue, discussion for passion. I will try to sum up the various points highlighting these terms. The problem seemed to have originated with the development of bread. Man thought of a trick to make bread. Yeast was carefully stored in moist cloth bundles and everyday the makers would inoculate their bread with yeast and bake it to form bread. The unleavened bread was going out of fashion in Rome and Asia was still learning this method. No harm was done, a new thing was adopted and men found it very palatable and flavors were devised. It was very nutritious and men would sweat it out, burn the extra calories and it became a healthy food.

Then came the commercialization: bread found its way into everything. Men stopped sweating it out, the calories were not being burnt accordingly. The wheat flour and corn flour was being processed and refined to smallest particle, the roughages and bran was extracted out the whole of the world was running after processed, refined flour. The essentiality of the roughage had been forgotten for gut health.

People in medicine were trying to figure out what had gone wrong with the human gut. They fiqured out that germs rather microbes the like of Sacchromyces cerevisiae and Lactobacillus bulgaricus were beneficial for gut health. They named it probiotics. Everyone was running after these bugs. Slowly and steadily these two passed the test of time and started becoming household names. From being simple probiotics, they matured into food common food item. People started taking it as food and started forgetting their benefits and that they were the original probiotics.

Commercialization found its way into medicine and pharmaceuticals started focusing on yoghurt and yeast as probiotics, but the idea flopped because everyone could make yoghurt and yeast, baking was household stuff and it was very difficult to sell it in smaller quantities for higher price. They started their focus on probiotics which would be heat tolerant like the bacteria, which could withstand acid environment of the stomach and cooking heat.

They found spore forming bacteria butyrate producing Clostridium. Since yoghurt and yeast needed to be replenished daily in gut, these new found clostridial species would colonize the gut for a longer time, since the yoghurt and yeast would produce a host of organic acids causing acidification of gut and then formation of sodium salts of the said acids, these clostridium would especially make acetates, butyrates in larger quantities which would benefit the gut and nervous system of the man. But it had flaws of its own it would not tolerate antibiotic therapy, where the medical scientists found another spore forming bacteria which would be able to withstand antibiotics and they termed it multi drug resistant (MDR) Bacillus clausai.

They were successful but the combination was found to be more useful if some non digestible fiber was present and it simply won’t work with refined sugars. For that, men had already been using Ispaghol, wheat bran, and oat fiber but that had long been ousted out of nutrition by baking. The fibers would help the bacteria in colonizing the gut, aid in gut motility and would be digestible by the bacteria. These fibers were coined as prebiotics. The scientists found that algal fibers were beneficial so they started running after it thus the chemical mannan oligosaccharides gained highest priority, while wheat bran, gluten, corn gluten and oat bran could not be sold for higher profits and lower quantity because otherwise the whole refining of the flours would be nullified.

But we don’t want to make people aware, we want to make money, so new prebiotics have to be devised and highlighted so that they can be marketed. As time flew, the scientists found out that certain probiotics and prebiotic combinations don’t work very effectively because the organic acids produced would not be enough.

Now we’re adding to our misery a new term called postbiotics, and the medical scientists are claiming that the prebiotic and probiotics can’t work if postbiotics are not formed, Postbiotics are those organic acids which are produced by the probiotics while they digest the prebiotics. Top of the list postbiotic is the butyric acid which acidifies the small intestine and converts into butyrate. It has been found that this butyrate is good for gut health, gut bacteria and the general body condition of the body with beneficial effects on immune system, nervous system and what not system. This does not mean that the formic acid, acetic acid and other organic acids would be useless, they have their own role.

I have a thought weren’t we already using pickle, sauerkraut and the fermented cabbage (used by Koreans) long before this finding? Weren’t we right long ago? Why did we astray? Now we have the new story of postbiotics, soon we will establish that the newly discovered prebiotics are not as effective as wheat bran, oat bran, corn gluten or for that matter other grain glutens. So again back to square one.

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