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Posted on: July 20th, 2021

Gut health has been a hot topic in contemporary health research. Prebiotics and probiotics have helped gain a lot of attention in this area due to their benefits to gut health. Recently, postbiotics have come forward as another group of supplements that may help improve gut health.

Postbiotics have been connected to a number of gut health benefits, along with some immune system and overall health benefits. But what are postbiotics? Let’s take a look at each type of -biotic and what they are.

Prebiotics, Probiotics, & Postbiotics

Probiotics are healthy bacteria inside the gut that help support health by converting fiber into other beneficial compounds.

Prebiotics are nutrients, mainly consisting of fiber, that feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut.

Postbiotics are the beneficial compounds probiotic bacteria produce when they consume prebiotics.

What are Postbiotics?

In a nutshell, postbiotics are bioactive compounds that develop when probiotic bacteria feed on prebiotic food in your colon (mainly fibers). Postbiotics are technically considered waste products of probiotic bacteria but they offer many health benefits.

There are many types of postbiotics. Here is a list of common types of postbiotic compounds:

  • short-chain fatty acids
  • lipopolysaccharides
  • exopolysaccharides
  • enzymes
  • cell wall fragments
  • bacterial lysates (a mixture made from bacterial components)
  • cell-free supernatants (a mixture of compounds produced by bacteria and yeast)
  • various other metabolites such as vitamins and amino acids

Supplements based on postbiotic compounds are not yet widely available, as research is still being conducted on them. The easiest way to get postbiotic benefits at the moment is to eat more prebiotic foods, as postbiotics develop from probiotic bacteria consuming them.

Postbiotic Health Benefits & Potential Benefits

Postbiotics as a public health concept is new, but they have been linked to health benefits in the body for a long time. Here are some of the benefits that have been linked to postbiotics:

Immune system support. Postbiotics are known to have properties that can strengthen the immune system. Short-chain fatty acids can stimulate the production of healthy cells in the intestines, helping to control the body’s immune responses.

Reduce inflammation. Some postbiotic compounds, including supernatants from healthy bacteria, can increase the rate of anti-inflammatory chemical production. The cytokines that are found in some postbiotics can help reduce inflammation.

Possible benefits for digestive conditions. Postbiotics are being researched to discover how beneficial they may be for conditions including IBD, Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. Research is focused on the production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut and how postbiotic supplements may assist in this process.

Possible diarrhea treatment. Research is also currently being done on how postbiotics can help treat or possibly even prevent diarrhea. Early tests have shown postbiotic compounds working better than control group supplements.

More Potential Postbiotic Health Benefits

The following list includes potential postbiotic health benefits that are all being researched. There are no definitive conclusions on any of the health benefits below, but the data is promising enough to warrant further studies.

  • Allergies
  • Weight-loss
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • May be better tolerated than probiotics

The potential benefits of postbiotics is exciting and new things are being discovered as ongoing research is conducted.

Postbiotics and Diet

Postbiotic supplements are not widely available. Current supplements at health food stores may not have enough research to back the benefits they tout. Postbiotics can, however, be naturally manufactured by the body by eating certain foods.

The list below contains sources of both pre-and probiotics, both important in the manufacture of postbiotic compounds.

Good Sources of Prebiotics

  • garlic
  • onions
  • leeks
  • asparagus
  • barley
  • oats
  • flaxseed
  • seaweed

Good Sources of Probiotics

  • yogurt with live cultures
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • kombucha

What We Know About Postbiotics

Research on postbiotic benefits in almost all areas is ongoing. What is known is that postbiotics are bioactive compounds that develop from probiotics consuming prebiotics. Postbiotics are technically a waste product, although they have shown to be beneficial for our gastrointestinal health.

Due to the fact that postbiotics have shown a lot of promise in the areas of gut health, immune system health, and allergies, research has been ramping up over the last few years.

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