Postbiotics and their Benefits

by Valerie Demetros

You probably know about probiotics, the living microorganisms found in certain foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut and some cheeses that are essential to good digestion. But science is now concentrating on postbiotics and their benefits.

Essentially, when you eat foods with probiotics it helps your digestive tract by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in your gut microbiome, a collection of tiny beasties living in your intestines.

Prebiotics act as food for those probiotics. Foods with healthy amounts of fiber like beans, whole grains and some vegetables will break down in your gut to create elements that help probiotics to grow and flourish in your gut.

Postbiotics are the waste left behind after your body digests both prebiotics and probiotics. Waste products don’t sound like something you want in your body, yet these are responsible for various important health-boosting functions in your gut.

Postbiotics include organic acids, bacteriocins, carbonic substances and enzymes and result naturally from the existence of microorganisms living in your gut.

Healthy postbiotics also include such nutrients as vitamins B and K, amino acids and antimicrobial peptides that aid in slowing the growth of harmful bacteria. Short-chain fatty acids, another postbiotic, help healthy bacteria flourish.

The microbes in probiotics are transient, which means they pass through the body and don’t usually form permanent colonies in the gut. This is why taking probiotics consistently is important because they don’t last.

Research indicates that most of the positive effects we used to attribute to probiotics may actually be due to postbiotics. They also may provide the basis for the proper processing of prebiotics, promoting a healthy prebiotic population.

Mainly, the sources for postbiotics are probiotics that can help increase the postbiotics in your gut such as fermented foods like kefir, tempeh and kimchi as well as soft cheeses, yogurt, sourdough bread and miso soup.

Like prebiotics and probiotics, some postbiotics can also be found as supplements. The benefits of postbiotics include lowering blood sugar, preventing obesity, treating diarrhea and supporting a strong immune system.

In some studies, people with inflammatory bowel disease were not helped by probiotics and yet when given postbiotics they were protected against some inflammation.

Another study found that some postbiotics have helped with seasonal allergy-induced runny, stuffy noses (rhinitis) and when taken for two to three months significantly reduced eczema symptoms.