What are postbiotics? Learn all about the gut health benefits of postbiotics, including postbiotic foods and postbiotic supplements, in your healthy lifestyle.
What Are Postbiotics?
Chances are you’ve heard of prebiotics and probiotics, but what are postbiotics? The term may seem complicated, but postbiotics are actually pretty easy to understand. Postbiotics are produced by probiotics, the live microorganisms that provide a health benefit for you. These live microorganisms feed on prebiotics, which are certain fibers found in foods like garlic, artichokes, and beans, among many other foods. Essentially, postbiotics are the waste products leftover from probiotics. Postbiotics are the new gut health kids on the block, so to speak. We are still learning a lot about the concept of postbiotics and how to define them. A recent expert panel came together to define postbiotics as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host”. The panel also went on to say, “Effective postbiotics must contain inactivated microbial cells or cell components, with or without metabolites, that contribute to observed health benefits.” You can learn more about the recent consensus statement on postbiotics here.
Gut Health Basics
So now it looks like you can gain benefits from all three gut health components in your lifestyle: prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. Here’s a bit of background on how these work to fuel a healthy gut–and healthy you. Intestinal bacteria are present before birth, and are also introduced through breastfeeding and introduction of solid foods.1 The intestinal microbiome is incredibly beneficial for development during the early years, and it’s also very important to keep your gut healthy as you age. We can take probiotic supplements to provide a health benefit specific to the strain (for example, some strains of probiotics are beneficially for IBS while others are beneficial for constipation), You can also increase the number of bacteria in your gut through fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, or cultured plant-based yogurts. You can consume prebiotics, which are certain fibers that we don’t fully digest and are instead “eaten” by the good bacteria in your gut. Eating a plant-based diet is one of the ways you can promote a diverse gut microbiome, according to this study, which looked at bacteria present in the gut of vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. Interestingly, there are ten times as many bacteria present in the body as there are human cells—so try to keep them happy! Learn about the best gut health supplements at the US Probiotic Guide site here.
How do Postbiotics Work?
So, what do postbiotics do? Interestingly, they may be responsible for a lot of the benefits that are attributed to prebiotics! Along with probiotics, they help promote health. One benefit is that they may help lower blood sugar, which can further protect against Type 2 diabetes. Postbiotics may also support the digestive system’s function, especially for people who are currently suffering with bowel conditions. Look for more research being conducted on this fascinating topic.
The Best Postbiotic Foods
You’re probably wondering how you can increase your intake of postbiotics. Foods that contain live cultures contain postbiotics as a byproduct of their fermentation processes. In addition, foods that increase postbiotics in your gut include the following, according to the Cleveland Clinic:
What Are the Best Gut Health Supplements?
In addition to eating prebiotic, probiotic, and postbiotic foods, you can also take a supplement to help you with your lifestyle goals. Look for well regarded gut health supplements that are evaluated by third party certifications, such as Life Extension Prebiotics probiotic supplements, Garden of Life probiotic supplements, and Immuse postbiotic supplements, which I just learned about at a recent partially sponsored nutrition conference. Remember that probiotic supplements have specific strain-dependent benefits, so look at this guide to determine which supplements will help you meet your personal health needs. And definitely talk with your healthcare provider before adding a new supplement to your routine.
Check out these plant based gut friendly recipes:
Main Image: This recipe for Pomegranate Farro Bowl is featured in my new book, California Vegan.
Learn more about gut health in the following blogs:
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Written by Sharon Palmer MSFS, RDN with Kathryn Atkinson, dietetic intern
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