Postbiotics: Health Benefits

Postbiotics are byproducts of the fermentation process carried out by probiotics in the intestine. In other words, as probiotics feed on prebiotics, postbiotics are produced. They are basically the “waste” of probiotics.

Introducing Postbiotics

Scientists and gut experts have known about postbiotics and their benefits for years, but the term doesn’t yet have an official definition. Language has been proposed to define postbiotics as bioactive compounds produced by food-grade microorganisms during the fermentation process of a food or beverage, which are ingested in the fermented product, resulting in various benefits in the gut of the host. Fermented foods and beverages contain bioactive peptides and living microorganisms that could modulate immune responses and impact the composition of the intestinal microbiota.

Activities in the Gut

  • The current working definition of postbiotics refers specifically to compounds and fermentation waste products generated outside of the body.
  • Prebiotics have been defined as “food for the beneficial microbes that live in our gut. They provide health benefits for humans by selectively promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • Prebiotics are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, are enriched in a variety of food products, including infant formula, and are available as dietary supplements.
  • The gut microbiome also produces the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine that impact mental health.
  • Some dairy products and nondairy alternatives, however, are fermented with both fermentation and probiotic strains.
  • Because fermented foods typically contain undefined microbial strains that haven’t been shown to benefit health as strains themselves, those foods shouldn’t be considered probiotic. ‘Live and active cultures’ is a good term to apply to fermented foods, rather than probiotic.

Types of Postbiotics

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

Benefits of postbiotics

  1. Postbiotics have properties that may help strengthen your immune system.
  2. Postbiotics, such as short-chain fatty acids, may help improve symptoms for people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  3. Supplementing with a postbiotic significantly reduced bowl motion frequency, bloating, and pain and improved their overall quality of life.
  4. Postbiotics like short-chain fatty acids may aid weight loss by suppressing hunger signals.
  5. Butyrate seems to help lower blood pressure and suppress genes that play a role in cholesterol production.
  6. Postbiotics may have qualities that help suppress the growth and spread of some cancer cells, including colon and stomach cancer cells.

Postbiotics have been linked to various health benefits such as aiding immunity, preventing or treating diarrhea, reducing symptoms of irritable bowel diseases, reducing the severity of certain allergies, aiding weight loss, and more.