What are postbiotics? Let’s find out!

December 7th, 2021

Probiotics and prebiotics are very popular nowadays for their positive effects on gut health. Most recently, postbiotics, which are products or metabolites released from microbial fermentation, have also gained attention due to their health benefits. However, they are still unknown to the majority of consumers.

What are postbiotics

What are postbiotics?

Postbiotics are defined as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host”. In other words, they are the bacterial products or metabolites released from microbial fermentation.

For this reason, postbiotics include several types of compounds, such as short-chain fatty acids (that have several health benefits), microbial cell fragments, functional proteins, extracellular polysaccharides, cell lysates or teichoic acid.

Unlike probiotics, postbiotics do not need to be alive to be beneficial, so they are more stable than the living bacteria they are derived from. [1]

Why postbiotics?

Why postbiotics when I can already take probiotics and prebiotics? This may be a question that comes up.

It is important to understand that gut microbiota composition varies between individuals. This means that the degree to which different components are metabolized may be different among persons.

As a result, probiotics and prebiotics may have different health effects between individuals. Moreover, temporal changes in our gut microbiota composition could also influence the effects of these compounds.

On the other hand, many positive health effects of probiotics and prebiotics are due to the production of components such as short-chain fatty acids, microbial fragments, functional proteins or teichoic acid.

As mentioned before, these components are postbiotics, which means that when postbiotics are taken, these components are directly ingested.

If you want to know more about prebiotics, check out this article. Or if you are familiar with prebiotics, this article about synbiotics might be for you!

What are the health benefits of postbiotics?

Research suggests that postbiotics may have several health benefits. These include the following:


• Modulation of the microbiota. Postbiotic components such as butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, are beneficial for gut health. [2]


• Modulation of the immune system. Butyrate can stimulate the production of T cells in the intestine, which helps control immune responses. Other components such as microbial cell wall fragments can increase the production of cytokines, which are chemical messengers that help reduce inflammation and boost immune responses. [2,3]


• Modulation of the metabolism. Propionate, a short-chain fatty acid, can help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. On the other hand, butyrate can stimulate the production of an antioxidant called glutathione. [1,2]


• Weight loss aid. Short-chain fatty acids may help weight loss through the modification of eating behaviours. This is due to the release of hormones that increase satiety. [1]


• Reduction of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. A study in 443 individuals with IBS involving orally administered, heat-inactivated Bifidobacterium bifidum, found that the postbiotic substantially alleviated symptoms associated with IBS, such as abdominal pain or discomfort, abdominal bloating and abnormal bowel habits. [4]


• Other potential benefits. Orally administered, inactivated lactic acid bacteria may help eradicate Helicobacter pylori infection, chronic unexplained diarrhoea and the abrogation of the negative effects of stress. [1]

How can I add postbiotics to my diet?

Postbiotics are not as easy to find as probiotics and prebiotics, but they can be purchased in health food stores and online. They are generally considered safe and well-tolerated.

As postbiotics are generated from fermentation by the bacteria in your gut, you can increase postbiotics production by eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods and drinks, such as yoghurt, kefir, tempeh or kombucha. Prebiotics can be found in high-fibre foods, such as vegetables and whole-grain products.