It seems like everyone and their dog takes probiotics these days (quite literally … our wellness editor’s pup has been on a regimen for over a year now). They’re actual live microorganisms that add to the existing population of good bacteria in the gut, helping promote better gut and mental health. And ofc we can’t forget about prebiotics—these plant fibers are food for the good gut bacteria in our gut. (Bacteria gotta eat too!) Recently, we’ve been hearing chatter about a third type of “biotic”: postbiotics. So wtf are postbiotics, and are they something we can actually benefit from or are they just another buzzword? We talked to Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, co-founder of MIJA, registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, to find out.
Basically, they’re leftovers. “After your body digests the prebiotics and probiotics, there are leftover nutrients, like vitamin B, vitamin K, amino acids, short-chain fatty acids, and more,” Koszyk explains. “These ‘leftovers’ are called postbiotics.”
“Postbiotics are just as beneficial as probiotics and prebiotics and can help our bodies in many ways, such as supporting our immune system, enhancing our microbiome, and preventing infections and inflammation,” Koszyk explains. “For example, the short-chain fatty acids help healthy bacteria flourish. Antimicrobial peptides, another postbiotic, prevent harmful bacteria from growing in the body.”
OK, but are they actually all that important?
Koszyk says that postbiotics are just as important as pre- and probiotics. “Since our gut microbiome depends on finding balance to stay strong, it’s important to get a variety of nutrients and healthy gut bacteria in order to keep it in check and prevent imbalance,” she says. “About 80% of our immune system stems from our guts. Having a healthy, well-balanced, strong gut is important to keep up our strength and optimize our wellness.”
That said, we don’t need to take an additional supplement for additional postbiotics, as postbiotics come from the waste of probiotics. Koszyk says that you can if you want, but just taking probiotics will, in turn, produce more postbiotics. “For natural ways to increase the production of postbiotics, enjoy foods like kimchi, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, and kombucha,” she says.
Who can benefit from postbiotics?
“More and more research is coming out regarding postbiotics and the effects on the immune system,” Koszyk says. “Scientists are conducting studies to see if postbiotics can help people with allergies reduce their runny and stuffy noses. In addition, newer research is focusing on the effects of postbiotics and skin health, such as reducing the symptoms of eczema. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, such as those experiencing constipation or diarrhea, can also benefit from taking postbiotics, to relieve the frequency of bowel movements and reduce bloating.”
“On a final note, everyone can benefit from a strong gut,” Koszyk says. “So consuming foods high in probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics will optimize your complete wellness from within and keep your body in balance.”
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