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What Are Postbiotics?

Cheese and fruit on a table
Taking prebiotics and probiotics is an emerging trend among people looking to improve their gut health. As prefixes would dictate, there is a third option — postbiotics — that has begun picking up attention more recently.
What are prebiotics and probiotics?
To understand what postbiotics — and, for that matter, prebiotics — are, you must first understand probiotics. According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics are a kind of healthy bacteria that lives in the intestines. These microorganisms are part of your microbiome, the ecosystem of your body consisting of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Probiotics allow your body to fight bad bacteria, keeping you healthier and helping you recover from sickness.
You can help your body develop and foster these microorganisms by consuming foods like yogurt and kombucha, which the Cleveland Clinic notes are naturally high in probiotics. You can also take special supplements, which tell you how much good bacteria you’re ingesting in measurements called colony forming units.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, provide nourishment for the microorganisms in your gut to help boost probiotics. WebMD contributor Logan Smith notes garlic, onions, and asparagus as examples of healthy and flavorful foods that contain prebiotics. Like probiotics, prebiotics are also available in supplement form.
What are postbiotics?
The name alone should suggest that postbiotics come after, and that is quite accurate. Harvard Health Publishing contributor Dr. Toni Golen explains that postbiotics are merely the byproduct left after the digestion of prebiotics and probiotics. Postbiotics are as key for your microbiome as the organisms that precede it, offering up nutrients including amino acids and vitamins B and K.
As with probiotics and prebiotics, you can consume foods that will help increase postbiotic production. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, these are foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh, which are also rich in probiotics and prebiotics.
Postbiotics are available in supplement form, but registered dietician Ryan Raman notes that these supplements are not as widely available. Dr. Brian Weiner, a gastroenterologist, tells the Cleveland Clinic that research into postbiotic supplements is still very much ongoing, but that the promising results thus far could give way to increasingly useful discoveries.
Weiner suggests, for example, that postbiotic supplements may be beneficial in that they can produce more microorganisms that would be left over from the natural process that takes place in your microbiome even with the aid of prebiotics and probiotics. He also points out that these supplements are more shelf-stable because postbiotics are organic detritus and not a living organism.
However you boost your postbiotic count, the benefits could be quite noticeable. Smith notes that the perks are largely in line with those of probiotics, including immune system support, better digestion, and decreased risk of cardiovascular issues. Weiner also points to research suggesting that postbiotics could improve symptoms for allergy-sufferers and even ease colic symptoms in babies.
The benefits of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics come largely without risks, excluding mild discomfort and the potential for an adverse reaction if you’re immunocompromised. In any case, the smart choice prior to taking any supplements or making dietary changes is to speak to your primary care physician to ensure that it’s the right choice for you.
This article is presented by Gold Coast Cadillac.
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