What Are Postbiotics—and Are They Good for You?

You may already be familiar with prebiotics and probiotics — but there’s a new “-otic” on the scene. That’s right, we’re talking about postbiotics. What are postbiotics, you ask? Good question! Here’s everything you need to know about postbiotics and whether you should incorporate them into your life.

yogurt with postbiotics

What are postbiotics?

Before we dive into postbiotics, here’s a quick review of probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are living microorganisms crucial to good digestion. They’re naturally found in certain beverages and foods, like kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and yogurt. You can also take probiotics in pills or powders.

When you drink or eat these foods, they help your digestive tract and overall wellness by promoting a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in your gut microbiome, a collection of 100 trillion tiny critters living in your intestines, reports Harvard Health.

On the other hand, prebiotics act as food for probiotics. Foods with healthy amounts of fiber, such as beans, certain vegetables, and whole grains, break down in your body to create substances that help probiotics grow and thrive within your gut.

Great! Now that you’re up to speed, what is a postbiotic, exactly? According to Harvard Health, postbiotics is a term referring to the waste left behind after your body digests both prebiotics and probiotics. No, not the typical waste you think of when you think of waste.

Healthy postbiotics actually include nutrients, such as amino acids, vitamins B and K, and substances called antimicrobial peptides, that help slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. Other postbiotic substances called short-chain fatty acids help healthy bacteria flourish.

Benefits of postbiotics

Gut health dietitian Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, says the benefits of postbiotics include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Support anti-inflammatory actions in the body 
  • Aid in cancer prevention 
  • Help maintain optimal gut pH (acidity level) 
  • Maintain and support a healthy gut lining 
  • Optimize digestion 
  • Support healthy gut and metabolic health

What foods are postbiotics?

“While no food is considered a direct source of postbiotics, pretty much all probiotic foods contain postbiotic potential,” says Volpe. “The top foods containing the most postbiotic potential are functional probiotic foods with a high content of postbiotic-releasing beneficial microbes, like Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium.”

If you want to add postbiotics to your prebiotic and probiotic routine, Harvard Health says you can increase your intake of fermented foods, such as kefir, kimchi, and kombucha. The Cleveland Clinic offers a few more suggestions, including:

  • Buttermilk
  • Cottage cheese
  • Fermented pickles
  • Fermented sauerkraut
  • High-fiber foods, like flaxseed, garlic, oats, and seaweed
  • Miso soup
  • Sourdough bread
  • Tempeh
  • Plain kefir or yogurt

Should you take a postbiotic supplement?

It really depends on your health needs and preferences. Volpe says people who have dysbiosis, aka a gut microbial imbalance (specifically a deficiency of probiotic microbes and/or short-chain fatty acids, which can be assessed via a comprehensive stool analysis) are the most likely to benefit from taking a postbiotic supplement.

If you want to ensure your body is getting its daily dose of postbiotics, increase your daily intake of prebiotics and probiotics or try a supplement that offers all three in one. The one I use and highly recommend is Beekeeper’s Naturals Complete Gut Health. Keep that gut happy and healthy with all the “-otics!”

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.