Why Postbiotics Could Be Better for Your Gut Than Probiotics


By now, you’re familiar with probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut and help keep your gut healthy. You can support gut health by getting probiotics naturally by adding more fermented foods, like yogurt with active cultures, or by taking a probiotic supplement. More recently, scientists have focused on the potential health benefits of postbiotics, a term you may not know. Could postbiotics be beneficial to your gut – and, possibly, more so than probiotics?

What Are Postbiotics?

Postbiotics are byproducts that probiotic bacteria in your gut produce. When probiotic bacteria in your gut consume fermentable fiber, called prebiotics, they produce postbiotics. Scientists speculate that some of the health benefits of probiotics come from postbiotics, the byproducts that probiotic bacteria produce. For example, certain beneficial gut bacteria, or probiotics, produce short-chain fatty acids that support gut health. These short-chain fatty acids are examples of postbiotics.

One short-chain fatty acid, called butyrate, is associated with a reduction in inflammation and colon health. Some studies suggest butyrate may lower the risk of colon cancer and support immune health. Butyrate is an example of a beneficial postbiotic. Other postbiotics with biological activity include enzymes, lipopolysaccharides, bacterial lysates, and exopolysaccharides. Studies show that postbiotics can modify activity of the immune system, reduce inflammation, and have antioxidant activity.

Postbiotics Aren’t Harmed by Stomach Acid

One reason postbiotics may be more beneficial than probiotics is they don’t need to be alive to work — they just need to be stable in the harsh environment of your stomach acid. That makes postbiotics ideal when you want a similar effect to a live microorganism, without the risk of killing that organism through the digestive process. Plus, probiotics are sensitive to acidity, heat, and oxygen exposure, so storing the improperly can reduce their effectiveness. Postbiotics don’t have these limitations.

What Are the Benefits of Postbiotics?

Research into the benefits of postbiotics is in its initial stages. However, several studies show a link between postbiotics in supplements and a reduced risk of respiratory infections. Postbiotics may enhance the body’s ability to fight off pathogens that cause sniffles, colds, and sore throats. It’s an area that needs more research. Some research also suggests that postbiotics may have anti-cancer activity. An example is butyrate, which is linked with a lower risk of colon cancer.

Can Postbiotics Lower the Risk of Respiratory Infections?

One defense against respiratory infections is an antibody called IgA immunoglobulin A, secreted by cells that make saliva. The amount of IgA in saliva goes down with age, which means less protection against infection. Here’s the good news. One study found that a certain type of postbiotic boosted IgA secretion by salivary cells. So, postbiotics could provide an added layer of defense against infections that enter through your mouth and respiratory tract.

Studies in children also suggest that postbiotics could reduce and shorten the course of diarrhea that some kids experience when they take antibiotics. Because of the anti-inflammatory benefits of postbiotics, they may also be beneficial for inflammatory bowel conditions. One study found postbiotics could improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a common and sometimes debilitating functional type of bowel condition that causes alternating constipation and diarrhea, bloating, and intestinal discomfort.

Scientists are also looking at whether postbiotics provide the same potential benefits as probiotics. If postbiotics have the same benefits, supplementing with them may be more helpful because of their stability and resistance to destruction by acids in the stomach. Plus, they have a long shelf life and are easy to store.

Adding Postbiotics to Your Diet

Since postbiotics are the substances that probiotic bacteria produce, you can get some postbiotics by eating probiotic-rich foods or taking a probiotic supplement. When you increase the number of postbiotic-producing probiotics in your gut through food or supplements, the postbiotic content of your gut will rise. You can also buy postbiotic supplements, although they’re not as easy to find as probiotic supplements since research is still in its early stages.


Postbiotics are a new field of study, but they could be the next big thing in microbiome research. The compounds produced by probiotics hold the promise of health benefits and are stable in the environment of the gut. If you take a postbiotic supplement, talk to your healthcare provider first and make sure it’s right for you. Even more importantly, add whole, plant-based foods to your diet to keep your gut microbiome in balance. Do it slowly though, so your gut can adapt to the added fiber. Otherwise, you might experience bloating or gas. It’s best to change your diet in small steps as opposed to a major overhaul.


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  • “What are postbiotics? – Harvard Health.” 01 Nov. 2021, www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/what-are-postbiotics.
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