What are postbiotics? – Cleveland Clinic
One of the most ideal hotbeds for bacteria is (brace yourself) your gut – which is why the stool inside your colon is about half of the bacteria. “But most of these bacteria are either neutral or perhaps have good effects”, explains the gastroenterologist. Brian Weiner, MD. “For example, certain bacteria in the colon produce vitamins, which are vital for life.”
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But sometimes these bacteria need a boost to get the job done. And that’s where postbiotics and their cousins, prebiotics and probiotics come in.
What is the difference between probiotics, postbiotics and prebiotics?
Like all living things, your good bacteria need the right environment to survive and thrive. Prebiotics and probiotics are the interior designers of your gut:
- Probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms that increase your population of good bacteria. Some foods and drinks are good sources of probiotics, but you can also take them as tablets or powders.
- Prebiotics. Prebiotics are compounds found in food. You cannot digest prebiotics. Instead, they provide the fuel for the growth of good bacteria. Dietary fiber, which you can get from eating certain foods or supplements, is the most common prebiotic.
What then are postbiotics? They are the end of the game for probiotics and prebiotics – what they produce, which can be turned into products or treatments that would have a healing effect on people.
âScientists make postbiotics when they take the bacteria, mix them in a big tank, let them produce bioactive compounds, and then put those materials into pill form or something similar,â says Dr. Weiner. “The hope is that these end products of bacterial metabolism have therapeutic benefit.”
Probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics are all safe.
âIt is extremely difficult to find reports of side effects or adverse effects – we ingest them all the time because they are found in nature,â says Dr. Weiner. “The manufactured versions are just more focused on trying to get a health response in people.”
Unravel the mystery of how postbiotics work
Scientists don’t fully understand how postbiotics work their magic, says Dr. Weiner. But a well-studied postbiotic, butyric acid, may offer some clues. Butyric acid is a short chain fatty acid that bacteria use as fuel. Depending on the availability of butyric acid in your colon, certain species of bacteria can thrive or starve.
âYou can manipulate bacteria populations by providing additional butyric acid. Some of these bacteria appear to enhance the immune response of the colon lining, âsays Dr. Weiner. “A strong immune response is important because of the high concentrations of bacteria in your colon – which are almost higher than anywhere else in nature.”
Researchers believe that certain good bacteria stimulate the immune system to prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream.
âThere are pilot studies where researchers are trying to use probiotics or postbiotics in hospital patients to boost the immune system,â says Dr. Weiner. âA strong immune system can help them respond faster to treatment. “
Because everyone metabolizes probiotics differently, not everyone enjoys the same benefits, says Dr. Weiner. “But if a certain chemical – or postbiotic – produced by these bacteria is beneficial, it would be great if we could just isolate the chemical and give it to patients as medicine.”
Dr. Weiner says the benefits of postbiotics wouldn’t end there:
- More powerful doses. Doctors may give you higher levels of postbiotics than bacteria may be able to produce in real life.
- More stable in storage. âProbiotics have to be alive to work. But some do need to be refrigerated to stay stable, âsays Dr. Weiner. âPostbiotics in the form of their by-products have greater shelf stability. “
Some preliminary research shows that postbiotics can:
Helps manage allergy symptoms
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a perceived threat. “Certain postbiotic products can strengthen the immune system or improve the immune response by decreasing allergic reactivity,” says Dr. Weiner.
For example, a few studies have shown that postbiotics can help relieve a runny nose and nasal congestion caused by seasonal allergies (rhinitis). another little one to study found that taking postbiotics for two to three months also significantly reduced symptoms of eczema. “These findings are the first small cracks opening the door in the future to the use of a new set of tools for the immune system,” says Dr. Weiner.
Doctors diagnose colic when a baby cries for three or more hours a day at feed time. Researchers have been able to reduce colic symptoms with postbiotics in randomized controlled trials.
“They have shown that babies fed on fermented milk with the bacteria’s fermentation products do better than babies who drink breast milk or cow’s milk without the fermented products,” says Dr. Weiner.
Relieve constipation and diarrhea
Fermented milk products also appear to help adults with constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) predominantly with diarrhea. A study found that a postbiotic diet had a major impact on the quality of life of people with IBS. After four weeks, participants saw significant relief in terms of bowel movements, bloating, and pain.
List of postbiotics
Postbiotics can be separated into several categories:
- Bacterial lysates (drugs made from broken down bacteria).
- Cell-free supernatants (compounds produced by bacteria and yeasts).
- Cell wall fragments.
- Exopolysaccharides (substances that microorganisms secrete).
- Lipopolysaccharides (large molecules present on the outer layer of some bacteria).
- Other metabolites like vitamins and amino acids.
- Short chain fatty acids.
Foods that can help increase postbiotics in your gut include:
- Cottage cheese.
- Foods high in fiber such as oats, flax seeds, seaweed and garlic.
- Fermented pickles.
- Miso soup.
- Fermented sauerkraut.
- Sourdough bread.
Should I take a postbiotic?
Postbiotics are one of the hottest topics in medicine right now, says Dr. Weiner. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready for prime time.
âIt’s still early days, but this area of ââresearch holds promise and the diseases researchers are studying are so widely applicable,â says Dr. Weiner. âOnce they start unraveling the secrets, they can make huge strides in the future. “
But postbiotics aren’t as widely available as probiotics yet, so they’re hard to find. The best source at the moment? âProbiotics work by producing chemicals that are technically postbiotic. So you can still get these postbiotic effects from probiotics, âsays Dr. Weiner.
However, Dr. Weiner cautions against self-medication with probiotics if you develop a health problem. âIf you have a health problem, always talk to your doctor before treating yourself,â he says. âDon’t assume a probiotic is going to take care of it. A doctor’s evaluation is helpful in ruling out more serious underlying conditions, and the treatments we offer are often safe and effective.