move over probiotics – meet postbiotics

By now you have likely heard of probiotics.

Whether you’ve enjoyed cultured food or popped a few encapsulated probiotics, the marketing around their benefits abounds.

But it’s time you met the healing “gifts” your bacteria gives back once they eat fibers from plants you intentionally choose to put on your plate.

You’ll be delighted [and possibly shocked] to know that many of the healing benefits of eating plants comes from this end product not the plant or probiotic itself. Let’s dive a little deeper.

What are postbiotics and how are they different from pre and probiotics?

Let’s start by defining all 3:

  • Probiotics: live microoraganisms [typically bacteria or yeast] that benefit the body by boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, helping with digestion, and improving mood. Probiotics live in your gut forming the microbiome. There are also foods that contain probiotics such as pickles, yogurt, kombucha, kefir, kimchi and kefir.
  • Prebiotics: fibers that serve as food to the good bacteria in your gut. Every plant contains a different type of food to a different type of bacteria in the gut nurturing the growth and colonization of good bacteria in your gut microbiome.
  • postbiotics: are the health-promoting byproducts of healthy gut bacteria eating fibers. They’re called “postbiotics” because they’re formed after [or “post”] prebiotic metabolism. These byproducts include a class of compounds referred to as short-chain fatty acids [SCFAs]. While all SCFAs play an integral role in maintaining intestinal homeostasis, let’s talk about one SCFA in particular: butyrate. When it comes to gut health, butyrate is considered the all-star. Here are a few benefits of butyrate for the gut:
    • immune regulation
    • neurological health
    • weight control + satiety
    • insulin sensitivity
    • intestinal health

Let’s dig into the details on postbiotic benefits that affect you personally:

1. Postbiotics can help heal leaky gut

While you may not be familiar with the term leaky gut, you might be familiar with its symptoms including increased food intolerances, GI distress, immune disruption and auto-immunity. Known in the medical world as “increased intestinal permeability,” leaky gut is when the walls of the digestive tract become permeable, which can trigger inflammation in the body. One postbiotic, butyrate alone can help reverse the effects. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid, which is produced when you consume soluble fibers.

2. Postbiotics may help lower inflammation

According to research, postbiotics are also connected to lowering inflammation throughout the body by helping to restore the good bacteria population in the gut.

3. They may help boost the immune system

Research is continually excavating a connection between postbiotics and a stronger immune system. This is not too surprising because, after all, a direct link between gut health and immunity has long been established.

4. Postbiotics may also play an impactful role in modulating blood sugar dysregulation

Postbiotics also play a role in reversing insulin resistance [a condition correlated with blood sugar dysregulation]. Postbiotics appear to help insulin work more effectively in balancing blood sugar which of course trickles down beautifully into metabolic wellness.

How often do you have to consume probiotics + prebiotics to reap these postbiotic benefits?

Start by adding probiotic-rich foods to your daily routine. A bite here, a sip there is all you need to reap the benefits of the robust biodiversity of cultured foods. Go for “sour” foods such as unfiltered apple cider vinegar, plain kefir [water, coconut or traditional organic dairy], plain yogurt [look for “live and active cultures” over “active cultures”] kombucha, and kimchi. Probiotic capsules come in handy when you’re using specific species to target specific conditions. The functional medicine expert Dr. Jill Canahan speaks to this in her journal here.

More impactful when it comes to postbiotic production though is the diversification of your prebiotic fiber intake. How? Diversify your plant intake and when possible weave in foods with resistant starches including jicama, kale, leeks, onions, dandelion greens, underripe bananas, asparagus, garlic, broccoli, and Jerusalem artichoke. The goal is 5 different plants a day and 30 servings of plants a week. Here’s why: when the factory [probiotics] are being fed a diversity of prebiotics, the products they produce [postbiotics] heal the body in a comprehensive way unparalleled by any one supplement or drug. This IS worth your time.

Now off you go… beat that bloat, brain fog and immune suppression with nothing more than food bursting with good bacteria and fiber.

Gut health in a nutshell: Prebiotics + Probiotics = Postbiotics

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Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, Gibson GR, Merenstein DJ, Pot B, Morelli L, Canani RB, Flint HJ, Salminen S, Calder PC, Sanders ME. Expert consensus document. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Aug;11(8):506-14. doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66. Epub 2014 Jun 10. PMID: 24912386.

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