What Are Postbiotics and What Do They Have to Do With Gut Health?

man drinking a post-workout smoothieGut health is a huge subject that simply got back at larger.

You understand about probiotics: germs that supply advantages to our gut, metabolic, and/or total health when consumed. Some probiotic germs colonize our guts—they settle in our digestion system and supply enduring results. Some probiotic germs are transients—they go to and impart advantages and connect with our guts and its occupants, however do not remain.

You likewise understand about prebiotics: non-digestible food elements that nurture and supply food for the germs residing in our guts. Prebiotics consist of fermentable plant fibers, resistant starch, “animal fiber,” and particular polyphenols.

This is basic things. Whole shop racks are dedicated to fermented dairy, pickles, sauerkraut, supplements, kombucha, and other sources of probiotics. You’ve most likely got all sorts of odd gums and fibers and powders that act as prebiotic substrate for gut bugs. Gut health is mainstream.

However you most likely don’t understand about postbiotics.

What Are Postbiotics?

Postbiotics are the items produced by our gut germs after they take in prebiotics, connect with inbound food elements, and connect with other germs. They consist of:

  • Short-chain fats like butyrate, propionate, and acetate
  • Vitamins like inositol, vitamin K2, and particular B vitamins
  • Neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin

And After That there are the most likely numerous postbiotic results, metabolites, and results that we have yet to illuminate and measure.

Simply put, postbiotics—the actions, items, and interactions of probiotic germs—are the whole factor we’re so thinking about probiotics and prebiotics.

Brief Chain Fatty Acids

The brief chain fats that are by-products of fiber fermentation, consisting of butyrate, propionate, and acetate, enhance our health in lots of methods. Butyrate in specific has actually been revealed to have advantageous results on insulin level of sensitivity, colonic transportation, swelling, and signs of Crohn’s illness. It’s likewise the chosen fuel source for our native colonic cells, so without sufficient butyrate, our colonic cells can wither and pass away off, causing digestion problems and even cancer. Mucin-degrading germs predominate in colorectal cancer clients, for instance, while butyrate-producing germs control in healthy clients without cancer. Populations with lower rates of colorectal cancer likewise tend to have greater levels of butyrate.

Propionate is valuable, too, minimizing fat storage and enhancing lipids. Among the coolest results though is on workout tolerance: particular gut germs have actually been revealed to metabolize lactate into propionate, and in doing so enhance workout capability. In reality, elite professional athletes tend to have greater levels of propionate-producing germs in their guts.

Acetate is less well-characterized, but it has been shown to enhance butyrate production.



When gut germs consume substrates, they produce various metabolites, the most famous of which are the short chain fatty acids butyrate, acetate, and propionate discussed in the previous section. But they also produce vitamins in the process, particularly vitamin K, B-vitamins, and inositol.

Although this hasn’t been directly quantified, we know the potential for gut bacteria that produce vitamin K2 exists. Broad spectrum antibiotic usage leads to lower levels of vitamin K2 in the human liver, a consequence that only makes sense if the antibiotics are killing vitamin K2-producing bacteria. What we do make in the gut can absolutely be absorbed and utilized.

And gene sequencing of bacterial strains known to inhabit human guts has found strong evidence of genetic capacities for the manufacture of folate and other B-vitamins. However, these vitamin producing genes are only expressed “when bifidobacteria are in their natural ecological niche.” You can’t eat a diet of processed junk food and refined grains and hope to nourish the relevant bacteria. If you want your gut bacteria to produce vitamins as postbiotics, you need to provide their “natural ecological niche”—prebiotics, good sleep, healthy living, colorful plants, sunlight and exercise.

Certain gut bacteria can actually turn phytic acid into inositol, preventing the mineral-binding activity of the phytic acid and unlocking the mood regulation and insulin sensitizing effects of inositol. The more phytate-rich foods you eat, the better your gut bacteria get at breaking it down into inositol.


When scientists first discovered the enteric nervous system, housed in the vagus nerve and running from the gut to the brain and back again, they assumed it only delivered information and instructions about digestive contractions. But now we know that it’s much more than that. We know that the gut bacteria produce 95% of our serotonin, half of our dopamine, and a significant portion of our GABA. This may explain why unhealthy gut biomes are strongly linked to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and it’s probably why we even have the concept of a “gut feeling.”

People with major depressive disorder are more likely to have low levels of Bacteroides, a bacterial genus known for producing large amounts of GABA in human guts.

Should You Take Postbiotic Supplements?

Some companies have begun releasing postbiotic supplements, like straight-up sodium butyrate and something called “yeast fermentate,” which is the concentrated extract of a brewer’s yeast fermentation. The butyrate and fermentate are probably fine to take, however that’s not the best way to get postbiotics. It’s not the same as letting your gut germs make it themselves.

I say this all the time regarding probiotics and prebiotics: rather than fixate on a single strain, single metabolite, single brief-chain fatty acid, or single specific fiber source, think in terms of whole foods, whole patterns of lifestyle and health. There’s so much we don’t know about what’s going on in our gut—up to 65% of the bacteria living in our guts hasn’t even been cultured and analyzed—and it’s silly to think we can engineer specific outcomes. For instance, you can’t just megadose with propionate and hope to get performance boosts in the gym or choke down butyrate and drop your insulin resistance. It may work, but it probably works better to come at the situation with a bottoms-up approach that emulates or is the natural, organic path than to insert some ingredient midway through the process.

That said, perhaps postbiotic supplementation will improve down the line.

How Do You Support Natural Postbiotic Production?

That’s a big question, but there are answers.

Eat prebiotics. This post gives a good overview of prebiotics and how to get them. And read up on resistant starch, a particularly pro-butyrate form of prebiotic. Excellent sources of prebiotics include onions, garlic, leeks, Jersualem artichokes, asparagus, slightly green bananas, cooked and cooled potatoes, pistachios and almonds, chicory root, mushrooms, dandelion greens, and carrots. I could go on, and those listed are most of the most potent sources, but you get the point—plants contain prebiotics.

  • Eat probiotics. Eat fermented dairy, eat fermented vegetables, take supplements if that’s easier or if you wish to supplement.
  • Eat colorful fruits and vegetables and animals. These plant pigments, polyphenols, and animal connective tissues are prebiotic substrate for the gut bacteria.
  • Maintain good circadian hygiene. Sleep and circadian rhythm affect every system in the body, and the gut is no different.
  • Manage stress. Stress disrupts gut bacteria and worsens gut health.
  • Play in the dirt. Spend time outside getting dirty.
  • Get sun. Sunlight is another underrated modulator of gut bacteria diversity.
  • Eat whole foods. Whole foods contain the broad spectrum of food components, many of which we haven’t quantified and some of which will have positive postbiotic effects on the gut bacteria.

For a comprehensive treatment of all the things that affect gut bacteria in both positive and negative ways, read this post.

As you can see, nothing is laid out with great specificity (“to produce [this specific postbiotic], do [this specific intervention] or take [this specific supplement]”). You can’t just do one thing. You have to take a comprehensive, holistic, Primal approach. However here’s the great thing about doing it that way: you won’t just get the benefits of postbiotics, but likewise the health, fitness, and overall happiness benefits of living more healthfully in general.


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and way of life movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal way of life for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo motion back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimum health, Mark released Primal Kitchen area, a real-food business that develops Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen area staples.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.