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Postbiotics Are The Immune System Powerhouse You Need to Know About

The secret to a healthier immune system may come from bits of dead bacteria or yeast. Intriguing, right? Find out more about this buzzy new category of gut-supporting ingredients.

The reigning wisdom on how to eat for immune health says to go with your gut—literally. You’ve probably noticed all the recent attention on the microbiome, a collection of microorganisms living in your gut, that, when balanced properly through foods and supplements, may maintain your overall health, including immune health. And you may already know that probiotics are one way to do it. But supporting gut health goes beyond a bowl of Greek yogurt—and even beyond probiotics.

Enter postbiotics. If you haven’t heard much about them, you’re about to. These gut-supporting ingredients are quickly emerging as an important category for immune health. So, consider this your primer in postbiotics—the latest good-gut-maintaining ‘biotic.’

What Is A Postbiotic?

To answer that, let’s revisit probiotics. You probably know a thing or two about these live cultures found in functional foods such as yogurt. You can also find them in supplement form, with some of the more popular species being Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Probiotics are thought to bolster the beneficial bacteria in your gut flora, helping you maintain a healthy balance between good and bad bugs in your microbiome. But it turns out, probiotics are often a means to an end: postbiotics.

“Unlike probiotics, which are live bacteria, postbiotics are metabolites which are non-living,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a registered dietitian in New York City. “That means they’re a product made by probiotics or microorganisms such as yeast during a fermentation process.” They are the good stuff produced through all the hard work of those gut-balancing probiotics. One of the functions of probiotics is to create metabolites (postbiotics), which is a key reason why they help support your health.

So, How Can I Get Postbiotics?

These metabolites are found in fermented foods, however, it’s uncertain exactly how much or which types your gut will get, says Gans. “We all have a different microbiome; it’s a very individual thing,” she says. This is where postbiotic supplement ingredients come into play.

The most well-studied is EpiCor® postbiotics, an ingredient that can be found in the formulations of several dietary supplement brands. It’s a whole food fermentate. What does that mean? The postbiotics result from fermentation by yeast. And they’re not extracted or removed from the yeast through a purification process. Instead, the whole fermented broth is dried and then used as an ingredient.

Photo: Image courtesy of EpiCor®

While it’s hard to know if you are getting a consistent amount to support gut and immune health through your diet alone, taking a supplement with EpiCor® postbiotic gives you that reassurance. You can find EpiCor® postbiotic in dietary supplements made for gut health — Healthy Origins EpiCor and Country Life Gut Connection Immune Balance. To ensure that you’re getting the specific ingredient, look for the EpiCor® postbiotic logo on the bottle. Or, it may be in the ingredient list as EpiCor® postbiotic, yeast fermentate, dried yeast fermentate, or dried fermentate made using Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the specific type of yeast used to make EpiCor).

What Are The Benefits of Postbiotics?

It’s still an emerging category, but the research has been promising. Peer-reviewed clinical research has suggested that EpiCor® postbiotic may support gut health and daily immune health, especially during the winter and spring. EpiCor® postbiotic has also been shown to support year-round nasal comfort.

Unlike some other digestive health ingredients, EpiCor® postbiotic won’t upset your stomach or cause gas or bloating, so you can take it with or without food whenever it works for you. But it’s worth noting that in human trials, participants took 500 mg in the morning. Gans says, “Taking a postbiotic supplement is added assurance that your body will get the metabolites that support immune and digestive health, in case your diet falls short.”

Image courtesy of EpiCor®