The benefits of Microbiota – Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Postbiotics

What is microbiome?


The body is a habitat for trillions of gut bacteria, which together are called the microbiome. Another name for this bacterial community is the microbiota, the large collection of microorganisms that live in symbiosis within the human body.

What are the 3 elements of healthy microbiome?

Probiotics – are the good friendly non-harmful bacteria in the guts. The good sources of probiotics include yogourts, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh. There are plenty of probiotics supplements nowadays but do make sure that they contain live bacteria.

Discover Top 5 Probiotics Foods

Prebiotics – are the foods or fuels used by the probiotics in order to survive in the guts. Common sources of prebiotics include artichokes, asparagus, and onions.

Postbiotics – are the biologically active compound or soluble factors that produced by the probiotics as a result of their fermentation and metabolic process in the guts. Apple cider vinegar is one example of postbiotics.


Synergistic combinations of pro- and prebiotics are called synbiotics.

What are the benefits of probiotics?

The use of probiotics and prebiotics in the food industry and food supplementation has been blooming for the last few decades. Several clinical studies have shown the various benefits of the probiotics on well-balanced diet and improvement on gut homeostasis. The well-established probiotics effects are;

  1. Prevention and reduction of duration and symptoms of rotavirus-induced and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  2. Alleviation of complaints due to lactose intolerance
  3. Reduction of concentration of cancer-promoting enzyme
  4. Regulate regular normal movements in healthy individual
  5. Prevent bacterial overgrowth
  6. Eliminate H. pylori infection
  7. Improve functional bowel disease

A systemic review showed that probiotics are effective treatments for IBS and chronic constipation1.

  1. Prevention and elimination of allergic and atopic disease

Meta-analysis of 18 studies provided evidence in favor of probiotics in the prevention of atopic dermatitis and IgE-associated atopic dermatitis in infants during pregnancy and infancy2.

  1. Prevention of upper respiratory tract infection (cold and flu)
  2. Prevention and treatment of arthritis

Research showed that probiotic bacteria (e.g. Lactobacillus rhamnosus) attenuates various types of experimental arthritis, including collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) and inhibits production of arthritis-related autoantibodies3.

  1. Treatment of urogenital infections

A systemic review of 20 studies found that probiotic interventions were effective in the treatment and prevention of urogenital infections as alternatives or co-treatments4.

  1. Reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted disease (STIs)

In vitro study showed that Lactobacillus crispatus reduce infectivity of Chlamydia5.

  1. Reduce the transmission of HIV virus

A study using cervicovaginal fluid of women showed that Lactobacillus-dominated vaginal microbiota is associated with a reduced risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)6.

Discover Top 5 Probiotics Foods

What are the benefits of pre-biotics

A prebiotic is “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-being and health”. Today, only bifidogenic, non-digestible oligosaccharides (particularly inulin, its hydrolysis product oligofructose, and (trans)galactooligosaccharides), fulfill all the criteria for prebiotic classification.

Proven health benefits of prebiotics;

  1. Prevention of diarrhea or constipation,
  2. Modulation of the metabolism of the intestinal flora
  3. Cancer prevention
  4. Positive effects on lipid metabolism
  5. Stimulation of mineral absorption
  6. Immunomodulatory properties

What are the benefits of Postbiotics?

 Postbiotics are non-viable bacterial products or metabolic by-products from probiotic microorganisms that have biologic activity in the host. When probiotics feed on certain types of fiber molecules in order to thrive, they leave behind “waste products” that are collectively called postbiotics. Postbiotics help regulate the composition of the microbiome. Scientists now believe the most beneficial effects of probiotics are due to the metabolic waste products of these probiotics (postbiotics) and their biological activities and interaction with other cells in the guts.

Example of postbiotics identified and isolated for therapeutic researches includes

  • Lactic acids
  • Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) – acetate, butyrate, and propionate. These are produced by fermenting undigested carbohydrates in the intestine. These fatty acids provide a major energy source for the colon and play a role in intestinal growth and differentiation. They impact many metabolic processes.
  • Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) – polysaccharide A and exopolysaccharide (EPS)
  • muramyl dipeptide (MDP)
  • Indole – a microbial-derived metabolite produced by the host’s lactobacilli during the catabolic pathway of tryptophan
  • teichoic acid
  • lactocepin
  • p40 molecule

Benefits of postbiotics;

  1. Help to support the growth and population of good bacteria

The good bacteria produce lactic acids through their metabolic processes. The lactic acids help to remove heavy metal in the body and inhibit the growth of certain viruses and disease-causing bacteria. Lactic acid is a major organic acid metabolite produced by lactobacilli that acidifies the vagina and has been reported to have inhibitory activity in vitro against bacterial, protozoan, and viral STIs, including HIV infections6.

  1. Reduce the population of harmful bacteria and virus

When the population of probiotics flourishes, the harmful and bad bacteria have to compete with these probiotics for space in the guts. In order to compete with these bad bacteria, they produce various postbiotics to ensure their survival. Some strains of probiotics produce postbiotics that capable of killing off listeria monocytogenes, salmonella and E. coli.

  1. Help to lower inflammation and reduced oxidative stress

Clinical studies showed that certain strains of probiotics such as Lactobacillus casei produced fatty acids by products such as acetate, butyrate and propionate. These fatty acids are beneficial to reduce inflammation and reduce the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS cause oxidative damage in the gut.

  1. Help to regulate blood sugar and prevent diabetes.

Some strains of probiotics produce postbiotics called muramyl dipeptide (MDP). MDP increase cells sensitivity to insulin hormones. Hence, body have to secrete less insulin for same amount of glucose in the blood vessels. This will avoid “pancreatic fatigue” which eventually lead to diabetes. Animal study showed that MDP reduce fatty tissue inflammation and help body to regulate glucose better7.

  1. Prevent and improve arthritis symptoms

Systemic administration of Exopolysaccharides (EPS) markedly reduced autoantibodies production. Moreover, EPS significantly ameliorated arthritis in the mice3.


  1. Ford, A. C. et al. Efficacy of Prebiotics, Probiotics and Synbiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Am. J. Gastroenterol. 109, 1547–1561 (2014).
  2. Pelucchi, C. et al. Probiotics Supplementation During Pregnancy or Infancy for the Prevention of Atopic Dermatitis. Epidemiology 23, 402–414 (2012).
  3. Nowak, B. et al. Lactobacillus rhamnosus Exopolysaccharide Ameliorates Arthritis Induced by the Systemic Injection of Collagen and Lipopolysaccharide in DBA/1 Mice. Arch. Immunol. Ther. Exp. (Warsz). 60, 211–220 (2012).
  4. Hanson, L., VandeVusse, L., Jermé, M., Abad, C. L. & Safdar, N. Probiotics for Treatment and Prevention of Urogenital Infections in Women: A Systematic Review. J. Midwifery Womens. Health 61, 339–355 (2016).
  5. Nardini, P. et al. Lactobacillus crispatus inhibits the infectivity of Chlamydia trachomatis elementary bodies, in vitro study. Sci. Rep. 6, 29024 (2016).
  6. Tyssen, D. et al. Anti-HIV-1 Activity of Lactic Acid in Human Cervicovaginal Fluid. mSphere 3, (2018).
  7. Cavallari, J. F. et al. Muramyl Dipeptide-Based Postbiotics Mitigate Obesity-Induced Insulin Resistance via IRF4. Cell Metab. 25, 1063–1074.e3 (2017).


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