Synbiotics: How do prebiotics and probiotics work together?

Over the last decade, we have gained a deeper understanding of the microbiome – the ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that live in the human gut. We know it is essential to keep the microbiome balanced with more good bacteria than bad. When the bad bacteria take over, your microbiome becomes unbalanced, making you more prone to getting sick, feeling tired, or experiencing digestion issues.  

The best way to ensure your microbiome is balanced is to have a diet rich in two key ingredients– Probiotics and Prebiotics– which when combined create a Synbiotic.

Probiotics balance the microbiome

Probiotics are good bacteria that fight off bad bacteria in the gut and help establish a healthy microbiome. There’s already a community numbering in the trillions of these bacteria strains living our digestive system. Probiotics are also found in foods such as yogurt. There are also now an extensive range of specialty foods containing probiotics such as ‘gut-shots,’ bars, and kombucha.

It’s important to note that the term probiotic is an umbrella word for the thousands of different types of good bacteria strains. The most common probiotic bacteria strains used in food and drink manufacturing are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Probiotics thrive with prebiotics 

The second are prebiotics. Prebiotics are dietary fibers often found in grains, vegetables, and fruits that cannot be broken down by enzymes in our digestive system. Instead, prebiotics act as fertilizer for the gut. These non-digestible carbohydrates feed the probiotics and good bacteria already existing in the gut and optimize their growth and functions.

Unfortunately, many popular prebiotic fibers used in supplements, such as inulin commonly derived from chicory root or dandelion roots, are needed in high quantities to achieve prebiotic effects. These prebiotics can also cause GI distress, including gut discomfort, gas and bloating.

This is why Inner Life! uses the prebiotic fiber Arabinoxylan for its products. Arabinoxylan is clinically proven to support digestive health and immunity at a low dose of 2.2 grams a day. In addition, Arabinoxylan is exceptionally well-tolerated and gentle on the stomach. Clinical trial results show it doesn’t cause the gut discomfort, excess gas and bloating we’ve come to associate with other fiber supplements.

Prebiotics + Probiotics = Synbiotics

To develop a successful gut health regiment, it is vital to include both probiotics and prebiotics. Consuming only probiotics without prebiotics is like planting seeds on cement instead of on fertilizer.

Also, supplying prebiotics and probiotics in tandem is thought to help improve the activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut. In simpler terms, providing probiotic bacteria with a prebiotic gives the bacteria a better chance of surviving and positively impacting the microbiome.

Diversity is key for a healthy microbiome

There are a wide array of probiotic strains and many prebiotic dietary fibers, and when it comes to gut health, it is not a one size fits all formula. This means some probiotics work better with specific prebiotics, and vice versa. There is no scientifically validated super prebiotic that optimizes every strain of probiotic in the gut.

This is why a diverse diet of prebiotics is needed to optimize a diverse array of probiotics within the gut. The result is a symbiotic relationship that builds a healthy microbiome. This positive working relationship can be established when probiotics are supplemented with a diverse set of prebiotics, and they work together to promote a healthy gut.

For example, the prebiotic Arabinoxylan found in Inner Life! , has been clinically shown to support the growth of bifidobacteria, a strain associated with key gut health benefits.

Some prebiotics, such as inulin, are not as selective in promoting only good bacteria and are linked to promoting not as beneficial strains, including pathogenic (Salmonella) and opportunistic (Klebsiella). Klebsiella is a bacterium associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis and increased intestinal permeability. 

What benefits do prebiotics and probiotics offer in the body?

Although the science behind some synbiotic health effects is still in its infancy, the importance of the gut microbiome to the digestive tract is evident. A study by Markowiak, et al. (2017), stated that when implemented correctly, prebiotics maintains gut health and could provide relief to obesity, type 2 diabetes, IBS, atopic dermatitis, and alleviation of lactose intolerance.

In addition, a study published in BMC Biology stated that the non-digestible carbohydrates (prebiotics), in particular, have enormous potential to modify the gut microbiota. The study supplied two alternative non-digestible carbohydrates to three different human gut model microbiomes with consistent dosages. The trial found that two strains of bacteria were optimized by different types of prebiotics.

These studies, along with many others, help demonstrate that the symbiotic relationship supports gut health starting at the species level. It stands to reason that to support and feed the thousands of microbiota strains within the gut, we should strive to consume various types of prebiotics for optimal gut health.

Inner Life! makes meeting your daily prebiotic needs easy and is conveniently packaged in single-serve sticks. Each serving of Inner Life!’s prebiotic drink mix provides 3.8g of the clinically-proven prebiotic fiber, Arabinoxylan. Inner Life! is made with only the best ingredients, meaning no artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives, or gluten.

And remember, Inner Life! is gentle on the stomach and will not cause the bloating or belly discomfort associated with other prebiotic fibers. Just add it to water and enjoy!

References

  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/microbiome/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4528021/ 
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html
  4. https://www.marketresearchengine.com/probiotics-market-report
  5. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/prebiotics-market-value-to-surpass-usd-7-2-billion-by-2024-global-market-insights-inc-300916592.html 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4908950/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31722343
  8. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-019-0301-z
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21995448
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622781/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26754945/
  12. https://isappscience.org/for-scientists/resources/prebiotics/
  13. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2017.1290756
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399949/
  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10876903/

 About the Author

Hannah Ackermann, RD
Communications Manager at Inner Life!
As a Registered Dietitian, Hannah uses her expertise in food and nutrition to tell Inner Life!’s ingredient story. Hannah is passionate about gut health and helping educate consumers about healthy eating


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