With the market filled with the probiotic products like flavored curd, yoghurt and drinks along with the prebiotic products for the gut health, a new synergistic combination of pre and probiotic has picked up interest among the health freaks and markets alike.
Synbiotics is a combination of probiotics and prebiotics with a synergistic effect by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and encouraging the growth of beneficial organisms in the gut.
To understand that we need to first understand the role of probiotics and prebiotics in our body.
Probiotics - are the beneficial bacteria that keep our gut in good health e.g. curd, kimchi, kombucha
- Prevention of diarrhoea
- Prevention of constipation
- Antibacterial action
- Improve immunity
- Bioavailability of nutrients
- Alleviating the symptoms of cancer, allergy, AIDS3, respiratory and urinary tract infections, IBD, IBS, crohn’s and so on.
Prebiotics - are the food or substrate for the probiotics or the bacteria in our gut e.g. inulin, bananas, onion, flaxseeds, legumes like chickpea, red kidney beans etc.
- Low in fat and high in bulk leading to high degrees of satiety thereby helping in weight loss.
- Increase in the absorption of minerals such as calcium by the intestines with improved bone mineral density.
- Prevents constipation and help in the ease of defecation.
Drawback of using either a pro or prebiotic on their own
- Low life of prebiotics: There is a less chance of probiotics surviving the high acidity levels in the stomach and enzymatic reactions in the intestines making them less effective. Combining prebiotics with probiotic improves the tolerance of latter to the extreme environment in the gut.
- Not all fibre act as prebiotic. In a study done to find the effect of different fibres on the probiotic activity in the intestine, beet pulp, cellulose and FOS (fructo-oligosaccharide like onion, banana, asparagus) were given to healthy dogs. The result showed that cellulose lead to least while FOS resulted in highest degree of bacterial population in the intestine. Beet pulp value was somewhere in between cellulose and FOS1.
- Difference in strains - there are millions of different strains of bacteria in our intestines. Each prebiotic has a different effect on different strains. Hence a combination of pre and probiotic which are synergic gives a more potent beneficial effect.
Benefit of using synbiotic supplement
- Helps in the development of beneficial microorganisms in the intestine and removing the harmful pathogens in the gut.
- Counteract decay process in the intestine and prevent constipation and diarrhoea.
- They are anti-cancerogenic, anti-allergic and anti-bacterial.
- Increases the survival rate of probiotic making it more effective and help in proliferation of those already present in the gut.
- Improved liver function in the patients suffering from cirrhosis.
- Improved immunity.
- Help to reduce the blood cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure.
- Recent study also indicates the prevention of sepsis in infants who were given synbiotics. Apart from preventing sepsis, the synbiotic also reduces the risk of infection by Gram-positive bacteria (by 82%), Gram-negative bacteria (by 75%), and pneumonia and other airway-related infections (by 34%)2
How to include synbiotics daily in our diet?
We can get synbiotics either from the diet or from commercially available ones.
- Dietary - there are many naturally occurring probiotics and prebiotics in the food as discussed above. A combination of both can give a synbiotic effect and give the required health benefits. Some of the probable combinations are:
- Oats powder (prebiotic) with buttermilk (probiotic) with added sea salt and spices.
- A cup of curd with chopped banana and a little honey for taste
- Salad with leaves, asparagus, kimchi and a dressing of honey, lemon, pepper and sea salt. Sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and nuts add to the crunch and nutrition.
- Idli with onion-garlic chutney
- Miso soup with onion, leeks and asparagus
- Commercial products - There are many commercial products available but there is no regulation on the safety aspect and the effectiveness of these products.
For a normal healthy individual, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fermented foods give the synbiotics required for a healthy gut. However for people suffering from gastric abnormalities and other health related problems, it’s required to consult a professional to get the advise on a suitable synbiotic product available in the market.
2 (Panigrahi P, Parida S, Nanda NC, et al. A randomized synbiotic trial to prevent sepsis among infants in rural India. Nature. 2017. doi: 10.1038/nature23480)