What are prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics?
Prebiotics and probiotics promote a healthy environment in the gut—the microbiome—by encouraging beneficial bacteria that increase regularity. Synbiotics combine the two.
Fiber–Healthier microbiome and elimination
Fiber in the diet stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut, such as the probiotic bifidobacteria, but most Americans do not get enough daily fiber. In this study, 51 healthy adults with inadequate fiber in the diet took a placebo or 15 grams or 25 grams of resistant maltodextrin fiber (Fibersol®-2) per day, in alternating phases.
After three weeks, while there was no change during the placebo phase, those taking the 25-gram dose of fiber saw a 38 percent increase in fecal bifidobacteria probiotic counts. Participants in the high dose group also saw an average increase of 29 grams in the weight of waste compared to the start of the study.
Discussing the findings, doctors said either dose of fiber was safe and brought participants above the daily requirement for fiber in the diet, and that adding resistant maltodextrin fiber to the diet appears to have significant health benefits.
Reference: Nutrition Research; 2018, Vol. 60, 33-42
Fiber for Microbiome
People with more fiber in the diet had lower levels of antibiotic-resistant microbes (ARM) in the gut. Microbes that survive antibiotics are a growing problem for health care. In this study, among 290 healthy adults, those that got at least 8 to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day had fewer ARM in the gut compared to those who got less soluble fiber.
Participants with the highest levels of ARM also had significantly less diverse gut microbiomes compared to those who got more soluble fiber in the diet. Doctors hope health care dietary guidelines will begin to recommend soluble fiber to reduce ARM.
Reference: ASM Journals; 2022, Vol. 13, No. 3, e0010122
Probiotics relieve gastric pain in adults
Many people experience gut discomfort after eating, but medical treatments can be ineffective and inconvenient. In this study, 100 healthy Japanese adults took a placebo or a daily dose of bifidobacterium bifidum in 100 ml of fermented milk.
After four weeks, compared to placebo, the probiotics group reported greater relief in overall gut discomfort after eating, especially in the upper abdominal (epigastric) area of the gut. The probiotics group also reported less diarrhea and flatulence.
Commenting on the results, doctors said that consuming bifidobacterium bifidum daily helps relieve gastro-intestinal discomfort after a meal and reduces upper gastric pain in adults, safely and without side effects.
Reference: Journal of Dairy Science; 2018, Vol. 101, No. 6, 4830-41
Probiotics in Chemotherapy: Less nausea, constipation, and diarrhea
Participants in this study had undergone chemotherapy treatment after surgery for colorectal cancer. Half of the 100 participants took a placebo while the other half took a combination of probiotics including strains of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. Because of their microbiome-rebalancing effects, doctors thought probiotics would reduce complications from the procedure that typically include nausea, acid reflux, abdominal pain and bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Compared to placebo, those taking probiotics were 33 to 75 percent less likely to experience any of these symptoms. Discussing the findings, doctors said chemotherapy alters the structure and composition of the microbiome, leading to these complications. Probiotics help restore healthy gut function by promoting the beneficial short-chain fatty acids that form as dietary fiber ferments in the colon.
Reference: Nutrients; 2023, Vol. 15, No. 2, 356
Synbiotics for toddlers
Doctors believe that the first three years of life are critical to establish a healthy gut microbiome so the child can grow and develop normally. In this study, 129 healthy children, ages one to three, took a placebo or daily doses of the prebiotics fructo- and galacto-oligosaccharides plus the probiotic bifidobacterium breve.
After 12 weeks, while the placebo group had not changed, children in the synbiotics group saw a 22 percent increase in the proportion of bifidobacterium in the gut, and increases in lactobacillus and enterococcus probiotics. The synbiotics kids also had better acid balance in the gut, which doctors said led to softer stool consistency, and improved regularity.
Discussing the findings, doctors said synbiotics may have a positive effect on young children’s microbiome, increasing beneficial bifidobacterium, improving acid balance, and promoting softer stools.
Reference: Beneficial Microbes; 2018, Vol. 9, No. 4, 541-52
BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before trying a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, take prescription or over-the-counter medications, or are planning on having surgery.
Article copyright 2023 by Natural Insights for Well Being. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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