You may have recently noticed another product available in the probiotic aisle at your health food store, called a “Synbiotic” and wondered what this new supplement is. A synbiotic is a term given to a combination of both prebiotics and probiotics – both in one product. The term itself may not be familiar, but essentially it was named for its “synergistic” effect: the probiotic and prebiotic components work together to positively affect the populations of microbes living in our gut. With probiotics now found in everything from yogurt to skin creams, much of the public has learned about the potential health benefits of these living microbes. The newest microbiome supplements, however, aren’t just limited to probiotics…they can also contain prebiotics. Let’s get some of your top synbiotics questions answered!
What is a synbiotic?
Synbiotics are products that contain both probiotics and prebiotics. The “syn” comes from the synergy of both working together. These innovative products optimize gut health benefits to support overall wellness.
The synergistic relationship between probiotics and prebiotics is really nothing new – they have always worked together in harmony and both can be found naturally in our diet. Prebiotics and probiotics are better together. When paired with probiotics, prebiotics have been shown to improve the survival of probiotics as they pass through the digestive tract and help them thrive when they reach the gut. According to research from John Hopkins, children between the ages of one and four who drank milk fortified with both probiotics and prebiotics for one year got sick significantly less often than children who drank unfortified milk.1
Synbiotic research is also helping us to better understand probiotics – and that more CFUs isn’t necessarily better. What’s key is the right combination of research-backed species and strains that target specific health conditions.
What is a prebiotic?
The foods that nourish your microbiota are known as prebiotics and they consist of nondigestible fiber. This fiber acts like fertilizer that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Prebiotics are found in many fruits and veggies, especially those that contain resistant starch. Resistant starch functions similarly to fermentable fiber, it helps feed the friendly bacteria in your gut and increases production of short-chain fatty acids. Some top foods containing resistant starch are oats, cooked and cooled rice, and barley.
Your body can’t digest prebiotics so they pass through the digestive system to become food for the bacteria and other microbes in your gut. Besides being found in a supplement, prebiotics can be found naturally in several different foods like apples, artichokes, bananas, garlic, oats, onions, whole wheat, and tomatoes.
How is a synbiotic different than a probiotic?
Probiotics contain live organisms, usually specific strains of bacteria that directly add to the population of healthy microbes in your gut. Probiotics can also help ease some common health issues like diarrhea, IBS, urinary tract infections, and can even help to support immune health.* You can find probiotics in food and also in dietary supplements. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods.
A synbiotic is a mixture of both probiotics and prebiotics together, where the prebiotic acts as food to nourish the beneficial probiotic bacteria.
What are the benefits of a synbiotic?
In a nutshell, the uniqueness of synbiotics lies in its synergism, its ability to allow two important nutrients to work together for a better outcome. Probiotics viability is improved when taken with prebiotics. Prebiotics support the survival of the probiotic bacteria during their passage through the upper intestinal tract. The right prebiotics taken together with probiotics can ensure efficient implantation of bacteria in the colon as well as stimulate the growth/replication of probiotics. Another clear benefit of a synbiotic is that it is a convenient 2-in-1 product – you do not have to reach for both a probiotic and prebiotic at your health food store, you can reap all the health benefits with one supplement instead of two. A well designed synbiotic pairs a specific prebiotic with the probiotic strains to gain the greatest outcomes.
To optimize your gut health, consider changing up your routine and adding a Synbiotic to your supplement regimen. Your microbiome will thank you!
- Sazawal S, Dhingra U, Hiremath G, et al. Prebiotic and probiotic fortified milk in prevention of morbitities among children: community-based, randomized, double blind, controlled trial. PLoS One. 2010; 13;5(8):e12164.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.