HAVE YOU HEARD OF SYNBIOTICS?
You’ve probably heard of probiotics and you may have heard of prebiotics too. But are you familiar with synbiotics?
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
To clarify, probiotic foods are those that contain live bacteria within them, often from a process called fermentation. It is thought that these live bacteria may help to colonise the digestive system, helping to bring up the overall balance of bacteria that reside in the gut. (1)
WHAT ARE PREBIOTICS?
Prebiotics are a form of dietary fibre that our good gut bacteria love- Think of them as a fertiliser to help feed the existing bacteria in your gut, and help them grow and thrive. Humans cannot actually digest these fibres that well (which sounds counterproductive) but what this means is that there is more left for the gut bugs to break down and enjoy.
Why is this necessary? Well, the balance of our gut bacteria can fall out of kilter for a number of reasons – overuse of medications, poor diet, lifestyle etc. This can lead to dysbiosis, which in turn can lead to a whole host of digestive systems and issues.
To help support the balance of our gut critters, consuming regular probiotic and prebiotic rich foods is thought to help. Try out kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, live yogurt, tempeh, kombucha, apples, oats, dark chocolate and garlic to name a few.
WHY DO WE NEED BOTH PRE & PROBIOTICS?
Without prebiotic foods, our probiotic bacteria can not flourish and thrive. These probiotic bacteria may still be present, but they can’t work to the best of their ability without being fed a variety of prebiotic foods. So yes, PROBIOTICS and PREBIOTICS work hand in hand. Aiming to combine the two through food is a great place to start, as discussed below…
WHAT ARE SYNBIOTICS?
Essentially, synbiotics are a combination of probiotics and prebiotics. As mentioned beforehand, the relationship between probiotics and prebiotics is nothing we haven’t heard about before – they have always worked hand in hand, and can both be found naturally from whole food sources.
Synbiotics are a great choice for keeping our gut health in check, as they combine the friendly bacteria that reside in our guts, along with their favourite, appropriate food choice- all in one supplement.
This can be helpful for a number of reasons, but mainly due to the fact that the microbes in the gut are strongly influenced by your environment, diet, medication use, exercise and stress levels. (2) The reduction and lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut due to antibiotic use or a diet lacking in veg, can deplete the balance of our gut microbiome and make room for the growth of the less desirable micro-organisms.
This imbalance is known as DYSBIOSIS, and using a synbiotic will ensure that the probiotics in the supplement you are taking will have a good volume of food waiting for them in your gut.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SYNBIOTICS?
Synbiotics can be a great place to start when thinking about working on your gut health. Not only do the prebiotics your synbiotic contains, feed the probiotics (bacteria) in the supplement, they also feed the population of pre-existing, friendly bacteria that already reside in the gut. It is important to consider that each person’s gut microbiome is different and their volume of bacteria (good and bad) will fluctuate over time.
Encouraging the growth of our own unique, healthy, bacteria populations has been associated with better overall health, with research showing that the combined use of prebiotics and probiotics may be effective for the treatment of diarrhoea, IBS, allergic disorders, obesity and even the common cold. (3)
Synbiotics have been proven to be effective at supporting our overall gut health, with them feeding the populations of indigenous natural friendly bacteria that inhabit our guts. (4)
Given that 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, a healthy microbiome can help support the immune system (5). Synbiotics have also been linked to treatment of infectious or inflammatory diseases (6), modulation of immune responses (7) and skin health, with research showing that they may improve symptoms of eczema, including itching and rashes (8).
HOW TO GET SYNBIOTICS
You can choose to consume synbiotics through your diet or take them as a supplement. In addition to providing live microorganisms (probiotics), the prebiotic dietary fibre will offer an array of other key nutrients. Good dietary sources of prebiotics include onion, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, green bananas and oats.
Sources of probiotics in the diet include fermented foods, such as live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, kombucha and tempeh.
Pairing probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods for a synbiotic meal is a great way to get a gut-friendly delivery in one. However, keep in mind that cooking fermented foods will kill off the probiotic bacteria (so add the miso glaze once the salmon is cooked, add the kimchi once the tempeh is stir-fried etc).
See some good synbiotic perfect pairings below:
- Live yoghurt with 1 tbsp flax seeds and a chopped apple
- Tempeh and kimchi stir fry
- Sauerkraut and broccoli salad
- Miso-glazed salmon with asparagus
Try incorporating these foods regularly, but start with small portions and slowly, so that they don’t trigger any digestive symptoms.
When investing in a synbiotic supplement, it’s important to choose one that is right for you. Opting for well-researched probiotic strains, which may offer benefits for the conditions you wish to support is key.
Clarissa’s Synbiotic top picks:
ARE THEY FOR EVERYONE?
Take into consideration that not everyone tolerates prebiotics, whether in supplement or food form. Those suffering from IBS may have a sensitivity to prebiotics. This may be down to excessive bacterial fermentation and subsequent gas production taking place. If this happens, it is best to work with a gut health practitioner to tailor which prebiotics and probiotics are right for you.
Even if you are taking a symbiotic, it is still important to eat a well-rounded diet that includes natural prebiotic and probiotic food sources. Food first is always best when it comes to nutrient intake, however, I appreciate, this is not always achievable, and this is where supplements may be helpful.
As always working with a digestive health specialist is the best approach when dealing with gut health symptoms and conditions. To work with Clarissa privately, book in a free discovery call here.
Guiné R de PF, Silva ACF. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics. Funct Foods Sources, Heal Eff Futur Perspect. 2016;(May):143-207. doi:10.1201/b15561-2 (4)
de Vrese M, Schrezenmeir J. (2008). Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics. Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol. 111:1-66 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18461293/ (5)
Romeo J, Nova E, Wärnberg J, Gómez-Martínez S, Díaz Ligia LE, Marcos A. (2010). Immunomodulatory effect of fibres, probiotics and synbiotics in different life-stages. Nutr Hosp. May-Jun;25(3):341-9 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20593114/ (6)
Pandey, K. R., Naik, S. R., & Vakil, B. V. (2015). Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review. Journal of food science and technology, 52(12), 7577–7587 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4648921/ (7)
Makrgeorgou A, Leonardi-Bee J, Bath-Hextall FJ, Murrell DF, Tang ML, Roberts A, Boyle RJ. (2018). Probiotics for treating eczema. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 11(11):CD006135 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30480774/ (8)