• Aidan Craig

What are Prebiotics, Probiotics and Synbiotic's and what is their potential use to fight IBS ?

We all have bacteria in our gut !

Each person has a unique signature of from 100 up too 1000 microbial species within the gastrointestinal tract, which host the internal gut and play a major role in health. These organisms have shown to play key roles in defense function, contributing to normal digestion, along with catabolism and anabolism, and impacting on brain-gut responses.

The evolution and growth of our own bacteria

The colonisation of bacteria begins when you are a born baby and first exposed to a non- sterile environment, where overtime the bacteria transforms over your lifetime and this colonisation is then impacted on the diet, genome, lifestyle and exposure to antibiotics.

Research shows as a persons ages in particular people over the age of 60 years have shown to have a compositional decrease in the Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio and a marked decrease in bifidobacterial, which is around the same time that the immune system starts to decline. The “colonization resistance” or “intestinal microflora” acts as a barrier or mechanism used by the indigenous gut bacteria to maintain their presence and confer niche protection against freshly ingested microorganisms, including pathogens.

What is a Prebiotic, where can i get them and what is its uses ?

Prebiotic's are certain nutrients that help in regards to the stimulation of growth or activity of beneficial bacterial species in the gut, generally lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Prebiotics can be obtained naturally from sources like vegetables, fruits, and grains consumed in our daily life.

Prebiotic's are mostly fibre’s that are non-digestible food ingredients providing several health benefits such as reducing the prevalence and duration of diarrhoea, providing relief from inflammation and other symptoms associated with intestinal bowel disorders, and exerting protective effects to prevent colon cancer. Other benefits include increased bioavailability and uptake of minerals, lowering of some risk factors for cardiovascular disease and promoting satiety and weight loss. Although Prebiotics have shown to promote gas a study has shown that a prebiotic mixture of transgalactooligosaccharides TGOS made significant improvements in patients stool consistency, flatulence, bloating and composite symptom score after 4 weeks.

Some other sources of prebiotics include: breast milk, soybeans, inulin sources (like Jerusalem artichoke, chicory roots etc.), raw oats, unrefined wheat, unrefined barley, non-digestible carbohydrates, and in particular non-digestible oligosaccharides.

What is a Probiotic, where can i get them and what is its uses ?

Delivered through the form of tablets, capsules or in the form of functional foods through bio-yogurts, milk and fruity drinks. They are designed to restore the balance of bacteria flora, products which may contain one or more selected microbial strains. Human probiotic microorganisms belong mostly to Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Lactococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus.

The main advantages they give is the effect on the development of the microbiota ensuring proper balance between pathogens and the bacteria necessary for restoration of natural microbiota after antibiotic therapy. Other important functions is counteracting activity of pathogenic intestinal microbiota introduced from contaminated food and environment, improvement of digestion, treatment of food allergies, dental caries, production of B group vitamins, increase of the immunological system’s efficiency, positive effect for the prevention of Urinary Tract Infections and bacterial vaginitis.

Possible treatment for Inflammatory enteral conditions ?

Diseases associated with chronic and recurrent infections or inflammations of the intestine, clinical studies have demonstrated that probiotics lead to the remission of ulcerative colitis. However some studies show conflicting results where some showno positive effect on Crohn’s disease (CD) due to competitive action with commensal, pathogenic flora and an influence on the immune response system. However in some studies the use of probiotics improved symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease through restoring integrity of the “protective” intestinal mucosa.

What is a Synbiotic, and what is its uses ?

Synbiotic's are products containing both prebiotics and probiotics, whereby they act synergistically. The prebiotic component is designed to selectively stimulate either growth or metabolism by the probiotic bacteria, enhancing survival for the probiotic.

Having a range of effects, including increasing numbers of health beneficial bacteria, improved immunomodulation, and reduced incidence of nosocomial infection in patients post-surgery.

So what are the guidelines for someone whom has IBS ?

A systematic review with meta-analysis on IBS symptoms relief with probiotic treatment for 4, 6, and 8 wk resulted insignificant beneficial effects on IBS symptoms in comparison to placebo. Suggesting if supplementing probiotics it would need to be for a minimum of 4 weeks, bearing in mind it may work for some people however studies show it may on the other hand not be effective for you. It would seem prudent not to try any more than three different probiotics, that being said the addition of a prebiotic does seem to give a possible enhancement. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence suggest people with IBS would also suggest a supplementation of at least four weeks would be sufficient to monitor effectiveness.

Source of reference


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