Many human diseases have found the healing touch in a balanced diet with necessary supplements. The prebiotics are dietary fibers that have found application in many such cases. However, the polysaccharides cannot be digested by the human beings under normal circumstances. Therefore, a combination of prebiotics with probiotics (called synbiotics) can be the best remedy. e.g., fibers containing dietary supplements are advised to patients with chronic constipation problems but emerging results prove that an inclusion of probiotics can alleviate the problem manifold as compared to the intake of fibres alone.
Prebiotics Could Enrich The Probiotic Population
Although the human body lacks the polysaccharidases (the enzymes needed to digest the polysaccharides) to digest the prebiotics or the dietary fibers, when added to the nutritional regime of an individual have been found to cause sufficient health benefits. So, who can be reason behind their proper utilization? Studies have revealed that the microbes residing within the human gastro-intestinal linings have the necessary efficiency to degrade these saccharides. However, one major concern is that besides the beneficial microflora in the GI tract there is also pathogenic flora whose growth and proliferation rate needs to be curbed. A good prebiotic is one which will result in the enrichment of the growth of the probiotics specifically. Inulin like polysaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, fructans and some other classes of carbohydrate food have been reported to act as probiotic enrichment media. According to the work of Ranadheera and his group, the nutrition is one of the determining factors for the regulation of microbial colonization of the GI tract. The study also suggests that the bacteria may be buffered by the food and its functional components through the extreme conditions of the stomach. There are also possibilities of potential interactions between the substrates and the microbes. Gibson and Sanders have shown that an increase in prebiotic diet helps maintaining a good and healthy microflora of the host gut. Natural prebiotics are an essential ingredient of many food products that enhances the functionality of the probiotics. The contents of the food may be manipulated accordingly to increase the efficacy of the probiotics. e.g., prebiotics supplemented alongwith meat and diary products, beverages, cereals, baby food, etc to increase the efficacy of the beneficial bacteria. Many other food ingredients have been found to be effective for this purpose that includes whole parts and extracts of plants, microbial metabolites, fatty acids. Therefore, there is enough scope for the concomitant use of prebiotics and probiotics to exert a synergistic beneficial effect.
Rationale Behind The Selective Growth Promotion by Prebiotics:
The probiotics possess saccharidases that can break down the complex sugar molecules into absorbable and other beneficial forms. However, this ability is also existent among the non-beneficial pathogenic strains that crowd the human GI tract. The by-products of digestion of inulin-like polysaccharides result in the accumulation of short chain fatty acids among others. The SCFAs so produced can exert a large number of useful actions. But they can also reduce the pH of the environment drastically. At times it has been noticed that the pH has been reduced in the range of (2-3). Such an acidic condition inhibits the growth of most of the microorganisms including the pathogenic forms. In fact a significant part of the population is removed by this shift in pH. A wide variety of probiotic strains from both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera have been isolated that can well tolerate such a hostile environment. Accordingly, in due course of time the beneficial probiotic strains can wipe out the pathogenic strains from the gastrointestinal tract due to this selectivity of the substrate provided. In recent times, a number of reports have come up in reputed international journals which prove that the use of prebiotics can make the gut colonization by the probiotics faster and efficient. In 2011, the World Gastroenterology Organization has set up the guidelines for the effective use of prebiotics and probiotics together.
Health Benefits of Using Synbiotics:
Probiotics are already in use for the wide array of beneficial effects that they can produce particularly with respect to the diseased condition. The intake of fermented probiotic food is very common in many parts of the world from ancient times. Among others the probiotics can alter the digestive system and the colonic microflora that can help to prevent cases of diarrhea and also the enhancement of the immune response. The dietary sugars consist of a large family of known and unknown compounds that results in specific health benefits such as in chronic constipation, diarrhea, etc. and has therefore raised interest among scientists, researchers and nutritionists.
However, it is an established fact that merely overloading the diet with these carbohydrates alone cannot produce the required useful effects. Therefore, the need of the hour is to find out the right prebiotic-probiotic combination in dealing with the aforesaid problems. But before using these combinations with claims of diseased condition reduction and beneficial endpoint results, the claims must be well justified in human beings alongwith the mechanistic behind such beneficial traits. The potential areas which the use of synbiotics can target include the alteration in the colonic microbiome content, changes in insulinemia, fatty acid metabolism modifications, improvements in the absorption and bioavailability of the dietary minerals like calcium, iron and zinc. The exerted negative influence on colon cancer is another area of potential future research. Besides, the break down of inulin like polysaccharides by the probiotics results in the synthesis of a number of low energy sugar molecules which can also be quite interesting from the point of food product development. In addition, the effects of prebiotic and probiotic might as well be synergistic or additive. Such evidences have come up in experiments to assess the combined role of inulin and bifidobacteria as anticancer agents.
There is an ensuing debate upon the use of eubiotics (the use of either probiotics or prebiotics) or the synbiotics (the use of both prebiotics and probiotics together). There are increasing evidences of the use of probiotics singly in the alleviation of complex human disease symptoms. However, the use of synbiotics in specific case can provide more relief as compared to the use of either the prebiotics or probiotics alone.