In case you’re looking for a simple definition of probiotics and prebiotics, here’s a quick refresher: Probiotics are live microorganisms intended to provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora. Prebiotics are no digestible carbohydrates compounds in food that induce the growth or activity of beneficial that good bacteria in your gut.
So, what about synbiotics? The synbiotic concept introduced as “mixtures of probiotics and prebiotics that beneficially affect your body by improving the survival and implantation of live microbial in the gastrointestinal tract, by selectively stimulating the growth and/or by activating the metabolism of one or a limited number of health-promoting probiotics, thus improving your body welfare” . In other words, Synbiotics have both probiotic and prebiotic properties and were created in order to overcome some possible difficulties in the survival of probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract .
The idea behind synbiotics is that adding prebiotics to a probiotic supplement can help ensure that the digestion-friendly microorganisms arrive in the gut alive and well. These supplements are said to be particularly useful for people with conditions like Irritable bowel syndrome, other bowel disorders, and diabetes. In the world of highly processed food, attention is drawn to the composition and safety of consumer products. The quality of food is very important because of, i.e., the problem of food poisoning, obesity, allergy, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer—the plague of the 21st century. Scientific reports point to the health benefits of using probiotics and prebiotics in human nutrition .
The human gastrointestinal tract is colonized by a complex ecosystem of microorganisms.
Intestinal bacteria are not only commensal, but they also undergo a synbiotic co-evolution along with their host. Beneficial intestinal bacteria have numerous and important functions, e.g., they produce various nutrients for our body, prevent infections caused by intestinal pathogens, and modulate a normal immunological response. Therefore, modification of the intestinal microbiota in order to achieve, restore, and maintain favorable balance in the ecosystem, and the activity of microorganisms present in the gastrointestinal tract is necessary for the improved health condition of the body. The introduction of probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotics into the human diet is favorable for the intestinal microbiota. They may be consumed in the form of raw vegetables and fruit, fermented pickles, or dairy products. Another source may be pharmaceutical formulas and functional food. Therefore, an appropriate combination of both components in a single product should ensure a superior effect, compared to the activity of the probiotic or prebiotic alone [4,5].
Probiotic Microorganisms and Mechanism of Action
Probiotic products may contain one or more selected microbial strains. Human probiotics microorganisms belong mostly to the following gene: Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Lactococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus. Moreover, strains of Gram-positive bacteria belonging to the genus Bacillus and some yeast strains belonging to the genus Saccharomyces are commonly used in probiotic products . Probiotics have numerous advantageous functions in human organisms. Their main advantage is the effect on the development of the microbiota inhabiting the organism in the way ensuring a proper balance between pathogens and the bacteria that are necessary for a normal function of the organism [7,8]. Their positive effect is used for the restoration of natural microbiota after antibiotic therapy [9,10]. Another function is counteracting the activity of pathogenic intestinal microbiota, introduced from contaminated food and environment. Therefore, probiotics may effectively inhibit the development of pathogenic bacteria, such as Clostridium perfringens , Campylobacter jejuni , Salmonella Enteritidis , Escherichia coli , various species of Shigella , Staphylococcus , and Yersinia , thus preventing food poisoning. Probiotic are natural producers of B group vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B8, B9, B12). They also increase the efficiency of the immunological system, enhance the absorption of vitamins and mineral compounds, and stimulate the generation of organic acids and amino acids [16,17,18]. There are also suggestions of a possible role of probiotics in the elimination of cancer cells .
Mechanisms of action of Spirulina synbiotics and their effects
In the face of widespread diseases and aging societies, the use of knowledge on microbiocenosis of the gastrointestinal tract and on the beneficial effect of probiotic bacteria is becoming increasingly important. The consumption of pre-processed food (fast food), often containing excessive amounts of fat and insufficient amounts of vegetables is another factor of harmful modification of human intestinal microbiota. There is currently no doubt about the fact that the system of intestinal microorganisms and its desirable modification with probiotic formulas and products may protect people against enteral problems and influence the overall improvement of health.
Fruit, vegetables, cereals, and other edible plants are sources of carbohydrates constituting potential prebiotics. The following may be mentioned as such potential sources: tomatoes, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, berries, garlic, onions, chicory, green vegetables, legumes, as well as oats, linseed, barley, and wheat. Some artificially produced prebiotics are, among others: lactulose, galactooligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharides, maltooligosaccharides, cyclodextrins, and lactosaccharose. Lactulose constitutes a significant part of produced oligosaccharides (as much as 40%). Fructans, such as inulin and oligofructose, are believed to be the most used and effective in relation to many species of probiotics . Prebiotics may be used as an alternative to probiotics or as additional support for them. The main aim of prebiotics is to stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, which confers a health benefit on the host.
Synbiotics are used not only for the improved survival of beneficial microorganisms added to food or feed but also for the stimulation of the proliferation of specific native bacterial strains present in the gastrointestinal tract . The effect of synbiotics on metabolic health remains unclear. It should be mentioned that the health effect of synbiotics is probably associated with the individual combination of a probiotic and prebiotics . Considering a huge number of possible combinations, the application of synbiotics for the modulation of intestinal microbiota in humans seems promising .
The first aspect to be taken into account when composing a synbiotic formula should be a selection of an appropriate probiotic and prebiotic, exerting a positive effect on the host’s health when used separately. The determination of specific properties to be possessed by a prebiotic to have a favorable effect on the probiotic seems to be the most appropriate approach. A prebiotic should selectively stimulate the growth of microorganisms, having a beneficial effect on health, with simultaneous absent (or limited) stimulation of other microorganisms. A combination of Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus genus bacteria in synbiotic products seems to be the most popular.
Synbiotics have the following beneficial effects on humans :
- Increased Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genus count and maintenance of a balance of the intestinal microbiota;
- Improved hepatic function in patients suffering from cirrhosis;
- Improved immunomodulatory abilities;
- Prevention of bacterial translocation and reduced incidence of nosocomial infections in patients’ post-surgical procedures and similar interventions.
Probiotic organisms are crucial for the maintenance of a balance of human intestinal microbiota.
Numerous scientific reports confirm their positive effect in the host’s health. Probiotic microorganisms are attributed a high therapeutic potential in, e.g., obesity, insulin resistance syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcohol hepatic steatosis . It seems also that probiotics may be helpful in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, enteritis, bacterial infections, and various gastrointestinal disorders and diarrheas. Probiotic microorganisms are also effective in the alleviation of lactose intolerance and the treatment of atopic dermatitis. A positive effect of probiotics in the course of various neoplastic diseases and side effects associated with anti-cancer therapies is also worth noting. Prebiotics may be used as an alternative to probiotics, or as additional support for them. It turns out that the development of bio-therapeutic formulas containing both appropriate microbial strains and synergistic prebiotics may lead to the enhancement of the probiotic effect in the small intestine and the colon. Those “enhanced”
probiotic products may be even more effective, and their protective and stimulatory effect superior to their components administered separately .