Probiotics are live beneficial microorganisms intended to have positive health benefits when consumed or applied to the skin. These live bacteria can be found in some yogurts, fermented foods, dietary probiotic supplements, and skincare products.
Many of the bacteria found in probiotic products are similar or the same to the microorganisms that live naturally in our body.
Health benefits of probiotics
Research has shown that probiotics can support digestive health and immune function, including reducing antibiotic‐associated diarrhoea, improving resilience to infections, and improving digestion of lactose. Other benefits include reducing the risk of eczema and colic in infants, as well as necrotising enterocolitis.
Probiotics rarely colonise in the gut, but rather interact with resident microbes. As they pass through the gut, they interact with gut cells, immune cells and food substances, exerting their benefits.
There is also some early evidence of benefits in managing weight and glycaemic control, depression and anxiety.
It is best to find a product containing the strain(s) that have demonstrated the best evidence for the benefit you are seeking.
A prebiotic is a type of fibre (but not all fibre is prebiotic). To be classified as a prebiotic, the fibre must pass through the GI tract undigested and stimulate the growth and/or activity of certain ‘good’ or beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. Prebiotics include fructans and galacto-oligosachairdes (GOS).
Health benefits of prebiotics
Increase production of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli bacteria which are associated with reduced inflammation.
Production of beneficial metabolites - SCFAs (short chain fatty acids) are produced by the gut microbiota due to the fermentation of carbohydrates, amino acids, and other nutrients that are unabsorbed in the proximal small intestine. Acetate, propionate, and butyrate represent 90–95% of all SCFAs produced in the colon.