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What Are Synbiotics & Are They Good for Your Child?

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There are myriads of scientific terms when it comes to nutrition for our children. Behind all these terms are groups of passionate & relentless scientists from all over the world who dedicate their lives in conducting research on nutrition for children, striving to provide the best nourishment for our future generations.

‘Synbiotic’ may be one of the many terms that you may not completely understand. According to the Dietary Interventions in Gastrointestinal Diseases, a synbiotic is defined as a “mixture of probiotics and prebiotics that beneficially affects the host by improving the survival and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut”.[1]

As the word itself already reveals, it all has to do with synergy. Synbiotic is a mixture of prebiotics and probiotics that, when administered in adequate amounts, work synergistically to help creating a healthy gut.

Synbiotic has gained much attention lately as more researches show the pivotal role of gut in supporting one’s immune system.2 Quoting Dan Peterson, Assistant Professor of Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract”3.

Synbiotic = Probiotics + Prebiotics

How the gut microbiota function can be influenced by the consumption of prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics, as jointly defined by FDA and WHO, are ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the host’.

Some microbe strains that have a long history of safe and effective use as probiotics are Bifidobacterium & Lactobacillus.3 Foods like yoghurt, miso, tempeh and Kefir, for instance, are rich in probiotics.

On the other hand, prebiotics are mostly non-digestible fibers that can act as food for the probiotics therefore stimulating the growth of these good bacteria. Example of prebiotics are fructooligosaccharide (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), inulin etc. They can also be found in natural sources such as banana, onions, garlic, artichokes, to name a few.

Working hand-in-hand, a combination of prebiotic and probiotic will help to set the right gut environment to support the body defence system and modulate the composition of the gut microbiota to reflect that of a healthy child.4,5

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References:

1.     R. Gyawali, N. Nwamaioha, R. Fiagbor, T. Zimmerman, R. Newman and S. Ibrahim, Dietary Interventions in Gastrointestinal Diseases, 2019, 151-167.

2.     M. Sanders, D. Merenstein, G. Reid, G. Gibson and R. Rastall, Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2019, 16, 605-616.

3.     F. Helen, Hopkinsmedicine.org, 2020.

4.     K. Pandey, S. Naik and B. Vakil, Journal of Food Science and Technology, 2015, 52, 7577-7587.

5.      Haahtela T, et al. World Allergy Organization Journal. 2013; 6(1): 3.