Probiotic supplements are widely used around the world. They are defined by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host . In essence, probiotic supplements contain beneficial gut bacterial species, including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species .
Probiotics are one of the members of the -biotics family. Other members include prebiotics, synbiotics and postbiotics. Read on to find out how another member of the -biotics family, prebiotics, helps feed your probiotic supplements and hence optimizes the effects of your probiotic supplements.
ISAPP has defined a prebiotic as a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit . In the context of our gut, the host microorganisms may refer to:
Prebiotics such as resistant starches and various types of oligosaccharides resist digestion from our human body’s enzymes and travel to the colon largely unchanged.
Our gut microbiota in the colon and the probiotic supplements we take will then feed on and ferment the prebiotics. This fermentation process produces metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs like butyrate confer health benefits such as providing a main source of energy for our colon cells and having anti-inflammatory properties .
This innate set of gut microbiota (the set that we are born with) is thought to be the most optimum for oneself. This optimum composition deteriorates naturally as we age. Along with poorer modern-day diets lacking in prebiotics (such as dietary fiber) as well as increased use of medications such as antibiotics, the composition and amount of good gut bacteria decrease even faster.
Having a set of healthy gut microbiota is important as it enhances and optimizes our gut health. Research has shown that our gut microbiota and health also affect systems outside of the gut. Our gut microbiota communicates with our brain bi-directionally via the gut-brain axis . Good gut health also supports metabolic markers such as blood pressure , sugar  and cholesterol levels . Gut microbiota and health also aid in supporting our cardiovascular , immune  and respiratory health .
The importance of gut health is increasingly being appreciated by people around the globe, as reflected in the increasing popularity of probiotic and prebiotic supplements.
Taking prebiotics helps to provide fuel for your innate gut microbiota. In addition, prebiotics also help feed the probiotic supplements, thereby increasing their chances of survival and proliferating successfully in the colon . This will help prevent the probiotic supplements from dying and going to waste.
ISAPP recommends taking 3-5g of prebiotics a day to obtain the beneficial effects of prebiotics. Prebiotics can be obtained from foods (such as whole grains and legumes) or in the form of dietary supplements.
Probiotic supplements are widely used around the world. Increasingly, prebiotics are also taken together with probiotic supplements to increase their survivability and proliferation in the colon. This optimizes the effects of probiotic supplements and prevents them from going to waste. Taking prebiotics with probiotics will further enhance the health of our gut microbiota, thereby optimizing our overall gut health.