Synergy is a special force of nature, in which two separate objects work together to equate to something greater than the sum of each object. Think of the great duos in sports, Jordan and Pippen, Rice and Montana, Venus and Serena; each player achieved greatness on their own but when paired together, each respective duo was almost unbeatable. Similarly, effective probiotics and effective prebiotics are great for your gut on their own nevertheless when they are paired together synergy occurs. Effective probiotics paired with effective prebiotics may be the greatest health supplement duo of all time.
Are Probiotics and Prebiotics the Same?
The short answer, no. Probiotics and prebiotics are not the same, but they both serve to improve gut microbiome health. Probiotics are good bacteria and microorganisms that can culture in your gut to assist your body. Prebiotics essentially are food for the good bacteria that comprises your gut microbiome. So, an effective probiotic supplement works to introduce and cultivate beneficial bacteria and an effective prebiotic supplement offers nutrition to those beneficial bacteria thereby helping the beneficial bacteria to remain healthy and alive.Simply put, think of probiotics as troops helping to keep your gut microbiome balanced and healthy and prebiotics as the rations and necessities to keep those troops alive and active.
Research driving the development and understanding of probiotics and their impact on the gut microbiome, and thus the body as a whole, has made leaps and bounds over the last few decades but the investigation and learning is far from over. For example, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) research has emerged suggesting the beneficial effects of quality probiotics on the immune system and pulmonary function. But, with relatively lax regulations on what constitutes a probiotic, or what can be marketed and sold as a probiotic (i.e., supplements with no research and/or rigorous clinical trials can be marketed and sold as a probiotic all while claiming efficacy), there is a crowded and foggy probiotic market lacking transparency and clarity.
Notwithstanding, studied, researched, and clinically proven effective probiotics have shown remarkable benefits for the human body. Some of these benefits include decreased bloating, decreased diarrhea, increased energy, improved brain function, and better overall health and wellness. Every beneficial effect from quality probiotics stems from the probiotic’s ability to balance the gut microbiome. The human gut is incredibly important to overall health and wellness as it houses between 70-80% of the immune system and is the main hub for nutrient harvest and food digestion.
“Despite the existence of shared, core mechanisms for probiotic function, health benefits of probiotics are strain- and dose-dependent.”
A truly efficacious probiotic that you can count on to reliably impart beneficial effects to your body can be difficult to find. With so many probiotics claiming to do this and that while using words like “researched” or “proven” the lines between purely marketing and actual scientific proof are blurry. As a simple guide, effective probiotics make claims that other questionable probiotics frankly cannot. Effective probiotics will have proof in the form of human clinical trials, and offer researched specific strains in the proper balance and dosing while questionable probiotics may use researched species, not strains (saying all strains in a species have the same effect is similar to saying a german shepherd and designer chihuahua are exactly the same), that have never been rigorously tested in human clinical trials or have any proof of efficacy for their particular blend of bacteria.
One of the main reasons LYVECAP was founded was to demystify the confusion around gut health and the probiotic market and offer probiotics that were developed following the science and relying on clinical human trials to perfect the blends and balance of bacteria used. By following the science we can honestly give customers a probiotic that we believe in and know can make a positive difference.
Takeaway: Not all probiotics are the same, yet an effective probiotic can have a profound beneficial effect on the human body.
Prebiotics are far less marketed and sold than probiotics. Nonetheless, the lack of press surrounding prebiotics does not diminish their usefulness.
As mentioned earlier, prebiotics serve as nutritional supplements for beneficial gut bacteria keeping them alive and active. A prebiotic is a non-digestible fiber that the human body cannot use or digest except through the transitive benefits of the bacteria that can use and digest the prebiotic to impart benefits to the host. Prebiotics, like probiotics, are not limited to supplements but can be found and acquired through dietary foods such as blueberries, apples, onions, and garlic.
But just because a food or supplement is touted as a prebiotic does not mean that it will automatically feed and nourish beneficial bacteria. Some prebiotic may contain nutrients that actually favor harmful bacteria that inhabit the gut and outcompete the beneficial bacteria. Thus it is useful to set the stage for prebiotics by cultivating a balanced and healthy gut microbiome through the use of an effective probiotic. As with the case of probiotics it is important to find a quality prebiotic that can reliably support desired beneficial bacteria.
Takeaway: Prebiotics play a key role in ensuring beneficial probiotics stay alive and active.
Probiotics and Prebiotics in Synergy
An effective probiotic alone can be great. An effective prebiotic alone can be great. An effective probiotic paired with an effective prebiotic designed and tailored to support the chosen probiotic can be something truly wonderful. Synergy is achieved in such a situation. The pairing of the two halves imparts a greater benefit than just the sum of each part.
“As the word ‘synbiotic’ implies synergy, the term should be reserved for those products in which a prebiotic component selectively favours a probiotic microorganism”
In fact, some supplements are sold as synbiotics. Synbiotics are defined as supplements containing both probiotics and prebiotics in one formula. Once again, regardless of if the supplement is a probiotic only, a prebiotic only, or a synbiotic the quality of and proof behind the supplement is of the utmost importance.
Takeaway: Pairing an effective probiotic with an effective prebiotic can deliver a greater benefit than either on their own.
Not all probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics are the same. Effective high-quality probiotics and prebiotics can yield great benefits on their own but in tandem they can yield benefits that are greater than the sum of each part. This synergistic effect is well known and offered in supplements deemed as synbiotics. By following the science and finding supplements that have clinical proof is key to really reaping the benefits offered by probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics.