Most people now understand that the majority of our body’s immune system originates in the digestive system—60-70% according to some estimates. However, the usual concern is that digestive tract and immune functions are often found to decline as we age thus contributing to disease through the entire body.
Prebiotics Complement Probiotics
Billions of bacteria inhabit the colon. Many of these healthy bacteria enhance immune function and prevent diseases in parts of the body beyond the digestive tract, including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain billions of these and other “beneficial” bacteria in living form. They are ingested and eventually deliver beneficial bacteria into the colon, where they increase in number and amplify their health-promoting effects.
Prebiotics also complement the action of probiotics. Prebiotics are a class of nutrients that help immune-supporting bacteria to proliferate in the colon. They have been shown to optimize immune function, generating a broad array of health benefits. Cutting-edge clinical research indicates that they help to combat cancer and bone loss, reduce the incidence of allergies and even lower cholesterol levels.
Scientists have found that complex carbohydrate molecules rank among the most effective of pre-biotic nutrients. The chemical bonds that hold these carbohydrates together are especially resistant to the onslaught of acids and enzymes aimed at breaking down the food we eat.
A study epublished in October 2014 reports that probiotics plus prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS) supplementation improves cholesterol levels, inflammation, and gut bacteria. Approximately 71 million American adults (over 33%) have elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, putting them at increased risk of heart disease.
Researchers randomly assigned 45 young healthy subjects to receive six weeks of supplementation with:
- the probiotic Lactobacillus salivarius,
- Lactobacillus salivarius plus the prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (synbiotic group), or
The investigators evaluated serum lipid profiles, insulin sensitivity, gut bacteria, and inflammatory markers including high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL) 6, IL-1-beta, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha at the beginning of the study and again after the intervention.
Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides decreased and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol increased in both the probiotic and synbiotic groups after six weeks of supplementation compared to the placebo group. However, the decrease in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol was greater in the synbiotic group.
Inflammatory markers CRP, IL-6, IL-1-beta, and TNF-alpha significantly decreased in both the probiotic and synbiotic groups compared to placebo, and this improvement was also greater in the synbiotic group. Additionally, after the supplementation period, fecal lactobacilli counts increased and coliforms and Escherichia coli decreased in both the probiotic and synbiotic groups.
“Overall, the combination of L salivarius with FOS was observed to be more beneficial than L salivarius alone, thereby advocating that such synbiotic combinations could be therapeutically exploited for improved health and quality of life,” stated the researchers.