As interest has increased in the gut microbiome and baby gut health, a number of products have entered the market that claim to help foster a healthy gut environment. The most popular are probiotics and prebiotics, and the two are often confused. While both are useful, they serve different purposes in cultivating and maintaining intestinal health.
According to the WHO, probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Several varieties of both yeast and bacteria are used in probiotic supplements; the most common are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria strains.1 However, not all probiotics are equal, and this is especially true with respect to infants.
Historically, probiotics have been taken with the hope to relieve symptoms such as gas, bloating, or other digestive issues.1 However, new research has found that baby gut health is connected to other conditions such as eczema, allergies, obesity, and diabetes. Probiotics may have a much larger impact on overall health, and not just the health of the gastrointestinal system.2-4
A dietary prebiotic, on the other hand, is a component of food that selectively feeds intestinal bacteria. To be termed a “prebiotic,” a substrate must be selectively utilized by bacteria, so not all carbohydrates are prebiotics.6
1. Sanders ME, Akkermans LMA, Haller D et al. Safety assessment of probiotics for human use. Gut Microbes. 2010;1(3):164-185.
2. Postler TS and Ghosh S. Understanding the holobiont: how microbial metabolites affect human health and shape the immune system. Cell Metab. 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.05.008.
3. Sanders ME. Impact of probiotics on colonizing microbiota of the gut. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011;45 Suppl:S115-119.
4. Cryan, JF and Dinan TG. Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012;13(10):701-712.
5. Zivkovic AM and Barile D. Bovine milk as a source of functional oligosaccharides for improving human health. Adv Nutr. 2011;2:284-289.
6. Bindels, Laure B., et al. "Towards a more comprehensive concept for prebiotics." Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 12.5 (2015): 303-310.
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Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) are special carbohydrates that are food for baby’s gut bacteria. One key beneficial bacteria, B. infantis, is unique and able to capture all these carbohydrates that might otherwise be wasted, consuming them fully allowing B. infantis to grow and protect baby’s gut, and convert them into essential nutrients that are critical for baby’s developing metabolism and immune system.
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that help keep your gut microbiome healthy. Historically, probiotics have been taken with the hope to relieve symptoms such as gas, bloating, or other digestive issues. However, new research has found that gut health is connected to other conditions such as colic, eczema, allergies, diabetes, and obesity and may have a much larger impact on overall health, beyond only symptomatic relief.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. Instead, they are ‘food’ for the gut microbiome. For babies, the most important prebiotics are found in breast milk and are called Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs). HMOs are the third most abundant nutrient in breast milk and are critical to ‘feed’ good bacteria in baby’s gut.
A gut microbiome is a collection of trillions of microorganisms, or bacteria, that live in our intestines, or gut.
By nature’s design, beneficial and protective bacteria are passed from mom to baby during the birthing process, creating baby’s unique gut microbiome. However, the unintended consequences of modern medical practices such as antibiotics, c-sections, and formula feeding have led to a decrease in this mom to baby transfer.
In collaboration with the University of California Medical Center, we completed a clinical trial in which breast fed babies were given Evivo once a day for a month and were compared to breast fed babies who didn’t receive any probiotic. After a month, Evivo babies had significantly higher levels of the key good bacteria, B. infantis, in their gut compared to babies who didn’t receive any Evivo. This good bacteria is critical for proper immune system and metabolic development during the first six months of life.