Synbiotics: helping support your child’s gut health
Right now, there are trillions of microorganisms in your gut – and that’s a good thing. At every stage of life, these gut bacteria (also known as the microbiome) help us digest and metabolise food, fight bugs and are involved in processes that regulate our mood.1
For infants and toddlers, getting the right balance of gut bacteria can affect health status in later life.2 And that’s where the new science of synbiotics comes in.
What are synbiotics?
You might have heard about probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that add ‘good’ bacteria to your gut and can help aid digestion. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut.
Synbiotics, quite simply, are a combination of the two. The science of synbiotics helps us understand how getting the right mix of probiotics and prebiotics can ensure the right microorganisms survive and thrive in the gut.3
Synbiotics and kids
Right from birth, a baby’s gut is populated with microorganisms, and the nutrition they receive afterwards affects how this microbiome develops.
Breastfeeding delivers an ever-changing combination of prebiotics and probiotics that’s tailored to the baby’s needs.4 It passes on beneficial microorganisms delivering about 200 types of prebiotic that feed the ‘good bacteria’ in the baby’s gut.5
Once a child is eating solids, a balanced and healthy diet gives them a synbiotic mix of both prebiotics and probiotics. Fibre-rich foods which include many vegetables, cereals and fruit provide prebiotics, while fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha can contain probiotics.6
The benefits of the right synbiotic mix
For growing kids, getting the synbiotic mix right will help ensure optimum gut health- which in turn helps their overall health.
An unhealthy or unbalanced gut can increase the risk of gastrointestinal problems such as conspitation and diarrhoea, and increase the chance of developing allergies.7
On the other hand, a well-balanced gut microbiome can support your child’s developing immune system, and help with digestion of nutrients from a healthy well balanced diet so they can grow, play and thrive.8
Synbiotics and allergy
The prevalence of allergic diseases are rising worldwide.9 Cows’ milk is one of the most common causes of food allergy in children. Cows’ milk allergy (CMA) affects around 1 in 50 children across Australia and New Zealand.10,11
Kids with food allergies such as CMA have been shown to have lower levels of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (strains of ‘good’ bacteria) in their gut microbiota, compared with healthy, breast-fed infants.12
A growing amount of clinical evidence shows that synbiotics can have a beneficial effect in infants at risk of, or living with food allergy.13-16
1. Food and Mood Centre. What is the gut microbiome? Available at: https://foodandmoodcentre.com.au/what-is-the-gut-microbiome/; accessed May 2019.
2. Parracho H et al. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2007;66:405-411.
3. Health.com. Are Synbiotics the New Probiotics? Available at: https://www.health.com/nutrition/synbiotics; accessed May 2019.
4. Ballard, Olivia et al, ‘Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors’, Pediatric Clinics of North America 60(1), 2013, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586783/
5. Australian Breastfeeding Association. Breastfeeding, bacteria and your baby’s gut. Available at: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-bacteria-and-your-babys-gut; accessed May 2019.
6. Medical News Today. What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323490.php; accessed May 2019.1.
7. Parracho H et al. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2007;66:405-411.
8. Parents.com. 5 ways to boost your kids’ gut health Available at: https://www.parents.com/health/hygiene/5-ways-to-boost-your-kids-gut-health/ accessed May 2019.
9. Pawankar R, et al. World Allergy Organisation (WAO): White Book on Allergy. Wisconsin: World Allergy Organization, 2013.
10. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Allergy and Immunology: Cows milk allergy. Available at https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/allergy/Cows%20milk%20allergy.pdf. Accessed September 2019.
11. ASCIA. Information for patients, consumers and carers: Cow’s milk (dairy) allergy. Available at https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ff/ASCIA_Cows_Milk_Allergy_Fast_Facts_2019.pdf. Accessed September 2019.
12. Kirjavainen P, et al. Gut 2002;51:51-55.
13.Boyle R et al. Allergy 71(2016)701-710.
14.Van der Aa, et al. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 40, 795-804.
15. Van der Aa, et al. Allergy, 2011;66: 170-7.
16. Candy et al. Pediatric Research accepted article preview 20 November 2017; doi:10.1038/pr.2017.270.