New research suggests that a combination of prebiotics and probiotics could help sufferers of Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS). The new study, published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, investigated whether the supplementation of prebiotics and probiotics could help develop intestinal adaptation and gut functionality in those suffering with SBS.

NOTE: We do not currently recommend any of the OptiBac Probiotics range to children younger than 3 years old with SBS. This is due to some of our strains producing D-lactate, an enzyme that infants with SBS should avoid. However, we wanted to write about this news piece as it reveals the growing evidence that probiotics and prebiotics may help with SBS in the future. We await further human clinical trials and study before we can safely recommend our products.

The research team, led by Professor Kelly Tappenden from the University of Illinois, observed four feeding groups of piglets with SBS and how they reacted to probiotic and prebiotic supplementation. The groups were split into a control group, a group that received a diet containing prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a probiotic group, and the fourth group was supplemented with a combination of prebiotics and probiotics. Piglets were selected as they represent an excellent model of the human infant in metabolism and physiology.

The results showed that FOS supplementation alone was effective in increasing intestinal function, but the combination of probiotics and prebiotics boosted functionality even further.

“When we fed the carbohydrate fructooligosaccharides (FOS) as a prebiotic, the gut grew and increased in function. The study showed that using the correct pre and probiotic in combination could enhance these results even more.”

The researchers were also keen to discover whether the prebiotics and probiotics would help the piglet’s digestive system produce butyrate. Butyrate is an essential short chain fatty acid for cell functionality in the gut and has been shown, in previous studies, to aid the adaptation of the gut when added to parenteral nutrition (feeding a person intravenously) following SBS.

Tappenden and her team were delighted to observe that the prebiotic and probiotic supplementation did indeed produce butyrate. The prebiotic FOS entered the intestines where the probiotics were able to convert it into butyrate, which in turn improved the gut’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients.

“We believed that bacteria in the gut would use the prebiotic to make butyrate and support intestinal growth.”

Tappenden commented. Further research is now required to establish which probiotic strains are most effective in increasing gut functionality in those with SBS.


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