Probiotici benefici prebiotici


The world of probiotics has been gaining more and more fame and arousing much interest in recent years.The term “probiotic” in the context of foods and dietary supplements is associated with something positive for health, particularly of our intestines.

But what exactly is meant by “probiotic”? Do we really know all that lies behind this term? Most importantly, what is the difference between prObiotic and prEbiotic?

In this article we will try to shed some light on this world that is as vast as it is interesting and innovative.


Probiotics have been defined and are commonly recognized as“live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host” (FAO/WHO, 2012).

Simply put, these are bacterial strains that, when taken in a certain amount and in precise ways, can benefit our bodies.probiotics bacterial flora

From this definition we can extrapolate three concepts that characterize probiotics and allow them to be defined as such:

  • microorganisms must be alive, and as such they must make the journey through our digestive system and arrive in the intestines, where they will carry out their beneficial action;
  • for them to be effective, probiotics must be taken in “adequate amounts“-what are these amounts? We refer to at least one billion live cells per strain of bacteria per day (usually probiotic treatments last at least three weeks/one month). These microorganisms must be able to reach the gut and colonize it;
  • must actually exert a positive action on the health of the host.

Probiotics can be added directly to foods or can be used in the formulation of dietary supplements.

How do they act?

As mentioned above, probiotics have to pass through our digestive system to get to the gut: what will happen at this level?

The mechanisms of action of probiotics in the gut are diverse:

  • Competition with pathogenic bacteria for adhesion to the intestinal epithelium. Probiotics are able to “stick” to intestinal epithelial cells, preventing pathogenic bacteria from adhering to them and penetrating the wall.
  • They produce substances, called “bacteriocins,” that inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
  • They ferment carbohydrates, producing short-chain fatty acids. These acidify the intestinal environment, inhibiting the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria.
  • They help improve the function of the intestinal barrier and reduce the permeability of the epithelium to pathogenic bacteria.
  • They interact with the intestinal immune system. They help maintain the proper balance between microorganisms, gut cells, and the immune system so as to modulate the host response, which will be able to recognize pathogens and activate against them.

What are they for?

We have described probiotics and seen their main mechanisms of action. But why are they so widely used? As we will see below, it is precisely because of their many potentials!

Let’s make a premise: a large number of disease states and intestinal disorders are related to a state of “intestinal dysbiosis.” This expression, which sounds so complicated, means nothing more than an alteration of the normal intestinal bacterial flora, whereby “bad bacteria” prevail over “goodbacteria.” And it is precisely at this level that probiotics can play numerous positive roles. If you want to know how they act you can read our article here.

What are the disorders and disease states for which the use of probiotics has shown benefits? Among the best known include:

abdominal pain

  • Diarrhea caused by pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Shigella (frequent travelers will probably have experienced this annoying ailment): probiotics would act against enteric pathogens through the mechanisms of action seen earlier.
  • Diarrhea associated with antibiotic use: probiotics administered during antibiotic therapy help restore the bacterial flora.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: is a disorder characterized by symptoms such as bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, and impaired bowel function. Several studies conducted in recent years have found efficacy in using probiotics to alleviate the symptoms of this disorder, but more evidence is needed as each probiotic strain has unique characteristics and each patient is different.

Well-we have seen what probiotics are and what they are used for. What is meant instead by prEbiotics?

The names can be confusing, but they are two quite distinct concepts! Let’s go and see why.


A prebiotic is a non-digestible component found in foods that has the ability to confer a health benefit by interacting with gut bacteria: it promotes the growth and/or activity of the “good bacteria” in the colon and stimulates them to produce substances that provide health benefits to the host.

What are the main prebiotics?

These are purely substances in food that are not digested in the small intestine and therefore arrive as such in the colon (the anatomical site of the intestine where there is the greatest concentration of microorganisms). These substances are mostly carbohydrates, among which we find: fructans (inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), resistant starch (a type of starch that is not digested in the small intestine), beta-glucans (non-digestible polysaccharides that can be classified as dietary fiber), and pectins.

How are the beneficial effects of prebiotics exerted?

These substances that reach the colon undigested interact with the intestinal flora, exerting numerous positive effects on our gut health. Let’s see the main ones together!

  • Fermentation of prebiotics promotes the selection and growth of “good” bacteria (such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus) in the colon, while decreasing the number of potentially harmful microbes.
  • Among the fermentation products of prebiotics is butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that, in addition to helping reduce the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria, is a key source of nourishment for intestinal mucosal cells, promoting their replication and helping to improve their activities.

Where can we find them?

Prebiotics can be used for the preparation of dietary supplements inprebiotics banana honey particular to promote thebalance of intestinal flora, but they can also be taken in the diet because they are found in many foods: the main ones include banana, honey, dried fruit, wheat flour, oats, onion, garlic, legumes, chicory, artichokes, and asparagus.


Symbiotics are nothing more than foods, drugs or supplements that contain mixtures of probiotics and prebiotics-the idea, in fact, is precisely to take advantage of the synergistic effect in order to improve gut health!

How do symbionts act?

Symbionts exert several positive effects on host health:

  • Enhance the survival of probiotics along the gastrointestinal tract and promote their colonization in the colon
  • Selectively stimulate the growth or activate the metabolism of beneficial gut bacteria(bifidobacteria and lactobacilli)
  • They improve the bioavailability and absorption of some nutrients. This may be due to several mechanisms, including the production of short-chain fatty acids (derived from bacterial fermentation of prebiotics) and the positive action of probiotics in improving the function of the intestinal epithelium.

To conclude.

We clarified the meaning of terms that are widely used nowadays, especially given the high frequency of intestinal disorders.

Are you interested in the topic and would like to learn more about it? We will continue the discussion in future articles!

Enterolife Probiotici
Lactofer Fermenti lattici

Probiotic dietary supplements

Paladin Pharma spa has several probiotics that are useful in promoting the balance of intestinal microbial flora.

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