The ABCs of Gut Health: Probiotics, Prebiotics, Synbiotics, and Postbiotics

Das ABC der Darmgesundheit: Probiotika, Präbiotika, Synbiotika und Postbiotika

As parents, we always want the best for our babies, and their gut health is no exception. There are terms that come up again and again: probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics and postbiotics. But what exactly do they mean and how can they contribute to the health of babies? In this blog post, we explain the differences and similarities between these four terms and how they relate to babies' gut health.


Probiotics are live microorganisms found in dietary supplements or fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut. They can improve gut health by promoting the balance of microorganisms in the digestive system.

The official WHO (World Health Organization) definition is as follows:

“Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in sufficient quantities, provide health benefits to the host.”

Especially in infants and young children, probiotics can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, strengthen the immune system and increase resistance to infections. Breastfeeding infants have higher levels of beneficial bacteria in their gut, particularly bacteria from the genus Bifidobacterium , which are often found in probiotic supplements (1). However, non-breastfed infants and babies born via cesarean section may have lower levels of important gut microbiota and benefit from probiotic supplementation (2,3).


Prebiotics, on the other hand, are indigestible food components that promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. They are often referred to as “food” for the good bacteria.

The official definition from ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics) is:

“Prebiotics are substantially indigestible food components that selectively promote the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of microorganisms in the colon, thereby promoting the health of the host.”

Prebiotics are found in many foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits, but also in breast milk in the form of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) (4).


Synbiotics are a combination of probiotics and prebiotics. They contain both living microorganisms and indigestible food components that promote the growth of these microorganisms in the intestines. Synbiotic supplements have been shown to promote the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut, resulting in improved gut health and function (5). Synbiotics can be particularly helpful when breastfeeding is not possible or is not sufficient to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and support the baby's intestinal flora and immune system (6).


Postbiotics are metabolites that are produced by bacteria in the intestine and have health-promoting effects. They include a variety of compounds including short chain fatty acids, enzymes, vitamins and peptides. Postbiotics can work both locally in the gut and systemically in the body to improve the baby's health and well-being. Studies have shown that postbiotics have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects that can support a healthy gut microbiome (7).

In summary, it is important to understand the importance of probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics and postbiotics in babies' gut health. They all play an important role in promoting gut health and, in different ways, help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the digestive system and strengthen the immune system of infants and young children. A balanced diet rich in natural probiotics and prebiotics can help promote baby's gut health. In cases where breastfeeding is not possible or is not sufficient, synbiotics can be a useful supplement. Likewise, infants born by cesarean section or who were directly or indirectly exposed to antibiotic treatment may lack important intestinal bacteria. Supplementing with pro-/pre- or synbiotics can help establish a healthy microbial community in your gut. In general, providing microbial supplements, regardless of diet or birth method, can support babies' gut health and promote their lifelong health and well-being.


  1. Thompson, AL, et al., Milk- and solid-feeding practices and daycare attendance are associated with differences in bacterial diversity, predominant communities, and metabolic and immune function of the infant gut microbiome. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 2015.
  2. Penders, J., et al., Factors Influencing the Composition of the Intestinal Microbiota in Early Infancy. Pediatrics, 2006.
  3. Francavilla, R., et al., Intervention for Dysbiosis in Children Born by C-Section. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2018.
  4. Bode, L., Human milk oligosaccharides: prebiotics and beyond. Nutrition Reviews, 2009.
  5. Mueller, NT, et al., The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends Mol Med, 2015.
  6. Agostoni, C., et al., Prebiotic Oligosaccharides in Dietetic Products for Infants: A Commentary by the ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 2004.
  7. Rad, AH, S. Hosseini, and H. Pourjafar, Postbiotics as dynamic biological molecules for antimicrobial activity: A mini-review. Biointerface Res. Appl. Chem, 2022.

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