The human gastrointestinal tract is colonised by a complex ecosystem of microorganisms. Intestinal bacteria are not only commensal, but they also undergo a synbiotic co-evolution along with their host. Beneficial intestinal bacteria have numerous and important functions, e.g., they produce various nutrients for their host, prevent infections caused by intestinal pathogens, and modulate a normal immunological response. Therefore, modification of the intestinal microbiota in order to achieve, restore, and maintain favourable balance in the ecosystem, and the activity of microorganisms present in the gastrointestinal tract is necessary for the improved health condition of the host. The introduction of probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotics into human diet is favourable for the intestinal microbiota. They may be consumed in the form of raw vegetables and fruit, fermented pickles, or dairy products. Another source may be pharmaceutical formulas and functional food. This paper provides a review of available information and summarises the current knowledge on the effects of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics on human health. The mechanism of beneficial action of those substances is discussed, and verified study results proving their efficacy in human nutrition are presented.
Keywords: gut microbiota; human health; prebiotics; probiotic bacteria; synbiotics.