Food Allergy Living Blog Tagged Results


Toddlers & Fiber: Prebiotics 101

Posted 4.13.10 | Mallory West

You may have heard that we recently launched a new product: Neocate Junior with Prebiotics. You may wondering, “what exactly are prebiotics?” so I wanted to take the opportunity to explain in this blog post, which I’ll call “Prebiotics 101”.

Understanding Fiber:

Prebiotics are a special form of fiber but before we get into the details, let’s start with an overview of fiber in general. Dietary fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies can’t digest. It is found in plant foods that we eat each day such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Among its many important functions, fiber adds bulk to the diet, makes us feel full, aids in digestion and prevents constipation.

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is highly fermentable and dissolves in water, forming a gel during digestion. Insoluble fiber is not generally fermentable and does not dissolve in water, traveling through the GI system unchanged.

Soluble Fiber:

Prebiotics are a special kind of soluble fiber that is resistant to digestion and selectively feeds the “friendly bacteria” in our digestive tracts. These bacteria are beneficial to our health. By nourishing the growth of friendly bacteria, prebiotics inhibit the growth of the “bad bacteria”. Studies show that prebiotics can help:

  • Promote normal bowel function
  • Strengthen the protective layer of the GI tract and help restore a healthy gut
  • Decrease the incidence of diarrhea, constipation, vomiting and gas

The Difference Between Prebiotics & Probiotics:

Many people are confused about the difference between prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are live strains of beneficial bacteria that increase the number of beneficial bacteria in our guts when we consume them. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a special type of fiber that support the growth of the beneficial bacteria already present in our guts.

It helps me to think about it with this analogy: You can increase the growth of your lawn in two ways:

1) you can plant grass seedlings, or
2) you can add fertilizer to stimulate the growth of the present grass.

If we think of the beneficial bacteria as grass, probiotics would act like seedlings and prebiotics act like the fertilizer.

Still confused about prebiotics? Ask away! That’s what we’re here for.

- Mallory

Probiotics and Food Allergies

Posted 5.26.11 | Mallory West

In recent years, there has been a lot of attention on gut flora, the good bacteria that live in your digestive system and play a role in proper digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and bowel health. Research has shown that infancy and childhood are critical periods in the development of a healthy gut environment that includes this good bacteria.

Health Benefits of Probiotics:
One way to alter the gut flora is with probiotics. Remember that probiotics are live “friendly” bacteria that naturally live within the human GI tract and provide health benefits to the host. Certain foods, such as yogurt, contain probiotics and when you eat these foods, you can add more friendly bacteria to your system. Note that PRObiotics are different than PREbiotics, which are a type of fiber that feeds the friendly bacteria already living in your GI tract. Probiotics and prebiotics are sometimes used together, a mixture known as “synbiotics”.

Scientific research shows that probiotics may help reduce certain diarrheal diseases such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea and acute gastroenteritis (stomach viruses). In addition, probiotics have been found to lower the risk of food allergy and improve colic in infants. Many parents choose to add probiotics to their child’s diet, either with natural sources like yogurt or with supplemental probiotics.

Probiotics and Food Allergies:
Because of the role probiotics plays with allergies and digestive health, a lot of Neocate mom and dads have questions about whether probiotics might be helpful for their child with food allergies or digestive problems. This is complicated because many probiotic foods are off limits for children with food allergies. Most of the clinical studies on the health benefits of probiotics were done with the strains Lactobacillus GG, L. casei, B. bifidum and S. thermophilus, all of which are traditionally used in dairy foods.

The good news is that it is possible to find allergy-friendly sources of probiotics, such as pickles, sauerkraut and kombucha tea. Probiotic supplements may also be a good option, but use caution when choosing one to be sure it is safe for your child’s food allergies.  Ask your child’s doctor or nutritionist about whether a probiotic supplement is appropriate and see if they can recommend an allergy-friendly brand.  If they don’t know of a particular brand, do your research, check labels, call the manufacturers and then discuss what you find with the doctor to decide upon the most appropriate one.


Readers, do your children with food allergies take a probiotic supplement? Have you found an allergy-friendly kind? Has it been helpful for your child?


- Mallory


Photo source: Flickr User

Neocate Syneo Infant – NEW Hypoallergenic Formula for Food-Allergic Infants

Posted 11.1.16 | Neocate Admin

We are excited to announce the launch of the latest addition to the Neocate line of products: Neocate® Syneo™ Infant. This is the first and only hypoallergenic formula with prebiotics and probiotics, specifically designed for food-allergic infants.

Who Is This Formula For?

Neocate Syneo Infant is specially formulated for the dietary management of infants with cow milk allergy (CMA), multiple food allergies (MFA) and related GI and allergic conditions, including food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) and gastroesophageal reflux. Neocate Syneo Infant is specially formula - a medical food, to be exact - and should only be used under medical supervision. It's important to always contact a healthcare professional before making any changes to your baby's diet.

To learn more about the product, please go to

Prebiotics vs Probiotics – Part 2

Posted 12.29.16 | Nutrition Specialist

As we shared in the first post in this two-part series, many people are confused about the differences between prebiotics and probiotics. A lot of us think they mean the same thing. That can make it hard to know what benefits they offer, which one is in the foods or supplements you're taking, or what questions to ask your healthcare team! The first post in this series reviewed prebiotics - with an "E" - what they are, when they may be beneficial, and why they're included in some nutritional products. Today - you guessed it - we'll review the same information for probiotics - with an "O"!

So, what are probiotics?

Probiotics, sometimes referred to informally as “good bugs,” are living microbes that are in some way good for us, or good for a specific condition. We naturally have lots and lots of microbes living in and on our bodies. In fact, if you count all of them, the number of human cells in our body is far outnumbered by the number of microbes! 

When you look at the microbes in our guts, you can classify them as ones that are neutral, ones that are beneficial, or ones that may be harmful. Probiotics are ones that are beneficial in some way. 

Consuming a probiotic puts some of a good microbe directly into your digestive tract. This can have general benefits, like crowding out potentially harmful microbes. Or it can have specific benefits. For example, some probiotics may be helpful for people with diarrhea related to antibiotics, and others can help people with specific digestive disorders.

Probiotics are available as supplements, such as in sachets, tablets or capsule form. Probiotics can also be present in certain foods, such as yogurts or other beverages. Probiotics are also added to some nutritional formulas. Of note, probiotics can be sensitive to heat, so don't cook foods that contain probiotics or add them to anything warmer than body temperature.

While everyday foods – in particular yogurt and fermented foods  – contain microbes, probiotics are specific microbes that are added to foods or formula. More on that below!

How do you define probiotics?

Here is a list of characteristics that have been used to define what makes a microbe a probiotic:

  1. a live microorganism (meaning that it's a bacteria, yeast, fungus, or alga that is still alive or dormant)
  2. that, when administered in adequate amounts (meaning you have to take enough of it)
  3. confers a health benefit on the host (that's us!)

So, in essence a probiotic is a living microbe that we take as a supplement or add to food or nutritional formula for the benefits it offers. The benefits come from the fact that every microbe is unique. I like to compare them to plants and animals: some live on land, in the air, or in water; some plants make energy from the sun, some animals eat plants, and some animals eat animals. Taken together, plants and animals form a giant community with lots of different roles. The microbes in our gut have a similar community with different roles.

That introduces another concept that's crucial to probiotics. First, it's important to know that most probiotics are bacteria, though probiotic yeasts are also common. But bacteria come in a HUGE variety of shapes, sizes, and they're able to do many different things. Because of that, a probiotic is a specific strain of a bacterium. 

So what are some examples, and how do you know what strain you have? Well all strains start with a genus name, which is broad. Examples include Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium. Next is the species name which comes after the genus name. Examples are L. rhamnosusL. reuteriB. breve, and B. lactis. (Since we already named the genus, we can abbreviate it to the capital letter!)

But those names only tell you the species. With bacteria, the strain is even more specific than the species, and different strains within the same species can be very different. Unless you know the strain, you don't really know what probiotic you're taking. Names that include strains are L. rhamnosus GG, L. reuteri DSM 17938, B. breve M-16V, and B. lactis Bb-12. (Notice how the genus and species are in italics, but the strain is not. Funny science!) These are just a handful of examples.

Of note, while all yogurt is made using bacteria, not all yogurt contains probiotics. Even buying yogurt that says "live active cultures" doesn't necessarily mean it contains probiotics. The bacteria used to make yogurt can be considered "beneficial bacteria," but they haven't been shown to have any specific benefits, so are not probiotics. Some yogurts, though, do have an added probiotic strain that has demonstrated benefits.

Why should I consider taking probiotics? How will it benefit me?

While all probiotics have some benefit, they are not all the same. Various probiotics have been shown to have a variety of health benefits. Probiotics may help to bring the community of microbes in the gut back into balance. They can also influence digestion or other aspects of health. Here are some conditions in which research has found strong or moderate evidence that specific probiotics may be helpful:

  • Managing infectious diarrhea
  • Lessening risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • Lessening risk of daycare-associated diarrhea
  • Lessening risk of nosocomial diarrhea (related to infections picked up in a hospital)
  • Managing Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, Ulcerative colitis)
  • Managing atopic dermatitis associated with food allergy
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Again, there are specific strains that have been studied for these conditions, and a healthcare provider can provide more information about which specific strains and how strong the evidence is.

People who take probiotics might have been prescribed them by a physician, or might be looking for specific benefits. The best thing to do if you have questions about the possible benefits of probiotics is to talk to your healthcare team. They can help you to understand the possible benefits of adding probiotics to your diet, and may be able to help you choose the best source or type.

Why are probiotics in some nutritional formulas?

For breast-fed infants, breast milk naturally contains beneficial bacteria. These bacteria come from the mom and can help to provide a community of microbes for the infant. Sometimes this community can get out of balance - more of some and less of others than is typical - and the addition of probiotics to an infant formula can help to correct that imbalance. The probiotics added to various infant formulas include:

  • B. breve M-16V
  • B. lactis Bb-12
  • B. longum BB536
  • L. reuteri DSM 17938
  • L. rhamnosus GG
  • L. rhamnosus HN0001

In the Neocate family of products, Neocate Syneo Infant (for infants) is supplemented with the probiotic B. breve M-16V. It also contains the prebiotics scFOS and lcFOS. The combination of probiotics and prebiotics is known as a synbiotic.

We hope that these two posts helped clear up any confusion! What questions do you have about probiotics?


Rob McCandlish is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who joined the Nutricia team in 2010. Rob has years of experience at Nutricia following food allergy research, working with Neocate products, talking with Neocate families and learning about the science behind Neocate and food allergies. Rob has two nephews who both used Neocate for their cow milk allergies!

The gut microbiota and its link with food allergies

Posted 1.18.18 | Nutrition Specialist

Lately, we can’t seem to get away from talk about microbes. With terms like good bugs, bad bugs, fermented foods, probiotics, antibiotic resistance being used often – it’s enough to make your head spin! The good news is, we’re learning more and more on these topics and our knowledge is growing. With so much information available around you, where do you start? Let us help you out with some basics on these topics.

What is the gut microbiota?

The best place to start in answering this question is to define the word “microbiota.” Simply put, a microbiota is the community of microbes in a given area. Microbes include bacteria, viruses, and other very small (‘micro’) organisms. When it comes to humans, bacteria usually come to mind when we think about microbes. Bacteria are incredibly diverse, and almost every type of environment on earth can support certain bacteria. Bacteria are basically everywhere!

In fact, trillions of bacteria live with humans. The number of bacteria in and on a human body can outnumber human cells by up to 10 times, because they’re so small and numerous.

By far, most of the bacteria that live with humans are in the digestive tract. These bacteria are part of the gut microbiota. Types and amounts of bacteria change as you go through the digestive tract. The large intestine, or colon, has the most density and diversity of bacteria in the entire human gut.

The bacteria in our guts are extremely diverse. Just like fingerprints, the composition of your gut microbiota is unique to you (although we share some similar features). You have unique amounts and types of bacteria in your gut and, unlike fingerprints, the gut microbiota can change because the types and amounts bacteria shift over time.

Gut bacteria are very complex, but most are harmless. We sometimes think of certain ones as “good” (beneficial bacteria) and others that can be potential pathogens if the circumstances are right as “bad.” Some factors that impact the bacteria in our gut include genes, age, environment, health, antibiotics, and diet. This is why your gut microbiota can and do shift over time.

How is the gut microbiota important?

A long time ago, medicine didn’t think much of bacteria. In fact, there was a time when it was believed they were mostly harmful, or at least not helpful. Times sure have changed! We’ve learned a lot about the importance of gut microbes in both gut and immune health. The gut microbiota plays an important role in the normal function of the body, including:

  • Helping the body digest certain foods
  • Producing some vitamins
  • Defending against harmful pathogens
  • Playing a role in metabolism
  • Sending signals to the immune system

Since the gut microbiota can shift, and it’s composed of a range of “good” and “bad” bacteria, the more balanced the gut microbiota is - with more “good” microbes - the better it can perform the above roles in the body.

The gut microbiota is important in early life. In fact, the gut microbiota is more flexible in the first few years: It isn’t until about three years of age that the gut microbiota becomes relatively stable. The types and amounts of microbes in the gut in those first few months and years are influential, and have been linked to later health.

The development of a “healthy” and balanced gut microbiota in infancy is a key episode in early life. It’s hard to define what a “healthy” gut microbiota is, but the goal for infants is what the gut microbiota typically looks like for healthy, breastfed infants. For those infants, a balanced gut microbiota is typically dominated by bifidobacteria. Breast milk can be a source of bifidobacteria for breastfed infants, and provides nutrition that supports the growth of bifidobacteria.

What can happen if the gut microbiota isn’t in balance?

This has been tough to answer because gut microbes are so diverse, unique, and can shift. However, a growing body of research highlights the link between health and the gut microbiota. Scientists came up with a clever way to explore this. They’ve looked at the gut microbiota of infants and watched the health of the infants as they grew up. This let them look for clues that could link gut microbes with various health conditions.

Scientists have looked at lots of different health conditions, but we’re going to focus on the link between the gut microbiota and allergies. Here is a summary of some of what the research has found:

  • A link between the gut microbiota in infancy and later food allergies
  • A link between the gut microbiota in infancy and some later food allergic conditions
  • A link between the gut microbiota in infancy and atopic dermatitis later in childhood

This body of research suggests that imbalances in the gut microbiota - a.k.a. “gut dysbiosis” - in early infancy may come before immune conditions, including food allergy and atopic dermatitis. It’s important to note that we don’t yet know the full extent of the link between the gut microbiota and these allergies. For example, we don’t know if one can cause the other, or if they just tend to occur together.

How does nutrition influence the gut microbiota?

You might be interested to know that what we eat and drink has a huge effect on the types and amounts of microbes in our gut. The reason is that every microbe has to “eat” – or consume – something. Let’s call this their “food.” Most of the food available to our gut microbes is the leftovers of the foods that we eat. In other words: after our gut digests and absorbs what it can from our snacks and meals, most of the rest is eaten by our gut microbes.

But every microbe prefers specific foods. When the food that a given microbe likes is available, that microbe grows and thrives and is present in high numbers. When that microbe’s preferred food isn’t around, the microbe may be in our gut, but in very low numbers. Many good microbes grow best on various fibers, whereas other microbes might grow well on fat or protein compounds.

For adults, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains – all sources of fiber – can support a diverse gut microbiota. For infants, research has shown that human breast milk contains fiber-like compounds – human milk oligosaccharides – that support bifidobacteria. Bifidobacteria are the most common gut microbes in healthy, breastfed infants, but are much less common in older children and adults.

The gut microbiota in infants with food allergies

Research has found that infants with cow milk allergy and multiple food allergies can have an imbalanced gut microbiota. That means that there are differences when compared to infants without food allergies. Specifically, infants with cow milk allergy and multiple food allergies have been found to have fewer bifidobacteria in their gut compared with healthy, breastfed infants.

Infants with milk allergy and multiple food allergies who need formula to supplement or replace breast milk must use a hypoallergenic formula. Research with older hypoallergenic formulas found that they helped resolve food allergy symptoms, but didn’t shift the imbalance in gut microbiota.

Neocate® Syneo® Infant is the first and only hypoallergenic formula that is shown to help balance the gut microbiota of food-allergic infants to be closer to that of healthy, breastfed infants. That’s because Neocate Syneo Infant contains both prebiotics and probiotics, specifically designed for allergic infants.

A diagram explaining the difference between prebiotics and probiotics:

Who Is This Formula For?

Neocate Syneo Infant is specially formulated for the dietary management of infants with cow milk allergy (CMA), multiple food allergies (MFA) and related GI and allergic conditions, including food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) and gastroesophageal reflux (GER). It's important to always contact a healthcare professional before making any changes to your baby's diet. Neocate Syneo Infant should be used under medical supervision.

Read more about Neocate Syneo Infant.


Rob McCandlish is a member of the Medical team at Nutricia North AmericaRob McCandlish is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who joined the Nutricia team in 2010. Rob has years of experience at Nutricia following food allergy research, working with Neocate products, talking with Neocate families and learning about the science behind Neocate and food allergies. Rob has two nephews who both used Neocate for their cow milk allergies!

Nutricia North America supports the use of breast milk wherever possible.

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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.