Prebiotics and probiotics. Terms that get thrown around quite a bit with today’s burgeoning health trends.
Unlike many of the overused and oversaturated buzzwords associated with health and wellness, prebiotics and probiotics label actually carry some relevant weight.
That’s because these are two essential components of normal health.
So what are they? And what’s the difference?.
Prebiotics are nutritional substances that contribute to the nourishment and growth of your gut flora.
The gut flora makes up the mini-ecosystem in your GI tract. Many of them just live there, not harming or providing any benefit to you, while others are actually rather useful.
These useful ones do things rely on the fermentation of dietary fiber, the prebiotic itself, and in turn, help synthesize it into fatty acids.
Gut bacteria are also useful in the limited production of some B vitamins and vitamin K.
Prebiotics are different types of fermentable fiber that are not digestible by your digestive system, providing a complete food source for your gut microbiome.
Probiotics are living organisms that colonize your gut and actually become part of the mini biomes of your colon.
Probiotics are initially introduced at birth, but more and varied strains are added to the population throughout our lives.
When you use medication such as antibiotics, you can seriously disrupt the probiotic ecosystem in your gut.
Because of this, the use of antibiotics is usually followed up with probiotic therapy in the form of supplements or foods with live cultures.
Healthy Prebiotic Sources
Prebiotics are basically dietary fiber, but specifically types of fiber that can be fermented by gut bacteria.
Such forms of non-digestible carbs include:
All these falls under a class of carbohydrates known as oligosaccharides.
So considering that these substances are basically fiber, you can get them from a variety of plant sources such as:
Apples whole wheat
Aside from these naturally occurring food sources, prebiotics is commonly available in supplement form.
Healthy Probiotic Sources
Probiotics are living organisms. That means the sources you get them from the need to be carefully managed so that you’re only getting the good microbes and not any harmful pathogens.
Many fermented foods such as fermented dairy products contain what are known as live active cultures.
These are the probiotics in question and are found in abundant supply in many of the following foods
The active organism in these is typically lactic acid bacteria.
Live cultures in foods such as the ones listed above are not the only source of probiotics. You can also get them through supplementation or probiotic fortified foods such as dairy-free yogurts
3 Benefits of Prebiotics
Dietary Fiber Benefits
Since prebiotics is mostly different forms of dietary fiber, you get the initial benefits fiber provides, before any interaction with your gut microbes.
Fiber is essential for the healthy movement of solids through the digestive tract. Without adequate amounts of it, movement in the lower regions would grind to a halt, causing conditions such as constipation.
Equally as important, is fiber’s ability to manage blood glucose levels. It does this by mediating the uptake of glucose from the food you eat and into your bloodstream.
This helps chronic excess blood glucose levels, a major risk factor in insulin resistance which leads to type 2 diabetes
Nourish Gut Bacteria
The name prebiotic basically sums up the focus here. The benefit to your gut bacteria is immeasurable.
Prebiotics are the main food substrate for your colon’s mini-ecosystem, which then ferment it and produce many useful chemicals and nutrients which are then absorbed by your body
Converted to Short Chain-Fatty Acids.
As we just mentioned, prebiotics are used up by gut bacteria and fermented to produce short-chain fatty acids, a useful energy source for the healthy function of your lower digestive system
3 benefits of Probiotics
Maintain Healthy Gut Bacteria Population
Since probiotics are essentially cultures of the same helpful bacteria found in your colon, consider probiotic intake as a form of Fastrack immigration for skilled workers.
This is especially beneficial when the gut microbiome has been compromised by illness or antibiotic use
Produce Essential Nutrients
Your gut flora, especially when bolstered by probiotics, produces some really useful nutrients. We mentioned earlier the production of short-chain fatty acids which act as a ready energy source for some of the functions in your digestive tract.
Aside from that, probiotics have been shown to influence the production of vitamin K and some B vitamins.
Prevent and Manage Diarrhea
Probiotics secure a healthy balance of good microbes and bad pathogens in the gut. When the pathogen population dominates the good bacteria population, diarrhea can result.
This is especially common when using antibiotics.
Probiotics also help prevent other gastrointestinal risk factors that may induce diarrhea.
Now you know the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, why you need them both and how they go hand in hand.
While many supplemental forms of both are available, we suggest you go for natural sources in the form of food rich in either.