Prebiotics and probiotics have a synergistic relationship. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help the digestive system and combat “bad” bacteria in the gut. Since the microorganisms in probiotics are living organisms, they require food and are able to reproduce in your gut to create more healthy bacteria. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are carbohydrates that serve as food sources for probiotics, and cannot reproduce due to not being alive.
If you’re a gardener, you know you must prepare the soil with fertilizer before planting your seeds. That’s a good analogy for the differences between prebiotics and probiotics. The prebiotics are like fertilizer and topsoil so that the probiotics, the plants, can grow and flourish. Probiotics keep the “bad” bacteria,” the weeds, from overwhelming the digestive tract, making them a major factor in keeping the body healthy. Probiotics are also necessary for people taking antibiotics, as these medications kill off good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Humans can’t digest prebiotics and that’s a good thing. Prebiotic foods tend to be high in fiber which helps normalize bowel movements and act to cleanse the colon. Because our bodies can’t digest and absorb prebiotics, they end up in the colon and begin breaking down, providing nutrients to gut bacteria. The probiotics flourish and have a number of benefits for the body including reducing inflammation, a primary trigger of many gastrointestinal and other illnesses. They also strengthen the intestines’ mucosal lining, allowing the body to better absorb minerals and metabolize fats.
Foods Containing Probiotics
Most probiotics are in either Lactobacilli or Bifidobacteria families although there are others in the Streptococcus or Bacillus families. Yogurt is probably the best-known food containing Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus probiotics. Other fermented foods also boast plenty of these beneficial organisms. These include:
- Aged cheese
- Miso soup
If you’re looking for fermented foods to maintain probiotic gut health, avoid those that have been pasteurized, as the pasteurization process eliminates the good bacteria.
Foods Containing Prebiotics
It’s likely you’re already consuming prebiotics in your daily diet. Prebiotics are foods tend to be high in fiber and include:
- Whole grains
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Dandelion greens
Foods consumed raw will contain more prebiotics than those requiring cooking. For items like artichokes or dandelion greens, toss them in salads rather than cooking them to retain their full prebiotic strength. For foods that need cooking, light steaming retains more prebiotics than sautéing or boiling.
Keep in mind that while all prebiotics consist of dietary fibers, not all dietary fibers have prebiotic qualities.
Prebiotics and Probiotics Aid Digestion
Working in sync, prebiotics and probiotics may help those suffering from various gastrointestinal conditions. Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and constipation can all benefit from probiotics and prebiotics, in either food or supplement form.
Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplements
Ideally, people should consume 5 grams of prebiotics daily. If you don’t want to bother with discerning just how many grams of prebiotics is in a particular food serving (depending on whether it is raw or cooked) consider taking a daily prebiotic supplement. Keep in mind that some probiotic supplements may contain prebiotics, which helps keep the probiotics alive and healthy.
DrFormulas™ offers Nexabiotic® Advanced Probiotics and Prebiotics for Women & Men with Saccharomyces Boulardii and Lactobacillus Acidophilus. This combination prebiotic/probiotic supplement helps keep the gut healthy, improves the immune system and can aid those trying to lose weight.