Probiotics and prebiotics are a common topic today when people talk about food, nutrition, and diet. Knowing the difference between the two helps you eat the right foods to keep the gut flora balanced for your body’s health and overall well-being.
When health enthusiasts discuss anything to do with diet, nutrition, wellness, or health, you will often hear them mention two things; probiotics and prebiotics. Although they sound sweet and rhythmical to the eye, they denote two different things. While probiotics refer to the live bacteria, prebiotics refer to the food for these bacteria. Keeping these two in the right proportions ensures a healthy gut condition , which is good for overall health.
The difference between probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics and prebiotics are different things, although the two have a rhythmic effect on the sound. Probiotics refer to the live and beneficial bacteria found in particular foods and food supplements. On the other hand, prebiotics refers to the food on which these useful and live bacteria eat. The primary source of prebiotics is indigestible fibers. As you eat, you consume fibers. However, some may not undergo digestion, and hence from prebiotics. It is on these undigested fibers that the probiotics feed on. The body requires probiotics and prebiotics in sufficient amounts to be in tandem with the cells and the general body requirements.
Besides cell and general body health, ensuring a balance in probiotics and prebiotics keeps the gut flora in the right amount. This eases the action of hormones and enzymes on food. Besides, if you have both available in the needed proportions, the gut microbiota remains in good health, working for the overall body wellness.
Why does the body need the gut microbiota?
The gut flora is an important element of the digestive tract, and without it, the body is at risk. The gut is prone to infection from harmful bacteria and fungi. It is the gut flora that works to clear these and maintain a good environment around the gut. Besides, the gut microbiota boosts the body’s general immunity, helping it keep infectious diseases at bay. In addition, the gut flora is the main component of the short-chain fatty acids and vitamin K, which form the colon’s healthy lining.
Without the colon lining, the body and especially the digestive tract would be prone to harmful infections. However, because of the lining formed by short-chain fatty acids and vitamin K, the stomach is protected from such. Besides, these linings help prevent inflammation which would eventually lead to cancer in the stomach and gut. Therefore, the gut microbiota is essential for the good health of the gut, and the body, by extension.
The effects of food on the gut microbiota
It is good to know that whatever we take into the body affects the gut flora, either negatively, causing an imbalance, or positively, promoting the right bacteria. Taking foods high in sugar levels and fatty components subject the gut flora to negative effects and may promote insulin non-response and resistance. Some studies also have it that taking foods contaminated with pesticides subject the flora in the gut to negative impacts. Another research associate antibiotic, especially during the early days in life, with altered gut flora, and this may be permanent. When the gut is full of harmful bacteria, and its flora is unhealthy, health complications set in, one after the other. Inflammation will occur, resulting in cancer and related conditions. The body’s base mss index (BMI) will increase, leading to unhealthy weight gain. Besides, the harmful bacteria will colonize the stomach and lead to acidity and stomach ulcers. Therefore, we must take caution and ensure that we eat the right food to keep the gut flora healthy.
Butyrate is a type of short-chain fatty aid that binds the colon walls to form a lining. The lining prevents the colon and the stomach from inflammation and cancer. Without prebiotics foods, butyrate may not form. The good news is, you don’t always have to turn to prebiotic supplements. There are many foods that you can include in your diet and provide the stomach with the needed prebiotics.
As already mentioned, prebiotics is foods for the live bacteria in the gut. Essentially, they are the fiber that the stomach cannot digest, but the gut bacteria can. Eating legumes (like beans), garlic, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, asparagus, bananas, and berries provides the body with prebiotics.
Just like the prebiotics, many foods naturally have probiotics. Plain yogurt had a high amount of live bacteria and would be an ideal source of probiotics. Other sources of probiotics included unpasteurized pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha tea, and kimchi. The naturally occurring fiber or sugars in these foods support the thriving of live bacteria in them. Pasteurizing fermented foods kills the live bacteria in them; hence they no longer qualify to be probiotics. Therefore, if you choose to have fermented foods as your main source of probiotics, ensure they are unpasteurized to get the maximum bacteria out of them. When a certain food has live bacteria and food on which they feed, it is described as symbiotic. Examples of such foods include sauerkraut and kefir.
It is clear that you can rely on your foods to get probiotics. Most fermented foods have live bacteria in them, and these will promote the health of your gut flora. Having a healthy gut microbiota ensures the gut is healthy too and keeps most infections at bay.
How about probiotic supplements?
Like prebiotics, you can find probiotic supplements on the market. The big question is, are all probiotics good? The simple answer is a straight no. some companies make probiotic supplements whose efficacy cannot be proved. Some probiotics are also designed to get to the stomach and start being effective from there. This may not always work since the acidity in the stomach may not allow them to thrive. Besides, some probiotics lack the right concentrations of live bacteria and may not be helpful at all. On the other hand, good strains of probiotics are of good quality and have food sources for the bacteria. Such probiotics have synbiotic qualities. If you have to go for the supplements, talk to your medical advisor about the right recommendations.
Probiotics and prebiotics are common health topics today. Although they ring a bell to the ear, the two mean two different things. Probiotics refer to the live bacteria in the gut area, while prebiotics refer to the food for such bacteria. Both are necessary for the good health of the gut and the prevention of gut diseases and cancer. This article has discussed all you need to know about prebiotics, probiotics, and their supplements.