Today the words Probiotics and Prebiotics are used extensively, especially in the world of gut health. But what are they, what is the difference between the two, where can you get them and how can they help you?
A probiotic is a bacteria or yeast that is beneficial to your body and health. The “good” bacteria do many things for us. They help us digest our food, they manufacture certain vitamins for us like B12 & they form a large part of our immune system. They compete for space in our gut which can reduce our chance of things like gastro and they produce antimicrobial chemicals to protect us from the “bad” guys. When they are in healthy numbers, they help to keep our whole collection of bacteria in a favourable balance for us.
Prebiotics are a type of fibre or startch found in carbohydrate foods that we can’t digest. Because we can’t break them down and absorb them, they enter the large bowel and become breakfast, lunch and dinner for the probiotics. Once the good bacteria eat the prebiotics, they can produce chemicals called Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA’s). This is another essential role they play for our health, because SCFA’s help to keep our gut lining in tact, preventing leaky gut.
So simply put, prebiotics are food for the probiotics.
Where can we get them from?
Probiotics- we have a commensal colony that start developing in our gut from the moment we are born.
We can also get them from foods like yoghurts with live starins and live saukrauts, kimchi, kefir and kombucha.
You can also buy supplements with probiotics of different stains. And it does really matter how they are produced, stored, the strain you are using and the research behind it. They don’t go into your body and stay there forever, they just move through, help the bacteria that are already there and then leave.
Prebiotics- we can definitely get these from eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. These are the things that contain the fibres and starches. Variety is just as important as the quantity too. As the different veg and fruit have different fibres, that support different strains of bacteria.
Yours for great health,
Some of the richest prebiotic foods are chickpeas, asparagus, green bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, apples, onions, leek, garlic & dandelion greens.
If you have a bacteria imbalance in your gut that favours the “bad” guys, then you may even notice that eating these foods causes bloating, pain, wind and smelly gas. If so, it’s important to see a practitioner who can help you address the overgrowth or imbalance first.
There are also many specific supplements that contain more therapeutic doses of prebiotics that will favour the “good” guys over the bad. But this type of supplement should be chosen by someone who has the knowledge on how to choose the appropriate one and the correct starting dose.
If you would like more information on this topic, or if you are interested in a prescription of either, then you can always book a short consult (15 minutes), to discuss what would suit your situation or condition.
Yours for great health,
Danielle Elliott, Naturopath