Probiotics and prebiotics – what you need to know
Although getting the information we need to enrich our knowledge on various fields is easy to access, there still are doubts when it comes to probiotics and prebiotics. Are they the same? Any difference between them? Let’s find out together and draw some clear line between the two.
Probiotics are the live bacteria that populate our body, mainly our gastrointestinal tract. They’re responsible for keeping pathogens at bay. The various health benefits of probiotics are the topic of many research studies and while there’s still more to discover when it comes to their entire range of health advantages, some things are quite clear. Doctors prescribe probiotics to patients taking antibiotic treatments in order to combat the gastrointestinal side effects of the medicines they take. Plus, over the past 15 years, researchers have discovered that the bacteria in one’s colon are very important to one’s wellness. Probiotics play a key role in strengthening the bowel wall, improving mineral absorption and in regulating the hormone production. All this triggers further health benefits.
However, probiotics must go a long journey before reaching our gut and helping us. The stomach acid can kill them since they are delicate microorganisms. Not to mention that we still don’t know what strain of bacteria will help our body since each organism is unique and might react in a different way. Here’s where prebiotics come into sight.
What are prebiotics then? Prebiotics are the nourishment probiotics need in order to flourish. To put it simply, you can’t have without the other. Prebiotics are plant fibers that help the good bacteria in our gut grow and help us keep a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. Several studies have concluded that this ratio is directly linked to our general health and wellbeing. When bad bacteria take over, one’s immune system is affected and, thus, various conditions occur.
Our body itself does not digest prebiotics but the use of these plant fibers helps good bacteria grow and these, in turn, trigger various digestive health benefits and improve one’s general wellbeing. Plus, prebiotics powders are not destroyed by heat, cold, acid or bacteria. They manage to get into our gut quite easily.
Where to get prebiotics from?
If sources of probiotics are to be found in the dairy products we use, yogurt, for instance, prebiotic fibers can be found in fruits and vegetables, such as beans, chicory roots, bananas, garlic, onions, and the skin of apples, just to name a few. It might seem quite easy to get your necessary dose of prebiotics. The sources are indeed accessible but the trick is related to the amount of fruits and vegetables you need in order to provide your body with enough prebiotics. One serving of the fruits and vegetables mentioned above will get you only 1-2 grams of prebiotics, which is insufficient to nourish the good bacteria in your gut. Health experts consider that 25 grams of fiber are the minimum probiotics need to grow.
Since it’s impossible to have the quantities of fruits and vegetables needed to build the 25 grams of fiber on a daily basis, health experts prescribe and recommend prebiotic supplements. Adding them to your diet is easy and simple. They are almost tasteless and mild in texture, so they can be added to cereal, water or other foods.
Can probiotics and prebiotics be taken together?
Health experts and scientists say they can. Since prebiotics are the food probiotics need to grow, it makes senses to take them together. Probiotics will digest prebiotics and then use the molecules as energy. Prebiotics do not interfere with medications and don’t negatively interact with probiotics.
Is there a perfect time to take prebiotics and probiotics?
When it comes to when to take such supplements, your health expert will tell you precisely. Generally, health specialists say the best time to take prebiotics and probiotics is regularly. It is of great importance to take them as recommended, preferably at the same time each day.
Although there are voices saying that prebiotics should be taken before probiotics, it actually doesn’t matter since the body will “process” them at different rates. A great part of the probiotics one ingests might not even get into one’s large intestine since most probiotics die in the stomach acid. There are probiotic supplements that use a special coating so bacteria are not destroyed when reaching the stomach acid.
Some voices say probiotics should be taken with meals. The food will thus act as a protector for probiotics and help them make their way through the stomach and the small intestine. Then, the opposite version saying that taking probiotics while eating would only make the environment more hostile seems plausible, too. And still, aren’t dairy products ingested and digested, too? No wonder there are lots of myths regarding the use of both probiotics and prebiotics.
One good thing is that prebiotics get into one’s large intestine quite easily and if the probiotics taken together don’t make it through the stomach, they will find bacteria in your colon to feed. Prebiotics and probiotics work synergistically to boost and support your health. Prebiotics are breakfast, lunch, and dinner for good bacteria. Both of them are necessary to help your gastrointestinal health. The products that combine probiotics and prebiotics are known as synbiotics. You can create your own synbiotics by adding a banana to your yogurt or stir-fry asparagus with tempeh.
Although prebiotics and probiotics should be taken on a regular basis in order to keep a healthy digestive system, we should remember that our bodies function differently after all. What may work for other people can prove to be less effective in your case. Therefore, whenever you experience health issues, make sure to see your doctor or your dietitian nutritionist. Depending on your health condition and history, your doctor will prescribe you a personalized treatment.