Prebiotic vs Probiotic, What’s the Difference?
The prebiotic mystery explained… Most people know what probiotics are now thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis and her Activia commercials. As she so jovially outlines, probiotics are live cultures (bacteria) found in certain foods and supplements that can help balance the good and bad flora in the intestines.
We need plenty of good bacteria in our digestive system to keep the numbers of bad bacteria in check. Otherwise, the bad bacteria can overgrow resulting in the development of a systemic fungal infection called candida. Good bacteria produce enzymes for digestion and help certain nutrients to be used by the body efficiently. In addition, the good bacteria keep out poop schedule in check, prevents yeast growth and strengthens the immune system. There are three main “friendly bacterias”: bifidobacterium bifidum, lactobacillus acidophilus, and lactobacillus bulgaricus and they live in your large intestine and colon.
The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders.
Our bodies end up excreting beneficial bacteria daily because they are not anchored to the intestinal wall. This means that it’s important to regularly supplement your diet with foods or supplements that contain probiotics. Good sources for probiotics are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and special probiotic flora foods and supplements.
There are several ways we deplete or kill off the good bacteria in our gut such as taking antibiotics, as these drugs do not discriminate which bacterias they will kill off. They kill everything! Other ways include taking birth control pills, drinking coffee, and consuming additives, preservatives, pesticides, and herbicides contained in our food. Eat whole food and buy it organically grown. Your quality of life really does depend on it.
So Then What's a Prebiotic?
Jamie never taught us about those! A prebiotic is plant fibers and non-digestible sugars that feed, or fertilize the probiotics already in our system. Prebiotics are non-living, unlike probiotics, and non-digestible by our intestines - but it is digested by the bacteria in our gut including probiotics. It helps the good bacteria flourish.
Best Food Sources of Prebiotic Fiber:
Soluble fiber is found in many fruits and vegetables such as the skin of apples, bananas, onions and garlic, Jerusalem artichoke and whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, barley, oatmeal, flax, and chia.
It is best to get prebiotics in your diet as opposed to a supplement. If you are eating a balanced, healthy diet then probiotic supplements won’t do you much good anyhow.