Friday, May 9, 2014

Pre- and Probiotics: The differences and the benefits

There has been a lot of discussion and research over the past few years in regard to prebiotics and probiotics. Research continues, but findings have shown interesting results. What brought on the discussion of "probiotics" was finding out how much bacteria actually helps our digestion naturally, and the fact that between poor diet and antibiotics, we as a species do not always have adequate bacteria for proper digestion.

Not all bacteria are "bad" or will make people sick. In fact, a lot of our digestion and immunity can be attributed to the good bacteria found in our body. Its a "mutualistic" relationship, where both species benefit, human and bacteria. Antibiotic use has increased, and kills not only the harmful bacterial infection, but good bacteria. Ladies, this is why yeast infections occur occasionally after taking antibiotics. It could also mean why there are increased numbers in malabsorption and intolerances.


Its the "before-life", if you break the word meaning down. The function that prebiotics play is to set the foundation for healthy bacteria to grow. Its like tilling the soil before planting the garden, it takes good preparation to get bacteria to thrive in the gut. Certain foods have components that are not digestible. Heard of insoluble fiber? This is what bacteria love!


This means "for-life". They are the actual foods/supplements that contain the active, live cultures of bacteria. Look for words like "bifidobacteria" and "lactobacilli" on yogurts and supplements, as these are some of the cultures used. Research taking place is more on probiotics, and how they increase digestion, strengthen immunity, and decrease specific allergy symptoms. One area of personal interest is research of lactose sensitivity/intolerance in relation to using probiotics. The decreased production or absence of lactase can cause mild to severe GI problems when ingesting lactose, but some studies have shown that increasing good bacteria helped digest lactose, and even helped absorb calcium! Being lactose sensitive myself, probiotics (both from food and supplements) have really helped my symptoms and improved my ability to digest dairy. While food sources are generally safe, its a good idea to speak with your doctor or an RD before using supplemental probiotics to treat or relieve certain symptoms.

Food Sources

Prebiotics Probiotics
Mushrooms Yogurt 
Leeks Aged Cheeses
Onions Kefir
Garlic Sauerkraut
Bananas Miso
Artichokes Tempeh
Asparagus Soy 
Soybeans Various fermented dairy
Whole Grains

Check out some of the credible resources for additional information! And as always, send questions and comments my way!! 

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