Prebiotics vs Probiotics: The 101 Guide To Transform Your Digestive Health


Do you know that your gut is an entire ecosystem that thrives on its own? Researchers have aptly named it your “gut microbiome” because it is a mix of different kinds of microbes, neurons and hormones that all interact with your organs and food through which it passes. The health of your gut is highly dependent on the nature of the food that you consume. Therefore, it follows that there are foods that are far more beneficial to you than others. For the gut, there is no doubt that prebiotics and probiotics are great for your health. However, many people have trouble telling them apart, let alone understanding how to include them in their diet. This article introduces you to prebiotics and probiotics and also helps you take control of your gut health!

Understanding the Difference

Probiotics

These are a type of live bacteria that are good for your digestive system. They are usually the same or very similar to the bacteria that already naturally exist inside your gut. Together, they maintain your gut health by assisting in the digestion of food and its absorption; preventing the growth of excessive harmful bacteria and helping to improve your immune system. You can get probiotics naturally in fermented foods like Kimchi, Tempeh, Miso and some dairy products like yoghurts and cheeses.

Prebiotics

While their names may sound slightly similar, the role that prebiotics play in your gut is different from that of probiotics. First off, prebiotics are food items that are non- digestible. This means that your digestive system cannot break down these types of foods like they do with other food types. While this sounds like a redundant ability, the reality is that prebiotics create the perfect environment for beneficial bacteria to grow. This is because probiotics sustain themselves by consuming prebiotics!

Examples of great prebiotics include bananas, asparagus, chicory root, leeks and many more.

So it is clear at this point that both probiotics and prebiotics are essential to the health of your gut. Each plays an important role in maintaining the steady microbial balance that keeps your gut and you healthy overall.

So How And When Do You Make Them A Part Of Your Diet?

  • Incorporate them through different exciting recipes

While you can simply eat them as they are, it is even more invigorating to incorporate them in a brilliant recipe every so often. This helps to prevent the monotony that makes it so difficult to stick to a healthy eating regimen. If you’re unsure where to start, don’t worry. Just browse through our Fermenting Zone to find all sorts of recipes that you could try. From full meal sections to simple condiments, there is something for you to try here at Nourished Essentials! Preparing your own fermented foods can be an exciting journey for you to take!

  • If possible, eat both together in a meal

Now that you understand the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, consuming them at the same time makes a lot more sense. Remember that probiotics are living microorganisms and like any other living thing, they need sustenance. Prebiotics provide that readily, if they are eaten at the same time. Plan your recipes around eating these two together, or within close eating windows of each other for the best possible results.

  • Ease your way into them

If you are new to consumption of probiotics and prebiotics, then the best strategy is to start small. This is because your body needs time to get used to the new gut microbiome that you are creating. Start off with a few table spoons and graduate to cups over time as you get used to it.

  • Consult with a doctor first if you have immune system issues

Make sure you get your doctor’s advice before starting if you have immune system problems or diseases that have weakened your immunity. It may also be that you’re post-surgery or critically ill. A lot of the information on probiotics and prebiotics is still in the research phase, and there is risk of a negative reaction from a body in a compromised state. So for individuals with pre-existing conditions such as these, consultation and caution is highly advised before taking the natural probiotic and prebiotic route.  

Take matters of your gut health into your hands now that you better understand probiotics and prebiotics. Let the natural healing powers of food make you healthy again!


 

REFERENCES

Andrew B. Shreiner, John Y. Kao, Vincent B. Young, (2015): “The gut microbiome in health and in disease”. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290017/

Paulina Markowiak, Katarzyna Śliżewska, (2017): “Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health”. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/9/1021

Justin L Carlson, Jennifer M Erickson, Beate B Lloyd et al., (2018): “Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber”. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/cdn/article/2/3/nzy005/4828321

Oelschlaeger TA, (2010): “Mechanisms of probiotic actions - A review.” Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1438422109000861?via%3Dihub

Grajek W, Olejnik A, Sip A., (2005): “Probiotics, prebiotics and antioxidants as functional foods.” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16086074/