Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
Here we have two VERY similar sounding words but they are very different in your gut!!
What is the difference between PREbiotics and PRObiotics:
Prebiotic = non-digestable carbohydrates such as bananas, apple skins, onions, garlic, artichoke, etc.
Basically prebiotics is a classification of fiber. Any foods that are rough-age dense foods are full of oligosaccharides (a fancy word for carbohydrate molecules) needed for gut bacteria (probiotics) to feed off of for maximum digestive gut health.
Probiotic = healthy LIVE bacteria that is naturally created by fermentation such as what happens in yogurt, miso soup, kimchi, etc.
Basically probiotics is healthy, good bacteria. We know bacteria needs to be fed. This live bacteria is created by fermentation either naturally or not. What happens is that you may eat a food such as a banana. It contains fiber that is not broken down and goes through the small intestine. This is GOOD because now it is undigested and is fermented when it reaches the colon. That fermentation is because of the probiotics allowing your body to work effectively and efficiently.
In summary, prebiotics are needed for probiotics to work and probiotics are necessary for the prebiotics to go through fermentation and reach maximum benefit. THEY NEED EACH OTHER!!
So What’s the Big Deal?
Scientist and nutritional experts are becoming more and more interested in gut/digestive health. A common phrase you may hear is:
The Gut is the 2nd Brain
Research is discovering the immense benefits of these various types of bacteria. Some of the latest research suggests that gut health may influence how we age, our emotional behaviors, cognitive function, and weight management.
Think of your gut like a garden. You can’t have a garden unless you plant seeds – probiotics. However, the seeds (aka probiotics) can’t grow and flourish without water and maybe some fertilizer – prebiotics. But with the right amount of both, you have a beautiful, flourishing garden. But, as any gardeners knows, it takes work. So does your gut health!!
Benefits of Prebiotics – It helps increase or improve good bacteria already in the gut. Studies also show it can improve bone density and brain health in addition to the already mentioned immune support and digestive health.
Benefits of Probiotics – Good bacteria is often destroyed when a doctor tells us to take a prescription when we’re sick. The medicine doesn’t know the difference between good and bad bacteria the antibiotic will kill it all – even the good. Probiotics are much more fragile than prebiotics as they can be killed by time, heat, and stomach acid as well. Therefore, adding more probiotics to your diet is important for a flourishing garden!
So What are the Different GOOD Bacteria Strands?
Since prebiotics are the carbohydrate fiber molecules, we are talking about PROBIOTICS when we are discussing bacteria. Please understand, bacteria is NOT all created EQUAL.
There are many types of probitoc bacteria but there are 2 groups that are the most common:
- Lactobacillus – found in fermented foods such as Greek yogurt, cheese, etc. This bacteria can actually help people who have a hard time digesting lactose (the “milk sugar”)
- Bifidobacterium – found in some diary products as well but may help those who suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). This bacteria are in the large intestine. You definitely want these bacteria though in your digestive tract because it fights bad bacteria in the intestines. This fight can help prevent constipation, improve immune system, and reduce certain carcinogenic enzymes.
How do I Get More of Each?
You can get more of both organically following a nutrient rich diet full of variety.
Prebiotics – high fiber foods such as chicory root (source: dietary fiber.org), onions, garlic, oatmeal, bran, asparagus, artichoke, barley, apple skins, bananas, and yes – dandelion greens
Probiotics – yogurt, kefir (a milk drink that has already been fermented using kefir grains. It contains both good bacteria mentioned above in high amounts), and the ever growing Kombucha drink (a fermented carbonated tea).
How Much do I Need?
According to the International Journal of Science, healthy adults should have about 1,000 species of bacteria in their gut. However, genetics plays a role in this too. People typically fall into 1 of 3 enterotypes (digestive bacteria categories) regardless of race, age, gender, BMI (body mass index), nationality, religion, etc.:
- High levels of Bacteroides
- High levels of Prevotella
- High levels of Ruminococcus
What does this mean??? Basically our genetics play a big role but so does our lifestyle. If we know what we have genetically, we can extract this knowledge to give our bodies more or less of what it needs to respond for optimal health.
Can I Take Supplements Instead?
However, eating a variety of organic foods rich in fiber, avoiding processed food, sugar (in food, drinks, and artificial dyes), and drinking plenty of water each day is recommended each day, it is VERY difficult in our modern, fast-paced world.
- Kefir (probiotic)
- Juice Plus products (fiber rich, plant based capsules, gummies, and protein mixes)
- Growing your own garden (I recommend a vertical Tower Garden – uses less water and less space)
- PB Assist + Probiotic Dense Formula
- PB Assist Jr. (contains 5 billion live cells of six different probiotic strands and prebiotics)
There are so many more as well. Just remember – a prebiotic needs to be HIGH IN FIBER and a probiotic needs to have LIVE BACTERIA!
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