You’ve heard all the information about probiotics and how important they are for your gut health, but what about prebiotics? Even though they sound the same, prebiotics are very different from probiotics, yet they may be just as important to your gut health.
Understanding what prebiotics are can help you take a step in the right direction and can possibly help you improve your health, increase your energy, elevate your mood, sharpen your focus and might even help you lose weight.
So, what is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, and why do you need both of them.
What Are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Probiotics are foods or high-quality supplements that are enriched with live microorganisms that assist the good bacteria in your body, primarily the gut. More and more studies are proving that having a healthy balance of gut bacteria in your body is essential to living a healthy life. If you do not naturally have that healthy balance, it’s believed you can achieve it through ingesting foods with natural probiotics or with a supplement.
Prebiotics are typically found in high-fiber foods and are not easily digestible by the human body, but they do act as food for the microflora that lives in the human body. Basically, prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your body so that it can effectively produce nutrients and support a healthy digestive system.
Why Are Prebiotics Important?
It’s important to understand that all known and suspected prebiotics are carbohydrates, and most of them fall into the oligosaccharides category, making them a fiber. For a very long time, fiber has been known to be extremely beneficial to the human body as it plays a significant role in gut and digestive health. Fiber has also been linked to less cardiovascular disease, can lower body weight, and has a bit of a laxative effect.
These oligosaccharides that are considered prebiotics resist digestion by the human body all the way through the small intestine. The prebiotics land in the large intestine and then are fermented by the microflora in your gut.
It’s important to note that while all prebiotics are fiber, not all fiber is considered a prebiotic. To fall into the category of prebiotic fiber needs to meet the following conditions:
♦ Resists gastric acidity and absorption by the upper gastrointestinal tract
♦ Can be fermented by the intestinal microflora
♦ Stimulates the growth and/or activity of good intestinal bacteria
Health Benefits of Prebiotics
Since all prebiotics are fiber, these benefits roll together when you consume more prebiotics. Some of these benefits are:
♦ Offers protection against cardiovascular disease
♦ Protects against type 2 diabetes and offers glycemic control
♦ Boosts bowel regularity
♦ Helps control appetite by making you feel full, longer
♦ People who eat more fiber weigh less than those who consume smaller quantities
♦ Boosts immune function and decreases inflammation
♦ Supporting the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which are beneficial bacteria
While these are very important reasons to eat more fiber and prebiotic fiber in particular, it’s this last reason that we need to pay specific attention to. With today’s increased focus on probiotics, prebiotics become even more vital.
Why It’s Important to Have Prebiotics with Probiotics
Not only is supporting a good microbiome in your gut important, but feeding it is crucial to its success and your health. If you’re going to take a probiotic for your gut health and reap the many benefits of creating an efficient microbiome, you need to add a prebiotic to fuel it.
Think of it as a little farm of healthy and efficient bacteria. You spent money and worked hard to get that bacteria farm, but if you don’t feed the inhabitants of your farm, then they won’t survive, and soon your farm will be empty and useless.
Of course, it’s not that simple or straightforward, but this is the gist of why it’s important to include prebiotics with your probiotic supplements.
Where Can You Get Prebiotics
There are a wide variety of foods that naturally contain prebiotic fiber, but the following list is a good starting place as these foods contain a lot of natural prebiotics:
The problem is, most people aren’t eating enough fiber, even if they think they are. A startling statistic in the article “Closing America’ Fiber Intake Gap,” states that only about 5% of the population meets the recommendations for adequate fiber intake. That means you’re probably not getting enough fiber, which means you’re also not getting adequate amounts of prebiotics to support a healthy microbiome.
There are basically two ways to boost your prebiotic intake so you can support that probiotic balance you want. You can dramatically increase your fiber intake, or you can take a high-quality prebiotic supplement. If you decide to take a prebiotic supplement, the best way to do that is to find one that’s included with your probiotic.
While probiotics are getting a lot of publicity for the health benefits they provide your body, they wouldn’t be able to do so without the aid of prebiotics. Probiotics are the healthy gut bacteria living in your body, prebiotics are fiber that feeds the bacteria.
In addition to prebiotics being crucial for the success and survival of probiotics, they also perform several important functions as fiber, and that comes with its own health benefits.
While the health benefits of fiber have long been known, most people are still not eating an adequate amount to reap the benefits. In addition to that, their microbiomes are starving without adequate fuel. The best way to increase your prebiotics levels is to eat the daily recommended amounts of fiber, or take a high-quality probiotic supplement with a prebiotic added. This gives you all the health benefits you want from both, while they work together to create gut harmony.
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