Prebiotics & Probiotics – What Are They & How They Help

I’m sure that you’ve all heard about pre and probiotics at some point in your life. And I’m also sure that you’re all wondering “what does this all mean for my gut?” and, “What is the difference between the two?” Well, in this month’s post I’ll be telling you all about them. Then I’ll follow it up in next month’s article by looking at why they are necessary, where to find them and lastly, how to incorporate them in your diet, or not, for improved health and wellbeing.

What are they?

Let’s start with good old PROBIOTICS, which have been in the spotlight for many years. They are the naturally occurring bacteria living in your intestinal system, or ‘microbiome’.

YES! Your intestines have their own delicate ecosystem, which can easily become unbalanced. Making it important to keep it healthy and, balanced.

Over the past few years, we have started to become more aware of PREBIOTICS. But many of you are still unsure as to what they are and why you need them. Prebiotics were introduced to the world around 1995 by Prof Glenn. R. Gibson and Marcel. B. Roberfroid. They discovered that there are certain undigestible foods (insoluble fibre) and importantly, that they support the growth and function of the natural bacteria in your intestinal system. Since then, they have also found that fermented foods have a similar action.

Why are they important?

Probiotics are very important for maintaining your intestinal system to keep it healthy and working properly.

  • They help you to digest food and promote good bowel function. This helps to prevent constipation.
  • They are the guardians against bad bacteria disrupting your bowel function. This helps to prevent diarrhoea, bloating, flatulence and/or abdominal pain/discomfort.
  • They support many biochemical actions that are part of your digestive function. This allows you to produce other components necessary for your body to function; such as Vitamin K and serotonin.
  • Support your immune system.

Prebiotics help you to maintain the balance of ‘good and bad’ bacteria. Particularly, stimulating the growth of certain strains, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

  • They help to promote good bowel function, allowing you to be regular. This adds bulk to feaces and stimulates contraction of the intestines.
  • Support your immune function – reducing autoimmune, allergy and intestinal disorders.
  • Help produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), which are another source of energy for you and intestinal cells.

How are they similar?

As you can see, Pre and Probiotics have very similar functions within your intestinal system. They are similar by:

  • Helping you to maintain good digestion and bowel function.
  • Support your immune system, by maintaining the balance of ‘good and bad’ bacteria in your intestines. They also assist in preventing inflammation from occurring.
  • They support the absorption of nutrients during digestion, as well as the production of certain other nutrients.
  • You can source both from fermented foods.

How are they different?

Furthermore, the differences are that, prebiotics support your probiotics, keeping them healthy, active and alive.

  • You find them in fruits and vegetables.
  • Prebiotics are harder for enzymes to break down.
  • They are fermented by the probiotics in your intestines.
  • Prebiotics produce SCFA’s, (a major player in maintenance of gut and immune homeostasis.).

Probiotics are the live bacteria, which are found in your intestinal system.

  • You can get them from fermented foods (yoghurt, cheese, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi etc).
  • You need to support their growth with prebiotics, to maintain a healthy microbiome (brightly coloured, high fibre foods).

So now you know what pre and probiotics are, their similarities and how they differ. Make sure you keep an eye out for next month's article when we'll discuss why they are so necessary for our health and wellbeing.

The importance of prebiotics and probiotics and when to use them in your individual situation is something we go over in the Gut Fix Program.

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