Prebiotics & Probiotics – Is There a Difference?

In our digestive tract, there are billions of bacterial organisms floating around. However, not all of them are harmful. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in your intestines and support your body’s immunity to defend against disease. They function by controlling the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are indigestible carbohydrates, or plant fibers, that act as the energy, or fertilizer, for probiotics. The main role of both probiotics and prebiotics is to maintain a healthy digestive system.  In fact, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of probiotics. If the body fails to digest nutritious foods properly, then there’s may be issues with nutrient absorption which can affect your skin, your metabolism and many other aspects of your health.

Malnutrition, poor eating habits, and unhealthy lifestyles can all negatively impact the health of your gut. Taking antibiotics is also an issue in this regard, but usually it’s completely unavoidable since antibiotics are often necessary to kill harmful bacteria. But in that same process, the antibiotics also wipe out probiotics leading to an imbalance of good vs bad bacteria in the gut flora. Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics. The good bacteria, like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, may help to strengthen your immune system and play a major role in maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Other good food sources include sauerkraut, miso soup, and fermented soft cheeses. It’s the process of fermentation that actually produces these beneficial organisms. Foods that are rich in prebiotics include complex carbohydrates such as asparagus, oatmeal, bananas, and legumes.

If you don’t like or find it difficult to consume fermented food items,  probiotic supplementation may be a convenient alternative. If you are taking antibiotics and planning to supplement with probiotics, make sure to wait at least three hours before taking the probiotics, so there is no interference with the medication.

For overall gut health, complex carbohydrates, fermented foods, yogurt, and supplemental probiotics will help provide your gut with a host of friendly bacteria, which in turn may help your entire body to function at its best.




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