Probiotics have been a buzz word in the wellness world for some time now, since the moment gut health hit the mainstream. You may also have heard of prebiotics, and no, this is not a typo, this is a whole other thing of its own!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are basically friendly or ‘good’ live bacteria and yeasts which work to balance the levels of the bacteria within our digestive tract and keep our body working in the correct way. Our intestines are home to trillions of bacterial microbes which are responsible for our wellbeing in a big way. A wide range of good bacteria will promote a healthy digestive system whereas an overpopulation of ‘bad’ bacteria can cause major intestinal problems and discomfort.
As well as a healthy gut being beneficial to the smooth running of our system, studies are also showing that it could even reduce risks of serious health conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and depression.
How to take probiotics…
There are two main groups of probiotics – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium both of which help to relieve digestive issues.
You can take them in supplement form but there are plenty of natural resources out there that contain good levels of the friendly bacteria we are looking for. Probiotics are naturally found in the following foods:
- Kimchi – a spicy Korean fermented cabbage
- Kefir – a fermented cow, goat or sheep milk drink
- Sauerkraut – German fermented cabbage
- Tempeh – Indonesian fermented soybeans.
There have been studies which point towards the taking of probiotic supplements being less effective than they claim and many researchers promote the consumption of foods rather than pills. One study actually showed that supplements proved counterproductive when taken after a course of antibiotics – the results showed that the gut flora took longer than usual to return to its balanced, normal state. However, other studies showed that the supplements can benefit specific conditions such as antibiotic-related diarrhoea, C. difficile infection and necrotising enterocolitis in infants. It seems the option to find your probiotics in foods is rather more effective and also provides us with added vitamins and minerals that a pill wouldn’t deliver.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics take gut health to another level, scientists have gone deeper into the bacteria in our system and observed that if we keep the bacteria to work effectively then we need to basically feed it. So, to put it simply, prebiotics are food for probiotics! The good bacteria use the prebiotic fibre to ensure that probiotics function effectively in our systems. For this fibre to make it all the way from our mouths to the colon where the probiotics inhabit, it needs to be of the non-digestible variety. They are used in the gut to increase populations of healthy bacteria, aid digestion and enhance the production of valuable vitamins. These are scientifically known as inulin, fructooligosaccharides and galactooligosaccharides.
How to take Prebiotics…
Rather than searching for the mouthful of terms listed above we can tell you that prebiotics can be found in plant-based, high-fibre foods such as vegetables, grains, fruits and roots. Opt for a wide range of these and you should be able to ensure a good intake. Studies show that the best options are the following:
- whole wheat
They can also be taken in supplement form, one of the main advantages of these is that they are highly stable and unaffected by heat, body enzymes and acids and so reach the colon unaltered and at full capacity to nourish that good bacteria.
The potential negative side effects of taking prebiotics can come in the form of bloating due to an excess of gas in the intestine which can cause discomfort. Should this occur one just needs to reduce the amounts consumed and stick to the recommended dosage if taking supplements. Always consult your doctor or nutritionist before taking new supplements.
To promote ultimate gut health and assist our digestive system in functioning at its best we need probiotics which are best absorbed via foods, and to keep the probiotics healthy and functioning effectively we need prebiotics as well!
Online diploma courses in nutrition
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences, Nutrition is our most popular course. We offer 8 different courses in this subject, as follows:
- Child & Adolescent Nutrition
- Ethical & Sustainable Eating
- Clinical Nutrition
- Advanced Nutrition
- Nutrition for Age 50 Plus
- Plant-Based Nutrition
- Sport & Exercise Nutrition
- Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition
For those not interested in nutrition we have over 60 Holistic Therapy Courses to choose from – visit our A-Z course listing page.