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Pre and probiotics are referred to as "functional foods"; foods that provide some health benefits beyond traditional nutritional values.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics, sometimes known as fermentable fiber, are non-digestible bits of food that we eat. Why would we even consider eating something that is non-digestible? Simply put, because prebiotics have immense benefits for our digestive system.
Think of the humble flax seed that everyone is consuming these days. In seed form, it comes out the same way it went in, but provides all sorts of benefits on its way through. On top of being a prebiotic, it acts like a little wire brush, scrubbing away all the stuck-on gunk as it makes its way along your intestines.
First identified in 1995 by Marcel Roberfroid, his definition in the 2007 Journal of Nutrition stated:
"A prebiotic is a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host wellbeing and health." 1In order for a food ingredient to be classified as a prebiotic, it has to be demonstrated that it:
It is also believed that consumption of prebiotics may improve calcium absorption by the body.
Where are prebiotics found? Some of the best sources are in wheat and whole grains, artichokes, bananas, barley, berries, chicory, dairy, flax, garlic, greens (dandelion greens, chard and kale), honey, leeks, legumes, onions, oatmeal, and fortified foods and beverages.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are also friendly bacteria that support our intestinal flora, occurring naturally in our stomach and bowels. Increasing the amount of friendly bacteria naturally helps combat harmful bacteria and promotes good digestion, boosts immune function, increases your resistance to infection, helps with stool regularity, and creates a much-needed balance between the good and bad bacteria in your system.
It is important to replenish your healthy bacteria on a daily basis.
“We used to eat a lot more fermented foods that contain beneficial bacteria, but now we are getting hardly any,” says Karen Madsen, an Associate Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Alberta. “Now we are starting to put it back in.” Madsen specializes in researching the causes and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). She has found that some IBD patients respond positively to probiotics. 3
Snacking on items such as yogurt (containing live bacterial cultures) and milk beverages provides significant benefits to the digestive system. If your diet begins to lack in natural or supplemented sources of beneficial bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, they disappear very quickly from your body. At least one serving per day is recommended to maintain the positive effects of probiotics.
What is Synbiotics?
Just to throw you a curve ball, probiotic bacteria taken together with prebiotics that support their growth is called "synbiotics". Both work together in a synergistic way, more efficiently promoting the probiotics' benefits. You may have noticed food products appearing on your store shelves lately which incorporate both pre & probiotic components for this very reason.
Prebiotics feed probiotic bacteria, helping probiotics grow and reproduce. However, prebiotics have little to no benefit unless there are probiotics around to eat them since the human body does not absorb prebiotics as nutrients. The only real benefit of a prebiotic on its own is in its value as fiber.
A Quick Recap of the Differences Between Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics & Probiotics in your Diet
You should try to include whole grains and dairy products which contain live bacteria cultures in your diet every day. It's as simple as choosing whole grain breads & fermented cheese for your sandwich, washing it down with a cup of kefir, and having a container of yogurt for dessert. Just be sure to read the labels of the products you choose to ensure they've had probiotics added or contain live bacterial cultures.
If you're in a hurry, there are many types of probiotic drinks to choose from, or you can make your own smoothie with yogurt containing live bacterial cultures. Sipping one of these drinks will get you back on your way quickly, and give your digestive system something to fight with in the process. Good deal, eh?!
Nutter's Can Suggest…
Nature's Way Primadophilus Fortify helps maintain a healthy balance of "good" bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract in order to 1) promote proper digestion, immune function and colon health, and 2) protect against periodic digestive distress such as gas & bloating, constipation, and irregularity.
Primadophilus Fortify has a guaranteed potency of at least 8 billion active cultures (CFU) per capsule through to the expiration date stamped on this box.
L. rhamnosus is probably the most important probiotic strain for health from the mouth to the small intestine. It protects by coating the mucus, preventing toxins from reaching the blood. It even results in better smelling breath. L. rhamnosus survives temperature extremes and is resistant to bile salts and stomach acid, ferments 23 sugars and inhibits negative bacteria and yeast growth. It is hardier and keeps better without refrigeration.
L. acidophilus produces lactic acid which keeps a proper pH balance in the small intestine, inhibiting yeast growth. Studies have shown that L. acidophilus is effective in reducing lactose intolerance, inhibiting undesirable organisms in the intestine, reducing cholesterol levels and controlling diarrhea. B. bifidus helps maintain health of the large intestine in both children and adults, promoting regular bowel movements, giving protection from yeast and bacterial pathogens such as E. coli, Clostridium and Shigella infections.
2. Gibson GR. “Dietary Modulation of the Human Gut Microflora Using the Prebiotics Oligofructose and Inulin.” Am Socity Nutr Sci. 1999;129:1438S-1441S.
3. Healthy U, Alberta
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.