By now a lot of us have heard about the benefits related to consuming probiotics – whether in foods or supplement form. From improved digestive health to a clearer mind and better moods, people have shouted their health improvements after including probiotics in their diet.
So if you’ve already been doing that, you’re doing everything you can for your digestive health maintenance, right?
Nope. Let me introduce you to my little friend – prebiotics. Let’s get to it, shall we?
What are prebiotics?
In their true essence, prebiotics are a considered a kind of fiber. But with one difference – they’re not necessarily digestible.
Let’s say you just ate some onions (one way to ingest prebiotics) as a part of your meal. Well, because they don’t breakdown early in the digestion process, they’ll pass through your stomach and small intestine. But once they reach your large intestine, well, this is where the magic happens.
And because they’re essentially a type of fiber, your digestive system as a whole functions better – improving digestion while minimizing the risk of colon cancer and allows your body to fully absorb minerals.
What happens once prebiotic-rich foods reach my large intestine?
They start to ferment. And our little prebiotic friends? Well, they serve as fuel for the beneficial bacteria already in your gut.
Ok, cool. I think I got it. But what are the differences between prebiotics and probiotics?
If you want to think about it in a, hopefully, easier way, the old idiom applies beautifully here,
“Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
In this scenario, probiotics are the fish given to the man, while prebiotics are the act of teaching the man. How?
Well, probiotics fuel or feed the beneficial bacteria already in your gut – literally changing your gut microbiome all on its own.
While “giving the fish” or consuming probiotics is important if that’s all you’re doing for your gut, it’s also providing your gut with only a select set of bacteria found in the supplement you’re taking.
Once you eliminate the probiotics from your body, they’re gone, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t serve their purpose.
How do probiotics and prebiotics work together?
In a beautiful and cohesive way, prebiotics help probiotics flourish in your digestive tract. It’s almost as if prebiotics serve as the food or nutrients for probiotics, creating a
How do I know I need probiotics and/or prebiotics?
Everyone is so different. I can’t say for sure what definitive symptoms you need to feel in order to take probiotics, but many people seem to find digestive relief after making them a part of their daily routine.
If you suffer from constant bloating or have difficulties digesting foods, you might want to consider taking a probiotic. Also, if you’re ever in a position that you know you have to take antibiotics, it’s advisable to take a probiotic in conjunction, but at a different time of day so that the antibiotics do not kill off the probiotics.
The same goes for prebiotics. Oftentimes, after taking probiotics, you may find that you’re not getting the relief you expected. This is the perfect time to start including prebiotic-rich foods (more on that later).
What brands of probiotics do you recommend?
Not every brand is created equal, so it’s important to do some of your own research. Let me help you get started.
This is a great go to probiotic. They offer various lines that work for different digestive issues. If you have (ahem) female issues, they have a line for that. If you’re looking to boost your digestive tract with hundreds of billions of probiotics, they have a line for that as well.
One of the annoying things about taking probiotics on a consistent basis is if you have to travel somewhere, you run the risk of having the bacteria in the capsules die off due to the fact that you commonly have to keep them refrigerated. Well, that all changes with this brand. It’s in liquid form and keeps well on your shelf. This brand even has a topical probiotic line – which I plan on trying next!
Do you have any other brands you’re loyal to? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Should I stay loyal to the same brand?
To keep it short, no. You see, if you’re always taking the same brand and line, all you’re doing is introducing the same beneficial bacteria day in and day out. You’ll have the same strains of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system and although it might seem like a good idea, your body will get use to them. Our natural digestive ecosystem needs to be diverse, so sometimes too many of the same probiotics can actually create a problem.
It’s always a good idea to take a break from them or switch to another trusted brand with different strains of bacteria. Especially if you notice changes in the way your digestive system functions. Different probiotic strains help your body in different ways.
What about prebiotics? How can I consume them?
It’s all about the foods you eat. Here’s a list of foods that are perfect for introducing that beneficial prebiotic fiber in your body:
- acacia gum (or gum arabic)
- raw chicory root
- raw Jerusalem artichoke
- raw dandelion greens
- raw garlic
- raw leeks
- raw or cooked onions
- raw jicama
- raw asparagus
- under-ripe bananas
- yacon syrup
Aside from consuming actual foods, there’s a supplement that I found to be very beneficial. Made up of organic Jerusalem artichoke flour and organic green banana flour, Hyperbiotics Organic Prebiotic Powder makes it a lot easier to consume prebiotics. It’s flavorless and the perfect addition to your smoothie.
If you plan on going the supplement route, it’s a great idea to mix it up a bit and eat prebiotic rich foods.
It’s so empowering and exciting when you’re able to take actions to help your health and wellness. I hope that’s exactly how you feel right now.
Let me know what your experience has been with either probiotics or prebiotics in the comments below.