Prebiotics vs Probiotics - Why Both Are Essential For Digestive Health

Learn their differences - why probiotics deliver limited benefits without prebiotics and the foods you need to boost your prebiotic levels for greater health.

The prebiotics vs probiotics debate is starting to hot up and most of it is being fuelled by a lot of misinformation. As they sound and look similar many people mistake them for the same thing. Then there are others, specifically supplement manufacturers who claim that probiotics are better than prebiotics or vice versa and…..so on and so on.

First of all lets dispel two common  myths about these prebiotics and probiotics. First of all prebiotics and probiotics are not the same even though they sound similar. Also, one is not better than the other because they serve different functions when it comes to digestive health. Actually, both have to work closely together in order to support your digestive health.

Prebiotics vs Probiotics – A Definition

In order to clear up any misunderstandings between these two, I have given you a brief definition of what a prebiotic and probiotic is:

Prebiotic

These are soluble fibre compounds and antioxidant rich phenolic compounds found naturally in fruit and vegetables.

Probiotics

These are live microorganisms or fermented yeast, that are often introduced in to food products such as yogurts or oral supplements.

The Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics

Although they may sound the same, probiotics and prebiotics are different in the roles they play in your digestive health. Your digestion system is populated with millions of bacteria. These bacteria or both good and bad - a balanced digestion will have an equal ratio of good and bad bacteria residing in the digestive tract and colon.

These good or friendly bacteria are essential to your health and without them, you would die. They ensure the bad bacteria, such as pathogenic microorganisms, are kept in check and do not overrun your system. These good bacteria help your digestion breakdown the food you eat, so the nutrients can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Probiotics can be introduced into the digestive system to repopulate a lack of microflora in your gut. This can happen, if you are taking a course of antibiotics, as these can kill the good bacteria. Replenishing lost mircroflora can be achieved by taking probiotic rich foods, such as bio live yogurt or taking a probiotic supplement. The most effect probiotics that benefit our digestion system are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

On their own probiotics have a limited effect, because they are easily destroyed. In order to thrive, they need an optimal gut environment to live and food to feed on.  This is where the prebiotics come in. It is important to point out that prebiotics are not living bacteria, but a dietary fibre. They contain the carbohydrate fibres inulin and oligofructose. As these two fiber compounds are indigestible, they ferment in your colon and this fermentation process feeds the good bacteria in your intestinal tract and colon.

Prebiotics also contain phenolic compounds – these are naturally forming bioactive’s found in kiwifruit. They  help support the good bacteria in controlling the growth of the bad bacteria. As you can see, the prebiotics vs probiotics relationship is actually a mutual and symbiotic one.

Foods That Are Rich In Prebiotics And Probiotics

There is no doubt about it – the  western diet of high cholesterol, processed foods and the habits of smoking and drinking alcohol has contributed to many digestive disorders being experiencing today. These include, constipation, acid reflux, heartburn, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

The high fat junk food that people throw down their throats feeds the bad bacteria, that leads to the digestive system becoming unbalanced. This can lead the way to gut infections and the eventual breakdown of the body’s immune system.

If you are suffering from any of these conditions as the result of eating these foods, then you need to seriously consider changing your diet to a healthier one.

The benefits of prebiotics can be found in the following foods;

  • asparagus
  • onions
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • leeks
  • peas
  • chicory
  • berries
  • bananas
  • kiwifruit.

Probiotic bacteria are produced through a fermentation process and are found in these fermented foods;

  • bio live yogurt
  • kefir
  • sauerkraut
  • miso soup
  • pickled fruit or vegetables
  • tempeh (fermented soybeans)
  • kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage)

How The Amazing Kiwifruit Can Support Your Digestive Health

The kiwifruit is amazing because of the many health benefits it can offer you. It is packed full of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. It is also a great source of prebiotics, phenolic compounds and soluble dietary fibre. A recent medical study by the University of Hong Kong was undertaken to determine whether increasing dietary fibre intake, can help improve constipation.

The 33 people who took part in the study, were asked to eat 2 kiwifruit per day, for a period of 4 weeks. At the end of the trial, over 54% of the participants found that eating kiwifruit, provided relief from their chronic constipation.

I have always loved the tangy taste of kiwifruit. When I need to give my good bacteria a helping hand, I chop up a kiwifruit and mix it with a small bowl of bio live natural yogurt, made from goats milk. Although the kiwifruit is high in prebiotics, most of them are contained within its hairy skin.

The skin does not taste at all nice.  For this reason, I take a quality natural prebiotic supplement, that is  made from 100% pure kiwifruit including its nutritious skin each day, to give the beneficial bacteria in my digestive tract the best start.

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