So we have got another ever so catchy “snack hack” for you today. As ever, these are nutritional and supplemental hacks that are simple, easy and actionable.
Today I’m going to present the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, explaining just why both are so important in your diet and what are descent sources of each that can be supplemented into your healthy lifestyle.
Both prebiotics and probiotics are synonymous with good gut health, and in case you’ve been hiding under a (gall)stone for the last few years, gut health has been getting a high profile of late. This is for good reason , as a healthy gut is linked with everything from improved immune system to better mental health.
While they sound very similar and are often confused, prebiotics and probiotics are not the same, although they both help to enhance the growth of healthy bacteria in the body and aid healthy digestion.
Probiotics are types of ‘living’ friendly bacteria similar to those that inhabit, for the most part, our digestive tract. Other types of probiotics also include yeast.
Probiotics help to maintain the healthy levels of good bacteria in the intestines and gut. They also serve to support our overall immune defences by helping to reduce inflammation.
Although more commonly associated with being useful for anyone suffering from the uncomfortable symptoms of bloating, gas or flatulence and assisting in decreasing the duration of diarrhoea in kids, probiotics potential extend much further. Recent research continues to link the health of the gut with both poor mental health and autoimmune conditions. And if that isn’t enough, they also may help to restore good bacteria after a course of antibiotics.
Probiotics get into our intestines from the foods we eat or by taking additional supplements. There are many types of probiotics and each one behaves differently in our gut. Types of probiotics naturally found in cultured or fermented foods can include many, many different strains which can have varying impacts on improved gut health. For example two better know strains; lactobacillus or bifidobacteria that are very beneficial can be found in yoghurt. Look for “live or active cultures” on the label to be sure your favourite brand of yogurt to ensure a rich source of probiotics.
Other good sources in food include;
buttermilk, aged and fermented soft cheese (such as Gouda), sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, miso, and tempeh. Look out for fermented drinks also such kombucha and kefir. The common feature of all these foods and drinks is the fermentation, a process that produces a large number of probiotics.
While probiotics have been shown effective in managing certain gastrointestinal conditions, they do not have the same power that prebiotics do.
Prebiotics are ‘non‐living’ plant fibre that reach the large intestine, bowel or colon unaffected by digestion,. These non digestible carbs then serve to feed and nourish the good bacteria in our gut, helping them to grow and flourish. While probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gut, prebiotics act as a fertiliser for the good bacteria that’s already there.
Prebiotics help your good bacteria to grow, improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio. This ratio has been shown to have a direct correlation to your health and overall wellbeing, from your stomach to your brain.
Unlike probitoics, prebiotics are not alive. Most prebiotics are some form of fiber. Our body does not digest fiber, but the bacteria in our gut, including the probiotics, digest the fiber. Feeding these helpful bacteria keeps them doing what they are supposed to do in order to help our health.
As highlighted, the body itself does not digest these plant fibers. Instead, it uses these fibers to promote the growth of many of the good bacteria in the gut, hence the importance. These, in turn, provide many digestive and general health benefits.
Recent studies have also shown prebiotics and good bacterial gut balance play a direct role in mental health. Individuals who consume prebiotics on a daily basis have fewer issues with anxiety, depression, and stress. In fact in one study, when their saliva was tested, it contained lower levels of cortisol. High levels of this hormone have been linked directly to mental health disorders.
Prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto‐oligosaccharides (GOS) are naturally found in many foods including:
Legumes; Whole wheat products; Rye based foods; Artichokes; Jerusalem artichoke; Banana; Asparagus; Onions; Cabbage; Garlic and Chicory root – the top source, with almost 60% fibre.
Let’s look at some points to be mindful of when seeking to mobilise your gut health game. Firstly be aware probiotics are delicate, both heat and stomach acid can kill them, rendering them ineffective before they’ve even been digested. Also, and this could prove a little controversial, those who don’t eat dairy foods may find ingesting adequate amounts of probiotics difficult. Not impossible however and just incredibly important to up the quantity of other fermented foods and drinks highlighted earlier.
Finally, we don’t know which “good” bacteria our unique bodies would benefit from. For some people, a certain good bacterial strain would be helpful. For others, it may not. When we consume probiotics, we’re taking a guess at which bacteria might be helpful and hoping for the best. We’re also hoping the ones that make it past the heat and acid of our stomach will actually go on to provide some health benefits to our system. This demonstrates the need to ensure plenty of variety, trial and error!
Prebiotics however, unlike probiotics, are not destroyed in the body. They are not affected by heat or bacteria. Getting the full benefits of prebiotics is easy, especially when consumed in a full spectrum supplement form but also in the mere fact they are available in many foods that (should and easily) make up your daily diet.
Well, here we are again at the end of another snack hack! If you like what you read, please show the love through a comment and sharing with others. Till next time friends.