Probiotics? Prebiotics? Do You Really Know What They Are
In recent years, the word PROBIOTICS has become a popular term.
But do you really now what it is and how beneficial they are for your health?
Both probiotics and prebiotics are necessary for our digestive health. It is important to maintain a proper functioning digestive system because that is where are nutrients are absorbed. Eating well and getting all the proper vitamins and minerals won't mean anything if your digestive system is compromised. The key to better health lies in the digestive tract.
What are probiotics?
They are live micro-organisms or "good" bacteria that is necessary for our digestive health. Unlike "bad" bacteria, you want to have large doses of probiotics in your digestive tract.
What are prebiotics?
They are the nutrients that are required for the probiotics to grow and thrive in.
The primary probiotic bacteria are bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. The main prebiotic nutrient are fructo-oligosaccharides (FOSs), short -chain fatty acids (SCFAs, including butyrate), and inulin (fiber). Chicory root and Jeruselem artichoke are common sources of FOSs and are used in many prebiotic supplements.
When there is an imbalance or more bad bacteria than good bacteria in the digestive tract, we suffer illnesses. Intestinal bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium bifidum and streptococcus faecium perform important bodily functions. Below is information on each type of bacteria.
1) Acidophilus- It re-implants the good bacteria into the colon. It is anti-bacterial and acts as a mild antibiotic. When used regularly, it can replace harmful bacteria in the colon and vaginal tract as it is beneficial to treating yeast. Acidophilus also helps with the the breakdown of various foods and the production of vitamin K and some B vitamins. It is also believed to help stomach and digestive upset, intestinal gas, inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract, improve immunity, helps food allergies, improves the skin, reduce cholesterol and lessen the risk of colon cancer. Studies on these benefits are on-going.
2) Bifidobacterium Bifidum- Is used in intestinal bio culture treatment. The benefits are similar to those of acidophilus. It aids with the synthesis of B vitamins and food digestion. It also stops the growth of the coliform bacteria and it may inhibit the growth of pathogenic colon bacteria like salmonellae.
3) Streptococcus Faecium- The benefits are also similar to acidophilus. It is imperative for B vitamin bio-synthesis and helps with the digestion of food. It inhibits more toxic bacteria which may be helpful in some diarrhea cases.
You can take these bacteria individually but they are much more effective when taken in combination.
What kills our "good" bacteria?
Here's a few examples...
Antibiotics- Its job is to kill bacteria; in the process, they kill both good and the bad bacteria.
Sugar - Not only does it kill good bacteria but it encourages the growth of yeast and bad bacteria.
Processed Food- Feeds bad bacteria, allowing them to grow and multiply.
Chemicals and Pesticides- They destroy the good bacteria that live in the soil.
Where are probiotics and prebiotics found?
They are commonly found in..
1) Yogurts- Make sure that the yogurt has live cultures and ensure that there are more than one type of probiotic listed in the ingredients. Also, if the yogurt contains sugar it is not as beneficial because sugar kills the good bacteria. It is better to purchase plain yogurt or yogurt sweetened naturally with fruits or honey and in minimal amounts. I buy plain yogurt and add a bit of fruits.
2) Fruits, Grains, Vegetables- Whole grains, bananas, honey, onions, garlic, artichokes, leeks, aloe vera and fortified foods/beverages are a few examples of foods with prebiotics.
3) Supplements- There are several supplements that you can purchase from health food stores. They are sold in the form of capsules, tablets, liquids and powder.
There are so many factors that are important to take into consideration when it comes to digestion and digestive health. Probiotics although imperative, only represents one fraction of the equation. Food combining, colon cleansing, detoxification, fibre, water, the types of foods we eat etc, also play an important role in the health of our digestive system.
Read more: Holistic Health & Esoteric Knowledge