A complete guide to probiotics and prebiotics

small flower on woman belly

Your gut, or the gastrointestinal tract that runs from the mouth to the anus, is covered with bacteria and other organisms that create what is called the microbiome or microbiota.

Keeping a good balance of these bacteria – with 300 to 500 different species found in your digestive tract alone – creates a healthy microbiome.

One of the ways to keep your microbiome healthy is to have probiotics and prebiotics in your diet.

Probiotics and Prebiotics: What’s the Difference?

Probiotics are good bacteria found in certain food or supplements that get added directly to your digestive system. However, there are also some naturally occurring probiotics in your intestines, such as a type of yeast called saccharomyces boulardii and bacteria from the bifidobacterium and lactobacillus microorganism families.

The two most common types of probiotics are lactobacillus, which are found in yogurt and fermented food, and bifidobacterium, which are found in dairy products such as fermented and unfermented milk, buttermilk, some soft cheeses, and dairy and non-dairy kefir.

Probiotic foods also include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and some types of pickled vegetables that are not pasteurized, as the process kills bacteria found in them. They are also found in soy drinks and miso.

Meanwhile, prebiotics are found in many fiber-rich fruits and vegetables that serve as food for the good bacteria. These include oats, barley, rye, and wheat, legumes, bananas, apples, berries, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and dandelion greens.

Prebiotic foods are best consumed raw instead of cooked as their fiber content may change when cooked.

Benefits of Probiotics

Having enough probiotics in your body can prevent the bad effects of an overgrowth of bad bacteria. In general, their benefits include:

Good digestion

Probiotics help break down indigestible fibers that can cause bloating and gas pain. Probiotics are also known to help deal with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder that causes constipation, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, and other symptoms.

Stronger immune system

About 70% of your body’s immune system can be found in your gut. Certain probiotics spur the production of natural antibodies, including T cells and Immunoglobulin A. They are also known to reduce recurrent urinary tract infection.

Replacement of “good bacteria” that is lost during antibiotic intake

According to some studies, probiotics can help prevent diarrhea resulting from taking antibiotics. But since new research found that probiotics can delay the normalcy in your gut’s microbiome, it will be best to consult a doctor if you plan to take it while or after your round of antibiotics.

They are typically not recommended for people who have very low immune function, serious medical conditions, or severe infections.

Reduced risk to atopic dermatitis

Several trials conducted in 2018 showed that probiotics could reduce the risk of atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema, in children if mothers take them during pregnancy until shortly after giving birth.

Lower blood pressure

Probiotics can help lower high blood pressure through certain chemicals produced by gut bacteria, based on research at Johns Hopkins Medicine…
Continue reading the article and learn more about probiotics and prebiotics on Daisy Linden’s blog.

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