Probiotics and Prebiotics: Helpful Bugs for Your Gut

There are tril­lions of good and bad bac­te­ria liv­ing with­in your gut, mak­ing up part of your gut micro­bio­me, that are involved in crit­i­cal func­tions that main­tain your health and well­be­ing. Good bac­te­ria aid in the diges­tion of food, nutri­ent absorp­tion and boosts your immu­ni­ty to a vari­ety of dis­eases. When bal­ance of your good and bad bac­te­ria is impact­ed by age, stress, poor diet, over­all qual­i­ty of health or envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, it can lead to gas­troin­testi­nal issues. To keep your gut micro­bio­me bal­anced and healthy, you may choose to add pro­bi­otics and pre­bi­otics to your diet. 

What are Probiotics?

Pro­bi­otics are foods or sup­ple­ments that con­tain live microor­gan­isms, usu­al­ly spe­cif­ic strains of bac­te­ria, that help to main­tain or improve the bal­ance of good bac­te­ria to bad bac­te­ria found in your gut. The most com­mon pro­bi­otics con­sumed are strains from the lac­to­bacil­lus and Bifi­dobac­teri­um groups. Hav­ing the right amount of good bac­te­ria in your gut has been linked to weight loss, improved diges­tion, enhanced immune func­tion, health­i­er skin and a reduced risk of var­i­ous diseases. 

Which foods con­tain Probiotics?

There are many pro­bi­ot­ic foods that nat­u­ral­ly con­tain the help­ful bac­te­ria your gut needs. The best source of nat­ur­al pro­bi­otics comes from fer­ment­ed foods and yogurt. Be sure to choose foods that are unpas­teur­ized as the pas­teur­iza­tion process kills good bac­te­ria. If you would like to add more nat­ur­al pro­bi­otics into your diet, try any of the fol­low­ing foods:

  • Kefir
  • Kim­chi
  • Kom­bucha
  • Pick­led vegetables
  • Sauer­kraut
  • Yogurt

What are Prebiotics?

Unlike pro­bi­otics, pre­bi­otics con­tain dietary fibers, not bac­te­ria. Your body can­not digest these fibers but can use them as fuel for pro­bi­otics, the healthy bac­te­ria, in your gut. Incor­po­rat­ing pre­bi­otics into your dai­ly diet may not only help improve your over­all gut and diges­tive health, but it can also help boost your immune sys­tem and sup­port bone health. Pre­bi­otics have the great­est effect on your health when used in con­junc­tion with a pro­bi­ot­ic.[1]

Which foods con­tain Prebiotics?

Pre­bi­otics can be found nat­u­ral­ly in many fruits and veg­eta­bles, espe­cial­ly those that con­tain com­plex car­bo­hy­drates such as fiber and resis­tant starch. Stud­ies sug­gest that eat­ing three to five grams of pre­bi­otics a day helps ben­e­fit the healthy bac­te­ria in your gut.[2] Fol­low­ing are some of the best pre­bi­ot­ic food choic­es you can eat:

  • Aspara­gus
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Cab­bage
  • Chico­ry root
  • Dan­de­lion greens
  • Gar­lic
  • Jerusalem arti­choke
  • Jica­ma
  • Leeks
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Sweet pota­to

What are Pro­bi­ot­ic and Pre­bi­ot­ic Supplements?

You can also con­sume pro­bi­otics and pre­bi­otics in sup­ple­ment form as an alter­na­tive to sourc­ing them from your food. 

Pro­bi­ot­ic sup­ple­ments con­tain live microor­gan­isms that can include a sin­gle strain of a microbe or a blend of mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent microbes.[3] Dif­fer­ent strains can impact spe­cif­ic con­di­tions and it is rec­om­mend­ed you research your con­di­tion or talk to your health­care provider to select the sup­ple­ment that is right for you. 

Pre­bi­ot­ic sup­ple­ments are com­prised of a com­bi­na­tion of var­i­ous fibers, which are those that you can­not typ­i­cal­ly get from eat­ing every day, eas­i­ly acces­si­ble foods. 

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) states that com­mer­cial pro­bi­ot­ic and pre­bi­ot­ic sup­ple­ment use is gen­er­al­ly safe for healthy peo­ple. But keep in mind that these sup­ple­ments are not reg­u­lat­ed accord­ing to pre­scrip­tion drug stan­dards by the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA). This means that some of the live bac­te­ria being used in pro­bi­otics has not been eval­u­at­ed accord­ing to the FDA’s strict safe­ty mea­sures.[4]

Keep­ing your gut bac­te­ria bal­anced is very impor­tant to help main­tain and improve your over­all health. Through reg­u­lar use of both pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics, you can ensure that the good bac­te­ria out­num­ber the bad bac­te­ria in your gut. To learn more about improv­ing the health of your diges­tive sys­tem with pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics or to dis­cuss any diges­tive con­cerns or symp­toms, you can sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our gas­troen­terol­o­gists online or by call­ing 630−717−2600.

[1] https://​www​.health​line​.com/hea…

[2] https://​www​.web​md​.com/​d​i​e​t/foo…

[3] https://​www​.may​oclin​ic​.org/pre…

[4] https://​wwwnc​.cdc​.gov/​e​i​d​/arti…

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