When discussing gut health, the terms “prebiotics” and “probiotics” are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to note that these two types of dietary supplements are distinct from each other.
Probiotics are microorganisms that are live and can provide health benefits when taken in adequate amounts. They are commonly known as “good bacteria” since they help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. Probiotics can be obtained naturally from foods like fermented vegetables, yogurt, and kefir or from supplements. There are several strains of probiotics, each with their unique properties and health benefits.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a commonly found probiotic strain in the gut that can alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Bifidobacterium bifidum is a strain often found in breast milk that can enhance immune function and relieve diarrhea. Saccharomyces boulardii, a type of yeast, is effective in reducing the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and other digestive problems. It is important to note that not all probiotics have the same effects on the body, and choosing a supplement with a well-researched strain specific to your health concern is crucial.
On the other hand, prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that serve as a food source for probiotics and other beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are naturally present in various foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Inulin, a prebiotic fiber, is found naturally in chicory root, garlic, and onions, and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut while improving digestive health. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), another prebiotic fiber, is present in many fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, bananas, and leeks, and enhances gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Galactooligosaccharides (GOS), a prebiotic fiber found in human breast milk, particularly benefits infants by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Both prebiotics and probiotics offer several health benefits, primarily for gut health. Probiotics have been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of digestive problems, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, and boosting immune function. Similarly, prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut while enhancing digestive health. While both can be obtained through supplements, prebiotics are commonly found in dietary sources and can be obtained more cost-effectively.