When trying to keep your body in perfect health, your gut health needs to be considered. Several things play a vital role in your overall health. Importantly, probiotics and prebiotics are at the centre of your gut health. But what is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that increase the good bacteria already found in your gut. Prebiotics are food made from plant fibre that fuels those good bacteria. Both probiotics and prebiotics are organisms that aid your digestive health. They are also an essential part of your body’s good bacteria.
Let’s take a closer look at the difference between probiotics and prebiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living bacteria that can be found in many of the foods you or I eat regularly. These bacteria are an important part of healthy digestion and vital for a balance of the bacteria already found in your body. This is often referred to as your gut bacteria, and it’s full of both good and bad bacteria.
Probiotics are used to keep balance. They also help replenish your good bacteria when you lose them after a treatment of antibiotics. Probiotics will help ease the symptoms associated with various digestive diseases. These include irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea, and even bad breath.
How Prebiotics Are Different From Probiotics
Some confuse probiotics and prebiotics for being the same thing. However, that isn’t the case at all. Prebiotics are just food for the good bacteria to grow. They’re made of a special fibre found in plants. Prebiotics are made up of carbs that don’t get digested in your gut. Instead, they settle in the lower digestive tract and feed the bacteria found there.
Prebiotics not only help good bacteria to grow. They’re good for a few other reasons as well. They help your body absorb calcium, and they change how quickly blood sugar can spike. Prebiotics also help break down the food you eat, which helps prevent constipation and other bowel-related issues.
Why Are Probiotics and Prebiotics So Important?
The benefits of probiotics and prebiotics are numerous, no matter what your current health status is. Commonly, the benefits of these bacteria’s are seen in gut health, as mentioned above. However, they are also helpful with the balance of bacteria found in other areas such as mouths, urinary tracts, vaginas, lungs, and even skin.
Maintaining a healthy gut improves the overall quality of life substantially. It’s been found that increasing the number of good bacteria in the digestive tract has benefits. It can help reduce symptoms of depression, aggression, and even improve the immune system.
Probiotics Can Help Autism Symptoms
Some studies show probiotics can improve symptoms of various autistic disorders. The research isn’t conclusive, but parents of children on the spectrum have tried probiotics. They have noticed considerable improvements. Probiotics have helped with repetitive behaviours, aggression, communication, and social skills. It can be truly incredible to see your child’s struggles eased just by balancing the bacteria in their gut.
Oftentimes when there is a disturbance in your gut’s health, it results in constipation, diarrhoea, or vomiting. In adults, we may not realise it’s the bacteria in our gut, but we understand something is wrong. In adults, it’s generally easy for us to communicate our discomforts to our doctors.
In children, autistic or otherwise, it isn’t always easy for them to vocalise their discomforts. Also, in children, this disturbance usually comes across as aggression and intense bursts of anger. These behaviours can sometimes be confused with autistic disorder symptoms. However, once the good bacteria is reestablished in their gut health, these behaviours can dissipate over time. Sometimes, the behaviours will even vanish instantly and completely.
Other Health Benefits
In addition to the benefits listed above, there are several other health benefits that probiotics have on your body. Check out the list below to learn about more probiotic health benefits.
- Generates more B vitamins
- Combats obesity
- Increases cancer cell elimination
- Reduces the development of type 2 diabetes
- Improves allergies and immunities
- Prevents diarrhoea resulting from antibiotics
- Reduces risks of gum disease
Types of Probiotics
When you see the ingredients of the foods you eat, they will not always list the words probiotics or prebiotics. You’ll have to look for the name of the bacteria listed in the ingredients. However, things like yogurt will place a label that will inform you that it contains live probiotics. There are two common probiotic species that you typically find in the foods you eat.
You’ll find this species of probiotics in foods and even in some supplements. They’re usually associated with improvements to immunity and help the breakdown of lactose in your body.
This species of probiotics are known to produce lactose. It is an enzyme that helps people digest lactose. This bacteria also makes lactic acid, which controls the bad bacteria in your gut. These probiotic bacteria are found in the small intestine, mouth, and vagina.
Types of Prebiotics
There are seven types of prebiotics that are found in the foods you eat. They won’t be labels as prebiotics, but you’ll likely see them listed out individually.
- Xylooligosaccharide: This is found naturally and taken from plant fibres.
- Fructooligosaccharide: This is a prebiotic carb that is a type of sugar.
- Inulin: Inulin is a fibre found in some plants.
- Galactooligosaccharide: This can be found when lactose is used to extract it from certain plants.
- Resistant Starch: This is a type of starch that can’t be broken down in our bodies. So it moves through our intestines without changing.
- Human Milk Oligosaccharide: This is a strain of prebiotics that are only found in human breast milk.
- Isomaltooligosaccharide: This is a mixture of carb enzymes found in maltose.
How Exactly Do Probiotics and Prebiotics Work in the Body?
Prebiotics find their way into the lower intestinal tract of the body. There they work as a fertiliser for the good bacteria located there. It’s clear that prebiotics feeds the good bacteria, but what else do the prebiotics do for your body?
If you have an infection, your doctor will put you on an antibiotic to kill off the bad bacteria caused by the infection. However, these antibiotics will kill the good bacteria as well. Probiotics will replenish your body’s supply of that bacteria, and the prebiotics will feed them to help them grow.
Foods That Have Probiotics
It’s important to eat healthy foods and to maintain the good bacteria in your gut. While there are typically the two common probiotics species, there are many more strains of these species. They live in various food items and areas of your body.
- Animalis (Bifidobacteria) – You can find this in certain yogurts, and it’s known to help digestion and boost your immune system.
- Breve – (Bifidobacteria) This strain lives in your digestive tract and in the vagina, where it fights off yeast infections and other bad bacteria.
- Lactis – (Bifidobacteria) You can find this strain of bacteria in raw milk.
- Longum – (Bifidobacteria) This bacteria is found in your gastrointestinal tract and helps your body digest carbs.
- Acidophilus – (Lactobacillus) This strain is found in yogurts. It helps fight off back bacteria in the vagina and small intestines.
- Reuteri – (Lactobacillus) This is a bacteria that helps maintain good oral health.
You can find these strains of probiotics in many of the foods you might already like to eat. A popular choice is yogurts, but they can also be found in the foods listed below.
- Miso soup
- Pickled veggies
Prebiotics Can Be Found in the Foods You Eat
You can find prebiotics in regular food that you likely eat every day. This makes it pretty easy for you to feed the good bacteria in your digestive system.
Check out the list below for some of the kinds of foods that contain prebiotics. There are more than what is listed here.
There are a lot of benefits to taking prebiotics and probiotics. Maintaining a healthy gut will lead to an overall healthy lifestyle. Hopefully, this article has given you a clear idea of the differences between probiotics and prebiotics. Also, it outlines the many health benefits they provide.