Peanut butter and jelly, turkey and stuffing, chocolate and caramel—some things are just better together. Probiotics and prebiotics have a unique relationship that allows the good bacteria in the gut to thrive and provide the maximum benefits to the body and overall health. You can enhance the relationship by understanding how these two substances bring out the best in one another and why you need both.
Probiotics do a lot of good for your body. These are the good bacteria that help with many things including gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, improving the immune system, preventing blood infections, increasing hormone balance, and regulating mood and brain health. With these benefits to gain, you definitely want to make sure that the probiotics are operating at peak performance. Enter prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibrous substances that power the probiotics. The type of fiber that makes up prebiotics is not broken down by the digestive system, which allows it to travel all the way through and reach the good gut bacteria in the intestines and colon. While probiotics need to be regularly added to the system, prebiotics help to nourish and grow the probiotics already there and increase the probiotics’ overall function, making sure they give the maximum benefits to your body.
Both Are Best
Probiotics are good, and if you only add probiotics to your diet, you are better off than doing nothing. However, the special relationship between probiotics and prebiotics is so beneficial, you really should do both. Prebiotics add several advantages over probiotics alone including increasing the potency of probiotics or making what they already do that much more effective. For example, while probiotics have been shown to help with gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome and recurrence of certain bowel infections, the addition of prebiotics helps with chronic gastrointestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease. Probiotics are also fragile. Just like other bacteria in the digestive system, good bacteria can be killed off by stomach acids, heat, or simply die over time. Whereas, prebiotics are more resilient and unaffected by the substances within the digestive system. There are thousands of species of probiotics in your gut, so although you might eat high-probiotic foods like greek yogurt, sauerkraut, or kefir, you are only getting a few species in each of these foods.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, don’t differentiate between species of probiotics; they fuel them all, so no matter the kind of good bacteria already in your system or that you add, you can know they are getting nourished by the prebiotics you consume. Prebiotics are relatively easy to add to your diet. In fact, you probably already regularly eat a few high-prebiotic foods like onions, raw garlic, apple skin, and fresh beans.
In general, the more good bacteria in your system, the better you will feel. Healthy weight management and reduced hunger, mineral absorption, colon health, and lower risk of fungal infection have all been linked to an abundance of good bacteria in the system. It stands to reason that you’d want to have as many probiotics present and flourishing as possible, and the clear way to do this is to include both probiotics and prebiotics in your regular diet. There are probiotic and prebiotic supplements available in the convenient form of tablets and/or powders. This may be a simple way to ensure you are getting both as part of your regular vitamin routine. However, have a conversation with your doctor before adding supplements so you have a clear understanding of possible side effects or interactions with other medications.
If you are interested in more information about probiotics and prebiotics as part of your daily diet, or if you are exploring the option of adding supplements, make an appointment with Dr. Sameer Islam today. He can go over the benefits and various options available to you to maximize your gut health.