Can You Tell the Difference between Probiotics and Prebiotics?

By Paul Medley

Contributor

Post Date / 07/13/2017

Chances are you have probably heard a lot about probiotics. You might buy probiotic supplements or probiotic “fortified” foods. However, you may be overlooking its equally important counterpart: Prebiotics.


The distinction between the two gets relatively scientific. Essentially, probiotics are the “good bacteria” that can be found in certain foods like yogurt, cottage cheese and tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables), or taken in the form of a supplement to improve gut health. Prebiotics are entirely separate agents that keep the probiotics working.


So, where do prebiotics come into play?

Probiotics are proliferated in the colon by taking prebiotics. In short, this means that prebiotics sustain the probiotics, producing short-chain fatty acids which are crucial for overall health. Common prebiotics include oligo-saccharides such as FOS (Fructooligosaccharides), as well as some types of dietary fibers such as Polydextrose. When prebiotics are taken together with probiotics, it is called synbiotics and the effectiveness is amplified.


We all have both “good bacteria” (probiotics) and “bad bacteria” in our intestines. You might think zero “bad bacteria” is the best condition, but it isn’t true. If there are no bad bacteria in the body, good bacteria thrive. What is important is the balance of these bacteria, moreover to keep the condition in which good bacteria are dominant. And if prebiotics aren’t available to fuel our healthy “good bacteria”, probiotics will not act as they should and will be left imbalanced. More importantly, we should be aware that the number of good bacteria typically decreases with age.1 A helpful way to maintain this balance includes taking probiotics and prebiotics daily.


Maintaining a healthy diet with prebiotics can be easily achieved by consuming extra-fibrous foods. This includes foods like lentils, black beans, split peas, and artichokes. FOS is a common prebiotic. FOS can be taken when you eat chicory root, onions and asparagus as one of their component, but it is more convenient to take Kiwami Greens in which FOS is compounded as one of its healthy ingredients.


Sources:
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4096684/

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