Your health is directly or indirectly dependent on the food intake, and the more nutritious and wholesome the food you eat, the better you will feel.
Today, many people are aware of the role that probiotic bacteria play in improving their health, but there’s often a little confusion between ‘pro’-biotics and ‘pre’-biotics, which are both common buzzwords in the field of health.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms that when ingested in a specific amount prove to be beneficial for the host. They’re primarily beneficial for gut health, but can offer a wide range of other health benefits too. They can be bacteria or even yeasts of certain kinds, and are found naturally in the intestines of humans and animals.
However, probiotics can also be ingested as supplements or in foods, to fulfill the same purpose. What is great about them is that there are practically no probiotic side effects to deal with.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are certain substances that act as energy-filled food for probiotic bacteria, but are otherwise indigestible for the human body. Including prebiotics in our food positively impacts the growth of good bacteria and discourages the growth of bad bacteria.
The focus in this respect is on the indigestible dietary fiber we ingest, which reaches the colon where it goes through fermentation, thereby producing substances that beneficial bacteria thrive on. That’s right; those friendly probiotic microbes need to be fed too!
The Main Differences: Probiotics vs Prebiotics
So, what is the main difference between prebiotics and probiotics? It is simple. Prebiotics are the food source for probiotics. This means that while probiotics are living microorganisms, prebiotics are nonliving. Prebiotics are merely nutrition for probiotic bacteria, and typically found in high fibre food.
Here are some of the other differences between probiotics and prebiotics:
- Probiotic vs Prebiotic Uses: Probiotics help by encouraging the growth of good bacteria to bring about a balance in the levels of good and bad bacteria. There are many reasons that can cause bacterial imbalance in the gut including stress, pollution, processed food, antibiotic use, etc. Probiotics are further said to control common allergies such as those from dust or pollen, and may also help with weight loss.
Prebiotics help improve bowel movement. They further enhance the functioning of the immune system and aid in recuperating from illnesses such as diarrhea, colitis and gastroenteritis. Prebiotics also help in mineral absorption and are considered to have a normalizing effect on blood sugar.Overall, the uses and benefits of probiotics and prebiotics overlap, because both support each other and are useful in communion.
- Probiotic vs Prebiotic Food Sources: Since prebiotics and probiotics are both essential, they’re usually found together in foods. However, if you are looking for specific food sources that contain them, here are a few examples:
- Foods Rich in Prebiotics – As mentioned above, most high-fibre foods contain prebiotics. Some in specific include dairy products, onions, artichokes, berries, bananas, soy products and honey. They are also found in some processed foods that are labelled ‘high-fibre’, like yogurt, cereals and drink mixes.
- In addition to foods, there are a number of probiotic pills, powders, juices and chewables that can be taken as supplements. For prebiotics, natural fiber-rich foods are best, but you can also look into dietary supplements with a high fibre content.
Foods with Probiotics – There are certain food sources that are high in natural probiotics. Probiotic yogurt and kefir (a fermented dairy drink) are the most popularly consumed, and help ease intestinal distress, bloating and indigestion. Other food sources of probiotics include sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, Kombucha tea and sour pickles.