Prebiotics and Probiotics……What’s the bug deal?

blogHello again! It’s Lindsay, from the post about supplements.  It seems that lately, probiotics are a hot topic. We see them advertised on the television, in the health food stores, and read about them in the news.  In the research communities, theories about them helping with everything from obesity and diabetes, to various gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and the immune system are being investigated. Needless to say, it is a hot topic! BUT, what do we really know about them? What is the difference between a pro and pre biotic? Which foods contain prebiotics? What is the best way to get probiotics? Which probiotics are beneficial? How do probiotics work? What role do they play in our health? We will answer all of these questions in this post and try to shed some light on these little, but very helpful, bugs.

What is the difference between a pro and pre biotic?blog2

Probiotics are helpful, living bacteria and yeasts (yes, bacteria and yeasts can be positive) in our mouth, stomach, and intestines. They live symbiotically within our bodies, helping us, while we help them. Prebiotics are food for the probiotics. When we eat prebiotics, we keep probiotics thriving, and surviving in our systems.

Which foods contain prebiotics?

Prebiotics are usually carbohydrates that can’t be digested, i.e. fiber. Some very common prebiotics include; whole grains (oatmeal, flax, bran), greens (especially dandelions), bananas, berries, onions, garlic, honey, legumes, and artichokes.blog1

What is the best way to get probiotics?

The best way to get probiotics is through fermented foods. Ideally, you would want to combine foods that contain probiotics with foods that contain prebiotics. Sometimes, companies will add prebiotics to probiotic foods as well. Either way, this combination method is termed synbiosis. This is important because when the bacteria/yeast’s food is provided during delivery, their survival rate increases. It is like the probiotics are taking their food with them to help them on their journey to their spot in our GI system.  An example of a synbiotic food is yogurt (with “live active cultures”). Foods that just have probiotics include; Kefir, miso (uncooked), kim chi, and sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables (only raw, not pasteurized). Other products that may have added probiotics are some nutrition bars, cultured sour cream or butter, cereals, or soy, rice, or coconut milk. Always look for the word “cultured” or  “contains live active cultures” on the labels to ensure it is a probiotic. There is also a fermented drink with naturally occurring probiotics called kombucha tea. It is not generally recommended because the possible risks of drinking it can out weight the benefits. It has been known to cause liver damage, metabolic acidosis, and miscarriages. There are also probiotic supplements. These should be taken on an empty stomach, so the acid from the stomach does not damage them. It is also important that they contain all of the bacteria that are in each part of the GI system (Acidophilus, Bifidiobacterium, and Boulardii). Unless advised by a doctor or dietitian, supplementation is not recommended.

About nadineandadamblog

Nadine and Adam are mother and son. Nadine lives in Florida where she has provided outpatient MNT in a large healthsystem for the past 20 years. In addition, she teaches nutrition to second and third year family medicine residents. She is a past-spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Adam lives in Washington State. His career has largely been involved in recipe development and food production. He is currently developing recipes and menus for the Seattle schools to meet the new federal guidelines for school nutrition programs and he does outpatient nutrition counseling. He is also a voice in PSAs over Seattle radio representing the Washington Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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