Prebiotics vs. probiotics

Are they different? Or same?

‘Pro’ means ‘good’ and biotic mean bacteria, hence probiotics means good bacteria that helps to make our body healthy. The definition for probiotics can be stated as, “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Prebiotics are the foods for good bacteria that live in our gut. Prebiotics are basically, Non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon. Hence probiotics and prebiotics are two different terms used to describe related information.

Some examples for probiotics are L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, B. longum, B. bifidum etc.

Bacteria inside our digestive tract

Digestive tract is like the machine which processes all the foods we eat. Bacteria lives throughout our digestive tract. But most of these bacteria live and perform their activities inside the large intestine. Inside our digestive tract, there are about

500 different microbial species. Bacteria which are predominant in the large intestine are Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, Clostridium, Fusobacterium, Bifidobacterium, Eubacterium, Peptococcus, Peptostreptococcus, Escherichia, Veillonella. These are the bacteria genera known as probiotics.

From where does a newborn baby gets bacteria?

A new born baby gets bacteria from baby’s mother. Mother’s vaginal and intestinal micro flora (bacteria) are the sources of bacteria which start to live inside the newborn baby’s intestine. In breastfed infants, bifidobacteria are dominant in the gut micro biota. But after weaning the composition of gut micro biota mainly depend on our diet.

Where can we get probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics are widely used to prepare fermented food products, mainly dairy products such as yogurt and curd. Probiotics are naturally present in fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and some cheeses also. But all fermented foods do not have probiotics. Yogurt is the most important probiotic-containing food. It has good flavor and texture that is appealing to most people. Also, there are some supplements claiming to contain probiotics. Prebiotics are mostly fiber. In order to consider as prebiotic, the fiber must pass through the gut undigested. Prebiotics include non-digestible oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are a type of carbohydrate. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are two types of oligosaccharides that act as prebiotics. These dietary fibers have high prebiotic effects. Mainly vegetables, legumes, fruits, and cereals such as rye, oats, wheat bran, and rice bran, has prebiotics. Out of these foods, oats are very high in prebiotics.

What are Synbiotics?

It is a combination of probiotics and prebiotics.

Why we should eat probiotics?

There are numerous health benefits of probiotics. According to scientific evidence you can treat and even prevent some illnesses by taking probiotics. Probiotics are good for diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Also, probiotic therapy can help treat several gastrointestinal diseases, delay the development of allergies in children, and treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections in women, diarrhea, recurrence of bladder

cancer, eczema in children etc. Consumption of fermented milk rich in reduce serum cholesterol levels.

Foods for bacteria….

Bacteria eat what consumers eat. Hence diet can rapidly change the composition of gut bacteria. The gut contains both beneficial bacteria and pathogenic bacteria that cause diseases. Eating prebiotics helps to stimulate the growth of good bacteria and it can also inhibit the pathogenic bacteria. Hence taking prebiotics can promote the health benefits of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Moreover, prebiotics is helpful in relieving constipation, diarrhea suppression, reduction of risk of osteoporosis, reduction of the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and reduce risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

How much we should eat?

So, how much probiotics and prebiotics should we eat? There is no recommended amount of prebiotics that we should eat per day. The general guideline is to add many as fermented foods to your daily diet as possible. According to the American Heart Association Eating Plan, the amount of fiber that you should eat per day is 25g- 30g. But in a typical diet of someone who eats cereal-based or meat-based diet, this recommended fiber intake is not met. Hence be sure to add as much fiber as possible to your daily diet.

Eating both probiotics and prebiotics affect our health positively. Maintaining a predominating healthy microbiome will keep us healthy. Also providing the beneficial bacteria their fuel by prebiotics will also increase the number of good bacteria in the intestine. Hence adding as much as probiotic foods and eating high fiber foods is one of the pathways to a healthy life.

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