Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics both affect the health of the lower gut and have the power to improve overall wellness. And although they both relate to bacteria and are different by only one letter, they are very different things. The primary difference between prebiotics and probiotics is that prebiotics are plant fibers while probiotics are live bacteria; however, what each do in the human body differ in many significant ways.
How They’re Consumed
Prebiotics are a natural part of a diverse array of foods. These soluble fibers occur in whole grains, the skin of fruits such as apples, vegetables such as Jerusalem artichoke and onions, and legumes such as beans. Sounds simple enough to get the recommended daily allowance of fiber, right? Apparently it isn’t, because most Americans only eat between 10 and 15 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber per day, whereas more than 25 grams are generally required. The good news is you can get enough fiber easily by adding a prebiotic supplement to your diet. Prebiotic supplements are not affected by shelf time, stomach acid, heat or cold.
Probiotics are live bacteria that are frequently added to foods such as yogurt. Although probiotics are indeed beneficial, they often don’t survive the trip from the stomach to the intestines – thus making ingesting a probiotic-rich food possibly moot. Even in supplement form, they often die en route to the colon.
What Prebiotics Do
Prebiotics, like probiotics, positively affect essential digestive functions such as producing soft an bulky stools. In particular, the prebiotic fibers oligofructose and inulin work in the lower gut to encourage production of beneficial, disease-fighting bacteria while stifling production of bad bacteria. For most of the history of modern medicine, medical schools taught aspiring physicians that the lower gut wasn’t important to overall health, and that the bacteria that live there are harmless and don’t serve much purpose. We are now learning that these bacteria actually have the power to greatly affect overall wellness. In fact, prebiotic research is among the most exciting in medicine today.
A healthy mix of bacteria in the gut improves immunity to disease and positive affects the symptoms of uncomfortable conditions such as IBS, IBD and more. It regulates appetite – thus affecting the treatment of obesity – and appears to affect anxiety. People with healthy gut microbiota are better able to absorb calcium and magnesium, making for stronger bones. The more we discover about the functions of these gut bacteria, the more we realize the importance of maintaining a healthy colon.
- What’s the Difference?
- Prebiotics are a very special form of dietary fiber
- Prebiotic Fiber is not affected by heat, cold, acid or time
- Prebiotics nourish the thousands of good bacterial species already living in the colon
- Prebiotic Fiber is a naturally-occurring substance
- Prebiotics foster an environment in the colon which is hostile to bad bacteria
- The benefits of prebiotics are supported by extensive research
- Both Prebiotics and Probiotics must be ingested in sufficient quantity to have an impact