Prebiotics and Probiotics – What Is the Difference and What Are They Good For?

You may already be taking your probiotics by making sure that you enjoy a serving of yogurt each day, swallowing a pill or even doing both. As you begin to learn more about the benefits of probiotics on gut health, you will probably see another term begin to pop up: prebiotics. Although prebiotics aren’t talked about nearly as much as probiotics, they play an important role in maintaining the health of your digestive system.

What You Probably Already Know

Probiotics are bacteria that live in your gut. Probiotics help to maintain a healthy digestive system and benefit other bodily functions as well.

What You May Not Know

Probiotics are bacteria, and, in order to thrive, they need food. This is where prebiotics come into play. Basically, prebiotics act as food, fertilizer or fuel for the probiotics. Prebiotics are indigestible parts of plants. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not live.

In order to have a healthy gut thriving with healthy bacteria, you need to have plenty of prebiotics in there as well.

How to Balance Your Gut With Prebiotics and Probiotics

Both prebiotics and probiotics can be found through dietary sources. Prebiotics can be found in asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal and legumes as indigestible fibers. Probiotics can be found in yogurt labeled with “live or active cultures,” as well as fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso soup, fermented, soft cheeses (such as Gouda) and sourdough bread.

You can also find dietary supplements for prebiotics as well as probiotics. Many health professionals recommend eating your prebiotics and supplementing your probiotics, or you can take supplements of both.

Prebiotics and probiotics don’t exist in the same food sources, so you must eat both types of foods to get maximum benefits.

Each person has different strains of bacteria present in their intestinal tract. This means that while some supplements work for your friend, they may not work for you because your gut requires a different type of bacteria. Since you don’t know the best bacteria for you, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods, as well as experiment with supplements that use different strains until you find one that makes you feel the best.

Probiotics have been in the human diet for centuries, but science is only recently beginning to explore the links between better health and a healthy gut. So far, research has shown that probiotics likely benefit and prevent common health conditions, including diarrhea caused by taking antibiotics. Taking probiotics after a course of antibiotics replaces the good bacteria in your gut that was killed off by the medication. Other health conditions that probiotics benefit include preventing and treating vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and preventing, treating and reducing the severity of colds, flu and intestinal infections.

Both prebiotics and probiotics are excellent ways to improve your gut health, which in turn can help other bodily functions, like your immune system, so that you get sick less often.

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