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Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics and Probiotics: Their Functions, Differences and the Benefits They Provide

prebiotics and probioticsThese days, prebiotics and probiotics are often discussed together. However, these are two different things, although they do share a similarity, particularly in relation to the digestive system. To understand better what these two terms mean, read on.

Defining probiotics

According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits to the host when administered in just the right amount. Bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria are the most common microbes used as probiotics, although bacilli and yeasts can also serve the same purpose.

These microorganisms are mostly found in fermented foods, with fermented milk, soy products and yogurt being the most common examples. There are also dietary supplements that are based on probiotics and are geared towards promoting digestive health.

Understanding prebiotics

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are food ingredients or dietary fibers that are non-digestible. Their primary function is to promote the growth of good bacteria and induce their activities. In relation to probiotics, one may say that they are the fuel needed to make probiotics work.

They are also better in such a way that they are able to resist the effect of heat, which means that even when processed; they retain their unaltered state to perform their functions once they reach the intestines.

The most popular form of prebiotics is inulin, a soluble dietary fiber that can be found in plants that contain fructan. Some examples are kiwi fruit, garlic, artichokes, onion, asparagus, etc. Because of the increasing popularity of prebiotics, food makers have started adding them to products that are eaten daily by most consumers, including cereals, bread, drinks and yogurt.

Similarities and differences

The only similarity between prebiotics and probiotics is that they are both aimed at promoting a healthy digestive system and are therefore, both beneficial to overall health. However, it has been stated that prebiotics are more effective in terms of performing their designed function since they can remain unaltered even when processed, whereas probiotics are believed to lose most of their efficacy after undergoing processing or treatment.

In addition, prebiotics have been found to be highly effective in promoting the health of intestinal flora, which leads to better digestive health. Prebiotics are also effective in stimulating metabolism, something that probiotics are not equipped to do. Because it has been proven that a high-fiber diet aids digestion, food manufacturers have been adding prebiotics to functional foods in an effort to provide better options to those seeking digestion-helpful products.

Even among some dietary supplement manufacturers, focus on prebiotics has increased. These supplements actually help in providing a person his daily requirements of dietary fiber without having to make drastic alterations to his food preferences. Although prebiotics are considered somewhat more beneficial, both of these two concepts have their advantages in relation to the digestive system.

Combining prebiotics and probiotics

As mentioned before, both of them offer benefits to the digestive system, and consequently, also provide support to overall health. When combined, the effect is even more beneficial. Combining the two produces so-called synbiotic products and these have gained popularity among food and dietary supplement manufacturers.

However, some studies have claimed that prebiotics provide more to the digestive system, given that the human body already has naturally-occurring good bacteria in the gut, which means that probiotics are not as much a necessity compared with prebiotics. When it comes to dietary supplements, those that contain prebiotics are often the much preferred option by people who knew the difference between the two.

Supplementing your gut and your whole body

There are a number of nutritional supplements out there specifically formulated to promote digestive health, with most of them emphasizing their probiotics content. However, since a well-balanced digestive system should be the primary aim, prebiotics are the more logical choice.

Those supplements that contain prebiotics have been found to be more effective in keeping a balance in one’s gut. Although probiotics are good for the body, most of us are already naturally adequately equipped with good bacteria in our stomachs. What is more needed then, are stimulants that can make these good bacteria work.

That is why supplements with prebiotics, such as Kiwi-Klenz from Xtend-Life, may be a better option than those that focus more on probiotics. Although both prebiotics and probiotics are good for our stomach and our body, a product that gives emphasis to the former will be a better choice.