The benefits of probiotics have been widely discussed, particularly when it comes to their impact on digestive health. In here, we are going to discuss what these benefits are and whether there are other things better than probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics pertain to live microorganisms that provide health benefits to the host organism. They are also known as good bacteria, which share similar characteristics with the beneficial microorganisms that can be found inherently in the human stomach or the digestive system.
There are various microbes that can be used as probiotics, with bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria as the most common. These microorganisms can be found in fermented foods and dietary supplements. Some of the more common sources include yogurt, soy beverages, fermented and unfermented milk and some types of juices.
What are the benefits of probiotics?
Various studies have highlighted the potential beneficiary effects of probiotics, particularly on the digestive system. They are considered good bacteria and are therefore helpful in strengthening the body’s protection against bad bacteria that may cause certain diseases. Primarily, they are supposed to promote microbial balance in the intestines, a condition that is much needed if the body is to fight attacks from bad bacteria and toxins that can induce infections, diarrhea and atopic illnesses.
There are certain factors that can upset the balance of microbes in the gut, including taking certain medications like antibiotics and acquiring bad bacteria and parasites that cause diseases. Probiotics are reportedly meant to inhibit the growth of these unfriendly microorganisms to keep the body, especially the gut, healthy and strong.
Probiotics have been touted as effective when it comes to treating diarrhea and preventing urinary tract infections, particularly among female patients. Probiotics are also believed to have the ability to reduce the chances of a person of acquiring bladder cancer, of suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and are also believed to be effective in managing atopic dermatitis, especially in children.
Are probiotics enough?
If we are to maintain a healthy digestive system, will probiotics be enough? There have been research studies asserting that, although probiotics do contribute to promoting a balanced digestive system, their impact is actually minimal. Questions have also been raised on whether adding probiotic bacteria to food will diminish their efficacy.
The latter question arises because the ability of probiotics to survive when treated or after they have undergone manufacturing methods is still under debate. Some experts have claimed that any process undergone by probiotics actually alters their therapeutic impact.
What else is needed?
It is no secret that leading a healthy lifestyle and eating right are the most effective ways of battling diseases, including those related to the digestive system. However, most of us are not really in the habit of planning meals or following a strict healthy lifestyle program, mainly because of busy schedules.
All of us would want to keep our digestive system healthy, but keeping track of every food that we eat and every activity that we conduct is just not possible, sad as this may sound. Because of this, efficiency is more what we are looking for most of the time. So, if probiotics can help us but are still not enough to give us the healthy gut that we need, where then should we turn?
Prebiotics and their health benefits
Here we come to another option that may bring all the answers. Prebiotics, as opposed to probiotics, are specific groups of food ingredients that are non-digestible but are absolutely healthy. Their main function is stimulating the growth and activity of good bacteria that are already in our bodies.
Prebiotics, unlike probiotics, are heat-resistant, which means that even if they undergo processing or baking or any other procedure involved in creating food, their efficacy is not diminished, nor their make-up altered. They can reach the intestines in their original form and continuously work on stimulating the activities of beneficial microorganisms that are already in our stomachs or are provided by probiotics.
Another benefit of prebiotics is their ability to stimulate metabolism, something that probiotics are not known for. If we are looking for an effective and efficient way to promote digestive health, foods and supplements with prebiotics should be our first choice.
Simply put, we may not get the benefits of probiotics unless prebiotics are also present since the latter will make the former work more effectively.