Are there natural sources of probiotics and prebiotics? Actually, there are a lot of natural sources for prebiotics, but there are none for probiotics since the latter are not naturally-occurring ingredients but are actually created or manufactured. There are still ways though, by which you can get your proper dose of probiotics.
Where to get prebiotics
These are non-digestible food ingredients that work on the gut by inducing the growth of good bacteria found in the stomach. Prebiotics can be carbohydrates, soluble fibers or dietary fibers. They are present in various plants, particularly those rich in fructan, like kiwi, asparagus, leeks, artichoke, garlic and onion. Soybeans are also good sources of prebiotics, and so are oats, unrefined barley and wheat and plants rich in inulin, such as jicama and chicory root.
These are the natural sources of prebiotics, although their popularity has led to more food manufacturers adding them to food products like bread and cereals. Prebiotics are also known for inducing metabolic activity, which is good for the overall health of a person. In addition, studies have noted the positive effects of prebiotics on the immune system, on mineral absorption and on bowel pH.
Sources of probiotics
Probiotics, on the other hand, are not naturally present in food but are usually manufactured and added to food. Fermented foods are the most common sources of probiotics, with yogurt, soy drinks, tempeh, miso, fermented and unfermented milk being some of the food choices that may contain probiotics.
Probiotics have the same functions as the good bacteria found in the stomach. They can also be acquired in nutritional supplements. People who take probiotic nutritional supplements are supposed to be increasing the level of good bacteria that are already in their digestive systems. The most common microbes used as probiotics are bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria. Bacilli and yeasts are also used as probiotics.
Health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics
Both of these groups have positive effects on the digestive system. They have been touted as potential treatment for diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, urogenital disorders and other digestive diseases. Prebiotics, in particular, are believed to reduce the chances of a person of developing colorectal cancer.
The digestive system is responsible for breaking down the food we ingest. It is also the system that distributes nutrients to the whole body. This means that when it is not working properly or a person has any digestive disorder; his or her whole body will feel the effect. This is the reason why digestive health is given great emphasis by health experts.
Studies on probiotics and prebiotics
Numerous studies have been done to identify natural sources of probiotics and prebiotics which led to claims that the latter is better than the former, given that they are more naturally-occurring as opposed to being manufactured. However, this does not mean that probiotics do not offer their own benefits to human health.
The claim that prebiotics are much better for the body may have some basis. A study from the School of Food Biosciences of the University of Reading in England involved an experiment wherein a group of people were given prebiotic diet for a week, while another group was given probiotic diet over the same period.
After the first week, the participants in the prebiotic group showed an increase in good bacteria population, while those in the probiotic group did not exhibit much change, although experts claim that probiotics do have positive effects in the long run. The study may be comprised by a small number of participants and the increase in the level of good bacteria exhibited by the prebiotic group may be minimal after a week, but it did point to some encouraging results.
Natural sources of probiotics and prebiotics may be hard to come by, particularly for probiotics, but both have been found to be beneficial to the digestive health of humans.