Posted on 04/04/2014 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
By: Julie Revelant
Probiotics are all the rage lately—showing up in dietary supplements as well as in yogurts, cereals, and even pizza.
But, what you may not know is that probiotics have a sibling of sorts—prebiotics—that may improve healthy gut function and even strengthen your immune system.
Never heard of prebiotics? We’ve got you covered. But, first, a review of probiotics.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, probiotics are “Live microorganisms, which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Literally, probiotics mean “for” (pro) “life” (bios). So what are some of these “for-life” benefits? Primarily, it’s improved digestion and stronger immune function.
Another important function of probiotics is to help protect your body from harmful bacteria. If you’ve ever been prescribed antibiotics, your doctor may have told you to eat yogurt with “live and active cultures,” or take a probiotic supplement to ward off a yeast infection or tummy troubles.
So, why not just take probiotics and call it a day? There are approximately 100 trillion healthy bacteria already in your GI tract and they’re all vital for a healthy immune system. So, it’s kind of hard to know which probiotic strain, and at what amount, is best for your body.
That’s where prebiotics come into the picture. Unlike ingested live probiotics, which need to survive the perilous journey from manufacturer to packaging to store shelf to your stomach in order give your body a bacteria boost in the gut; prebiotics, or non- digestible food ingredients, are inactive agents that actually help the bacteria to grow and work in your GI tract. Essentially, they’re food for all those trillions of probiotics performing wonderful things for our bodies.
And when you have a healthy gut, your immune system is stronger, which means your health is the big winner.
Prebiotics are naturally occurring in many foods like whole grains, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, soybeans, honey and are also available in supplement form. Although experts aren’t entirely sure how much of an impact prebiotics can have on our health, the research is promising.
Taken together, prebiotics and probiotics may do double duty on strengthening the immune system, too.
Do you take probiotics or prebiotics, and have they helped you?