Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible plant fibres that are food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. These plant fibres resist digestion in the small intestine and travel to the colon where they are fermented by the gut microbiota, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate. These SCFAs provide numerous health benefits, including improved gut health, decreased inflammation, and increased mineral absorption.

Some natural sources of prebiotics are: garlic, onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, cold cooked potatoes, bananas (unripe), apples (with skin), oats, barley.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that populate the colon and feed on the prebiotics, to produce short chain fatty acids that promote immune health, mental health and cardiovascular health among others.

Some natural sources of probiotics are: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, buttermilk, sourdough bread, brined olives, fermented vegetables (carrots, beets, etc.), apple cider vinegar (raw and unfiltered).

An imbalanced microbiome (aka dysbiosis) has been linked to overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, poor immunity, leaky gut and some cancers.

Both probiotic foods and supplements can help to restore the gut microbiome after antibiotics or being unwell, but their effectiveness can vary depending on several factors.

Probiotic supplements typically contain a higher concentration and wider variety of live bacteria strains compared to probiotic-rich foods, which can make them a more effective option – in addition, supplements usually provide a consistent and standardized dose of live bacteria, while the bacterial content of probiotic foods can vary based on factors such as the fermentation process, storage conditions, and preparation methods.

On the other hand, probiotic-rich foods provide other important nutrients and dietary fibres that support the growth of the microbiome. Eating a diverse range of whole foods that contain prebiotics (which feed the beneficial gut microbiome) can contribute to overall gut health and help to restore the gut microbiome after taking antibiotics or being unwell.

Ultimately, the choice between probiotic foods and supplements depends on personal preference.

It’s recommended that you consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements or drastically changing your diet, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication.

References

Kaur, A., Bhardwaj, S., Dhanjal, D. S., Nepovimova, E., Martins, N., Kuca, K., Chopra, C., Singh, R., Kumar, H., Șen, F., Kumar, V., Verma, R., & Kumar, D. (2021). Plant Prebiotics and Their Role in the Amelioration of Diseases. Biomolecules11(3), 440. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom11030440

Probiotics: What You Need To Know. (n.d.). NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know

Yang, Z., Wang, Q., Liu, Y., Wang, L., Ge, Z., Li, Z., Feng, S., & Wu, C. (2023). Gut microbiota and hypertension: association, mechanisms and treatment. Clinical and Experimental Hypertension45(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/10641963.2023.2195135

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