The difference between prebiotics and probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms found in bacteria, yeast or fungi, and when taken in large doses can help improve and maintain the health of your gastrointestinal tract. This friendly bacteria is essential for maintaining good health and vitality.
In order for the good bacteria to survive in the bowel, you need to feed them ‘prebiotic’ foods.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food fibres that enable good bacteria to stick to the bowel wall and also helps to stimulate their growth.
How do they affect our health?
More and more research is pointing to the numerous benefits of incorporating prebiotics and probiotics in our diets.
“Including probiotics in the diet is one of the best ways to boost immune health and digestion, as well as supporting vitamin B12 and K production and supporting mental health,” says nutritionist Lisa Guy.,
Prebiotics on the other hand help stimulate the growth and survival of good bacteria and discourage the growth of harmful organisms.
What happens if you don’t get enough prebiotics and probiotics?
It seems these microorganisms may be tiny, but they sure do pack a punch when it comes to how much they do for our health.
“If your diet lacks probiotics and prebiotics pathogenic bacteria can flourish, which can lead to poor digestion. This can lead to bloating, flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, inflammation and damage of the gut lining (which can lead to leaky gut syndrome), candida, and increases susceptibility to infections such as urinary tract infections, colds and flu, allergies and inflammatory disorders,” says Guy.
“Having an unhealthy balance of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut can also affect your emotional health, as a large percentage of our brain chemicals, like serotonin, are made in the gut.”
Why it is important to look after your gut?
The digestive system is the workhorse of the body. Not only is it responsible for removing waste material from the body, it is also responsible for the important task of breaking foods down into glucose and nutrients the body needs for energy and nourishment. The digestive system also constitutes 70% of the body’s immune system which means it performs the important role of defending the body against harmful bacteria and viruses.
“Keeping the digestive system healthy is a foundation stone to general health and wellbeing. Having poor digestion will affect the health and functioning of every system in the body, the brain, nervous system, hormonal balance, reproductive system and even the liver’s ability to properly detoxify,” says Guy.
Prebiotics and probiotics in your diet
Want to join the prebiotics and probiotics bandwagon? It’s easy to incorporate them into your diet. Guy says look to include probiotic-rich foods such as yoghurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, buttermilk, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables into your diet. Prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, soy beans, Jerusalem artichokes, whole oats, wheat, barley, garlic, flaxseeds, legumes, tomatoes and green vegetables.