Prebiotics and probiotics are quite alike, but there are some differences between the two. Probiotics and prebiotics benefit our gut health in different ways. It all starts with the science.
What are Prebiotics?
Our gut has bacteria known as microbiota, which live in our gastrointestinal tract. Those bacteria are actually good—they break down the food we eat and help keep inflammation away. In humans, there are two main strains of bacteria: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
Prebiotics are essentially food for the bacteria that already exist in our bodies. According to WebMD, prebiotics are “special plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow in our gut.” When we take prebiotic supplements, they are consumed by the bacteria and act as nutrients.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are available as supplements.
The Benefits of Prebiotics
According to the Mayo Clinic, “The key to a healthy microbiome is nourishing a balance among the nearly 1,000 different species of bacteria in your gut.”
Prebiotics also boast a range of other benefits aside from feeding our gut bacteria. They support our overall immunity, can increase bone density, improve weight management, and benefit our brain health.
Another plus to prebiotics is their resilience against heat, time, and stomach acid. Prebiotics are less fragile than probiotics, giving them a longer shelf life.
What are Some Natural Sources of Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are present in natural food sources. In fact, prebiotics are quite abundant in food. They can be found in:
– Apple skins
Signs You Should Start Taking Prebiotics
It’s hard to tell when we need to be taking prebiotics—or probiotics for that matter. However, there are a couple signs that can tell you if you should start taking prebiotics. Generally, symptoms of stomach pain are signs.
But there are other reasons to take prebiotics such as:
– Abdominal pain
– Excess gas
– Poor cognition
– Increased sugar cravings
If you decide to take prebiotics, they must be taken daily. When taking a strong, multi-species and multi-strain supplement, you can expect to feel improvements within 1–2 weeks. Depending on your sensitivity, you may feel an improvement even sooner.
Why Prebiotics Should be Taken Alongside Probiotics
Usually, prebiotics are taken alongside probiotics to promote the most bacteria growth possible. Recently, the study “Noninvasive Imaging and Quantification of Bile Salt Hydrolase Activity: From Bacteria to Humans” suggests this might not be the case.
The researchers in the study measured human bile salt-hydrolase levels (which affects our digestive health and inflammation levels) using bioluminescence.
Bioluminescence is a light produced by some organisms and has been used recently in medical research to highlight organisms.
In the case of microbiota, their presence is affected by bile salt-hydrolase levels. However, the study suggests that, with the right salt-hydrolase levels, people should only be taking prebiotics. Basically, if you have the right number of bacteria already, there’s no need to make more.
The balance of bacteria in our guts is incredibly important to our health and comfort. Knowing whether to take both probiotics and prebiotics can be crucial to our health.
Top Prebiotic Brands
Biome MD’s Breakthrough Digestive Care is a top-rated brand for probiotics and prebiotics. Their product is well-tested, well-researched, and can be ordered as a subscription. Their formula contains multiple strains and species of bacteria, making their supplement powder highly effective.
HUM offers a supplement that blends prebiotics and probiotics. HUM supplements are available at a more affordable price. Their product is also vegan. Vegan supplements for prebiotics are difficult to come by, making HUM a great choice.
Another brand, Previlli, offers a subscription based prebiotic supplement. Their supplement formula excludes nuts, dairy, eggs, soy or any artificial products.
Prebiotics and Gut Health
Taking probiotics and prebiotics is just one more way to take care of your gut health. Other alternatives include changing your diet, staying hydrated, exercising and other practices. Check in on your body, and make sure everything feels right.