Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

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Most people today have heard of probiotics, some have heard of prebiotics, but few people know the difference between the two and when to use them appropriately for optimal gut health. Most of us have not even heard of neuro-immunology as it relates to your gut health, but researchers are discovering the implications of a diverse “functioning” gut as it relates to your overall health and wellness, in particular your immunity. What you feed your microbes drives your wellness and this comes in the form of fiber and prebiotics. There is a diverse group of prebiotics, some more targeted towards building up the gut’s overall immunity by promoting your short chain fatty acids as well as being a fiber source.

The human intestines, in particular the colon, is one of the most diverse colonized and metabolically active organs next to the thyroid gland. Over 1,000 different species of bacteria reside in the colon, we refer to these species as your microbiome or microbiotia. The colon can grow this bacteria because the speed of food being digested and utilized by the body is a lot slower in this part of your body than in any other part of the digestive system. Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are the two most prominent probiotics residing in your colon. Creating diversity and feeding your microbiome is the fundamental key to gut wellness. How do you do this? Prebiotics. From some of the most prominent peer reviewed clinical research on the importance of fiber and prebiotics, author Joanne Slavine outlines the huge benefits consuming prebiotics. Here are a few…

  • Reduce the prevalence and duration of infectious and antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • Reduce the inflammation and symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease
  • Exert protective effects to prevent colon cancer
  • Enhance the bioavailability and uptake of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and possibly iron
  • Lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • Promote satiety and weight loss and prevent obesity

After reading this list of pros, who wouldn’t want to take a prebiotic? So, what does a probiotic do? It basically contains live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve the “good” bacteria, your microbiome. Think of it as a new set of tires on your car whereas the act of putting air in the tires is the prebiotic. The prebiotic gives your gut the nutrients to build what you already have living inside your gut. When do you know how to supplement with prebiotics or probiotics? We recommend a few steps to determine the best outcome for your gut health. Step one is to take our digestive survey to get an idea of your current gut health. Nothing is worse than overfeeding your bacteria and getting bloated or constipated. Does this happen to you? The second step is to take a Great Plains Stool Sample taken for two reasons to figure out if you need more prebiotic or need to clean out your microbiome and repopulate your gut with a probiotic.

Reference: Joanne Slavin. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits;Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1417–1435.

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