Gut health is something we many not think about when we picture maintaining good health, but it’s very important. With a healthy gut, we are more likely to ward off issues with the gastrointestinal system. Let’s look at how prebiotics and probiotics play a role in our body. They are both good for your gut, but they work in different ways.
Probiotics are live strains of bacteria, such as yeasts and good bacteria, that live in your body and are good for your digestive system. There are probiotic supplements available or some foods have sources of probiotics. They are found in foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, aged cheeses, and other fermented foods.
The main job of probiotics is to maintain a healthy balance in your body of good and bad bacteria. When you are sick, bad bacteria enters your body and increases in number and creates an unbalance. The good bacteria works to fight off the bad bacteria and restore balance within your body to make you feel better. Probiotics help to support your immune system and controls inflammation. They also help with:
- Food digestion
- Keeping levels of bad bacteria low to prevent sickness
- Creating vitamins
- Breaking down and absorbing medications
Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers that act as a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria. Prebiotics help stimulate growth among the good bacteria already in your gut and helps to make your digestive system work better. Prebiotics are naturally occurring and are non-digestible food components, meaning our body can’t break them down.
Prebiotics are found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and beans/legumes. This includes apples, asparagus, bananas, berries, garlic, onions, oats, tomatoes, and leeks. Some products also have added prebiotics.
Prebiotics may be beneficial in the prevention of colorectal cancer due to the modification of the composition of the gut bacteria. Studies have shown lower levels of various biomarkers of colorectal cancer after administering prebiotics. Other benefits include:
- Preventing obesity. Studies have shown that prebiotics increase satiety, decreasing appetite.
- Changing the rate at which foods cause spikes in blood sugar.
- Fermenting foods faster, so they spend less time in your digestive system. This helps you not get constipated.
- Keeping the cells that line your gut healthy.