Despite the confusing names, probiotics and prebiotics are two different things and therefore cannot be used interchangeably. They are both associated with digestion, but not everyone is aware of their benefits.
First, let us talk about probiotics. Of the two, probiotics is the term that most people know about. This is mainly due to yogurt, which is a popular food for the health conscious. Probiotics are simply good live cultures and when you consume them, they add to the bacteria that are naturally found in your gut. Probiotics, whether lactobacillus or bifidobacterium, have many benefits, including treating the following conditions:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea
- Diarrhea caused by parasites, bacteria, and viruses
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Oral health
- Allergies and colds
- Vaginal health
- Eczema and other skin conditions
Yogurt is not the only source of probiotics. Live microorganisms that you can benefit from are also found in the following:
- Aged cheese like parmesan and gouda
- Sourdough bread
- Pickled veggies like kimchi and sauerkraut
- Fermented rice, soy, or barley
- Wine and beer
On to prebiotics, the main difference is that prebiotics are not alive. You can find the sources in fibrous foods. Remember that our body does not have the ability to digest fiber. When we consume fiber-rich foods, they stay in our gut and the bacteria there including probiotics feed on prebiotics. They help the body process the fiber. The best sources of prebiotics are:
- Raw chicory root (contains almost 60% fiber)
- Raw spices, including onions, garlic, and leeks
- Raw artichoke (the Jerusalem variety)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole wheat
The main job of the prebiotics is to feed the probiotics. However, they also have use for our bodies and that is to enhance how we digest and absorb calcium. Prebiotics may also boost our gastrointestinal health just like probiotics.
The Dynamic Duo
Ultimately, probiotics and prebiotics go hand in hand. As you increase your intake of prebiotics in your diet, you are feeding the good bacteria in your gut, the probiotics themselves. This leads to a restored and healthier gastrointestinal health. There are products that you can find with both prebiotics and probiotics, which are known as synbiotics. You can make your own delicious combination of these two, such as when you eat bananas with yogurt or you stir fry asparagus combined with tempeh.
When you eat yogurt and other probiotics, make sure you don’t forget about prebiotics to promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut.