Dr. Frank W. Jackson, MD

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

Fact: Not all bacteria are to blame for a person’s health problems.

The thought of bacteria is enough to make anyone squeamish and want to bathe in antibacterial products. However, not all bacteria are the enemy. In fact, most may even be your friend. In the right amounts and strains, some bacteria can help balance the digestive system and be valuable to a person’s health.

Within the hidden world of a person’s body are 3000 various types of bacteria.  While different, many play a vital role in maintaining good health and proper digestion.

So, what are Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Don’t let their names scare you. Probiotics is just a fancy term used to refer to the bacteria that we eat in such products as yogurt or that we take in capsule form from health food stores. These intestinal bacteria help reduce bad bacteria and increase good bacteria resulting in potential health benefits. But in order for the probiotics to thrive, a healthy diet must exist. This is where prebiotics come into play.

In the simplest of terms, prebiotics are the fuel (food) that probiotics need to work properly. These bacteria are ingested and help stimulate positive bacteria growth within the digestive tract.

What’s the big difference?

These living microorganisms, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacter are the two best probiotic types. They can be found in foods like kefir and cultured milk.  Prebiotics, a source of fiber that can be found in many of the foods we eat, feeds hundreds of strains of good bacteria and delivers a much better benefit to your digestive tract.

What are the benefits?

When a prebiotics are taken in conjunction with probiotics the benefits can include:

  • Increased mineral absorption and stronger bones
  • Improves bowel regularity
  • Improves overall immune system
  • Fights heart disease and high cholesterol
  • Increases good colon bacteria
  • Positively affects appetite control and weight loss
  • Reduces the risk of inflammation and diseases within the digestive tract
  • Reduces the chance of intestinal infection
  •  And can help assist with obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Probiotics, Prebiotics and You

While unhealthy eating habits have made it difficult to get the valuable fibers needed to maintain a healthy digestive system in the past, a change in diet and increased levels of probiotics and prebiotics can help maintain good bacteria throughout life.

Start by switching up your diet and staying away from processed foods. Lean towards foods with more natural living organisms (micro flora) like fermented foods and cultured milk products. This alone is not enough to combat those bad bacteria living in the digestive tract. Regularly consuming prebiotics will help maintain the levels of bad bacteria and improve overall digestion and health.

Try incorporating foods like wheat, leeks, garlic and mixed fruit and vegetables that are rich in inulin and oligofructose, the two naturally occurring prebiotics. Using a prebiotic supplement like Prebiotin, which contains these two, can also help to keep the bad bacteria at bay.

Bottom Line 

To maintain a healthy body on the inside, it’s important to consider what’s being done on the outside. Make probiotics and prebiotics part of your daily regimen. Limit use of alcohol, processed foods and other toxins. Instead, maintain a fiber-rich diet and drink plenty of water to help meet your wellness goals.

 

Dr. Frank W. Jackson is a retired gastroenterologist with more than 40 years of research on nutrition and colon health. Today, he is the founder of Jackson GI Medical as well as Prebiotin, a premier prebiotic fiber supplement distribution in the Northeast Valley and available at Cooper’s Nutrition, The Vitamin Shoppes and Sprouts Valleywide. For more information, please visit the educational site, www.jacksongi.com or www.prebiotin.com.