As inconsequential as gas, heartburn, or occasional constipation may seem, these symptoms may point to a developing problem in your gut. Gut health has a tremendous bearing on the health of your body. The gut is like its own ecosystem, heavily dependent on a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria to function as it should. Since the health of the gut determines the health of your body, it’s worth making sure it has what it needs to thrive. Prebiotics and probiotics support healthy gut function in different but, nonetheless, essential ways. Whether in food or supplement form, prebiotics and probiotics provide the digestive system with what it needs to protect the body from sickness and nourish the body with nutrients from the food you eat. Keep reading to see how prebiotics and probiotics do all this and so much more.
Gut Bacteria - The Good and the BadYour gut houses an environment that contains a mix of good and bad bacteria, also known as the microbiome. Ideally, an 80/20 ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria should be present. This ratio enables the gut to properly absorb nutrients from food and protect the body from harmful organisms that breed sickness and disease. When the bad bacteria outnumber the good, this imbalance weakens the body’s systems leaving you more susceptible to health problems like arthritis, allergies, digestive problems, depression, and heart disease. The good news is the foods you eat directly affect the balance of good to bad bacteria in your gut. You can create a healthy balance in two ways: by feeding the good gut bacteria and by increasing the number of good bacteria in your gut. This is where prebiotics and probiotics can help.
Differences Between Prebiotics and Probiotics
What They DoPrebiotics Prebiotics come from non-digestible plant fiber materials found in certain foods. When eaten, prebiotics work in much the same way as fertilizer does for seedlings, stimulating the activity and growth of the good bacteria in your gut. High-fiber foods contain lots of prebiotics, which is a big reason why high-fiber diets offer so many health benefits. Probiotics While prebiotics act as food for good gut bacteria, probiotics are good bacteria. Probiotics contain live organisms that are the same or closely similar to the good bacteria in your gut. When ingested, probiotics increase the number of good gut bacteria.
Health BenefitsSince prebiotics act as food for good gut bacteria and probiotics are good bacteria, there’s little to no difference between prebiotics and probiotics, as far as health benefits go. The more the ratio of good to bad gut bacteria starts to favor the good bacteria, the better you’ll feel and the smoother your bodily systems will work. Health benefits that come from having a healthy population of good gut bacteria include:
- Smooth digestion process, minus any gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Healthy nutrient absorption from food
- Optimal immune system functioning
- Help normalize blood pressure levels
- Balance hormone levels
- Improve mood and mental functioning