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What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics

Gut health has become a very popular topic in the world. Prebiotics and probiotics both play a part in gut health, but most people aren’t sure what role they play and what the difference is between the two. 


Prebiotics and probiotics both have a role in a healthy gut. Probiotics are living strains of bacteria that add to the population of good bacteria that is in your digestive system. Prebiotics are specialized plant fiber that acts as food for that good bacteria. This stimulates growth among the preexisting good bacteria. Basically, probiotic food add good bacteria, and prebiotics support that bacteria. 

What are prebiotics

Research is still ongoing into the true benefits of  probiotics and prebiotics, but many people do find that taking them is very helpful for supporting their gut health and other health goals. If you want to learn more about these, go on and read on to learn the difference and how they work hand and hand together. 


Remember, before making any adjustment to your diet, you should always speak to your doctor to make sure it is safe and right for you. This is especially true if you have any existing health conditions, especially gut based, are taking any medication, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. You should also check before giving supplements to children under 12 years of age. While probiotics and prebiotics are generally safe for most healthy people, they are not recommended for some health conditions, so it’s always wisest to check, just to be on the safe side.


Why Is Some Bacteria Beneficial?

The good bacteria that are in your digestive tract will help to protect you from harmful bacteria and fungi. 


Studies on bacteria in the gut have confirmed that a wide variety of this kind of good bacteria can help with immune system functions, improve symptoms of depression, and help to manage obesity, as well as other benefits. 


Some of your gut bacteria also form vitamin K and short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids are the main nutrient source of the cells that line the colon. They help to promote a strong gut barrier that will help to keep out the harmful substances, viruses, and bacteria. This will also help to reduce inflammation in the body.


Can You Take Prebiotics And Probiotics Together?

Prebiotics are made up of carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the body. However, they do exist as food for the probiotics bacteria that you put into your body. Using both prebiotics and probiotics together is called microbiome therapy. You don’t need to take a prebiotic in order for probiotics to work, but taking one can make your probiotics more effective. 


What Is Prebiotic Fiber? 

Prebiotics are fibers that aren’t digestible by the body, but that can help good bacteria to grow in your gut. As your body can’t digest these plant fibers, they will travel to your lower digestive tract to act as a food source for the good bacteria that are in your gut. 


Not all dietary fibers qualify as prebiotics. Prebiotics include inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). 


What Are Prebiotics Good For?

What Are Prebiotics Good For?

Both prebiotics and probiotics are very good for your gut, but they help the body in different ways. 


Prebiotics are a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria. They are carbs that you can’t digest, so they go to your lower digestive tract where they act as food for the growth of healthy bacteria. 


Probiotics are live yeasts and good bacteria that live in your body and are good for your digestive system. You can take a probiotic as a supplement or get them through your diet. 


As well as feeding your good gut bacteria, prebiotics can:

  • May help you absorb calcium.
  • Ferment food faster, so it spends less time in the digestive system, which helps with digestion. 
  • Keep the cells that line your gut on the heathier side.

Is It Safe To Take Probiotics And Prebiotics?

The use of commercial prebiotics and probiotics are said to be perfectly safe for most healthy adults. The risk of experiencing any side effects is low for most people but as with any lifestyle changes, you should keep in mind that you may need time to let your body adjust when you first start making use of probiotics and prebiotics. 


When you first start a regimen of prebiotics and probiotics, there can be some common side effects as your body gets used to the good bacteria. These symptoms are not dangerous and are just your body adjusting. You may experience gas, constipation, loose stools, and a loss of appetite at the beginning of the regimen. Some people also experience bloating and acid reflux too. Once your body adjusts, these symptoms should ease off, leaving you feeling much better and healthier.  



Probiotics are sometimes recommended for children who are taking antibiotics. Before you give probiotics to a child, you should speak to their doctor, especially if they are under the age of 12. Probiotics and prebiotics are generally considered to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but make sure you get the go-ahead from your doctor before starting to take any new supplement while you are pregnant or postpartum. 


Regardless of your health, it’s wise to speak to your doctor about any planned changes to your diet or lifestyle, even though these supplements are safe to take. 


Do These Supplements Have Benefits Apart From Gut Health?

Gut health is the best-known benefit of taking probiotics and prebiotics. However, more research is ongoing into how the health of your gut can affect the rest of your body and your overall health. We have 100 trillion bacteria living in our stomachs and intestines, but poor diet, drinking too much alcohol, antibiotics, hormones, and stress can all upset the natural balance of bacteria in our gut. Here are some other possible benefits of taking probiotics and prebiotics. 


They could help with weight loss

If you’re finding it hard to keep a healthy weight, then your stomach could actually be the reason in more ways than one. Previous research has found that thin people have different gut bacteria to those who are overweight. This could be because a diet that is high in fat and low in fiber encourages bad bacteria to grow in the digestive system. 


Some studies have found that taking probiotics could help women who are trying to lose weight and help them keep it off too. Rebalancing your gut bacteria could help to strengthen the intestinal wall, making it harder for your body to absorb large fat molecules. 


They may help boost your mood

Our emotional state can affect our digestion, but our gut can also influence our brain. Those under stress have different gut bacteria from those who aren’t. One theory for why this is is that bad bacteria disrupt the nerve signals which transmit feelings of fullness and stress from the stomach to the brain. 


Probiotics have been shown to help boost mood. Taking probiotics may also help to relieve anxiety and stress by reducing the activity in the emotional area of the brain. MRI scans of women who were involved in studies in this area showed that the brain circuits that are involved in anxiety were less sensitive after a month of taking a probiotic supplement. 


They can fight colds and flu

Don’t worry about eating lots of oranges every winter to resist colds. Healthy people who take probiotics might experience fewer colds and other winter infections. 

 


What Are Some Prebiotic Foods?

Prebiotics naturally occurs in lots of different foods, especially in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. If you already eat a varied diet, you should be getting plenty of prebiotics from the foods that you eat, although you can choose to supplement as well. If you’re not sure if you are getting enough from your diet, you can eat some of these foods, where are a good source of prebiotics. 


Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are very high in fiber, with 3.5g per 100g serving, including inulin. As well as prebiotics and fiber, dandelion greens are a good source of antioxidants, which could help to prevent damage to your cells.


Garlic

Garlic is a herb, often used to add flavor and nutrients to food. It is also an excellent source of inulin and FOS that supports good gut bacteria and has been used for overall health for centuries. Garlic offers the most health benefits when you eat it raw, but you can still benefit from using it in your cooking too. 


Chicory Root

Chicory root has a flavor a little like coffee, and when it is made as a tea, it can be a replacement for coffee. As well as being a coffee alternative, it is a good source of prebiotics and is high in antioxidants. Chicory root fiber is often added to prepackaged foods to boost their fiber content. 


Onions

Onions are a rich source of prebiotics, antioxidants, and flavonoids. Onions also contain inulin and FOS, which can help to strengthen the health of your gut and support your immune system. You can eat more onions by adding them into dishes like soups, stews, and main courses, or eating them raw in salads. 


Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are not related to globe artichokes but are instead a vegetable with an edible tuber that comes from a kind of sunflower. They are high in fiber, especially inulin, as well as antioxidants. These artichokes will support your colon health by increasing the number of healthy bacteria in your gut and can fight off a range of diseases. You can eat Jerusalem artichokes raw or cooked. 


Bananas

Bananas contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, including small amounts of inulin. The fruit can help to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut and reduce bloating. Bananas can be eaten raw or cooked. 


Whole Oats

Whole oats are a good source of fiber and include beta-glucan fiber and resistant starch, which has been linked to beneficial gut bacteria. Oats can be cooked and are often found in prepackaged foods. They also help with controlling blood sugar and digestion. 


Apples

Apples are naturally high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. The fiber founds in apples includes pectin, which increases the healthy bacteria in your gut and decreases the harmful bacteria. The flesh of the apple has a lot of health benefits, but apple peel contains a lot of critical nutrients that can benefit your health. They are an essential part of the apple to eat, so don’t peel your apples before you eat them. 


These are just a few of the options for foods high in prebiotics if you want to try and get them naturally. Blueberries, leeks, flax seeds, chia seeds, spinach, and asparagus are all good options too, which can be easily added to your diet. You can support the prebiotics you get from your diet with a prebiotics supplement too. 


What Are Prebiotic Supplements?

Prebiotic supplements can be taken on a regular basis to help increase and drive the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic supplements contain fermentable fiber which provides food for beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.


Prebiotic supplements are different from probiotic supplements in that they are not live bacteria. They are also highly stable and are not affected by heat and acidity so they will reach your gut intact. It’s important to understand that not all prebiotics are the same and some are more targeted in the type of bacteria they feed. If you’re choosing a supplement, read the label or website information carefully, so you can choose the best option for you and what you need. 


Should I Take A Probiotic Or Prebiotic?

Understanding the way the two different things work, it would seem as though the ideal way to use these two supplements is in combination with one another. Actually, not everyone is a good candidate for both. Probiotic use is very individualized, so it can be a good idea to have a chat with your doctor to work out which of the options will have the most benefits for you. 


One very good candidate for someone who should take probiotics is someone who has to take an antibiotic. Taking a probiotic while using antibiotics can be a good way to replenish your gut flora. Some research has also shown that probiotics can also be beneficial for gut health and beyond!


There are some people who should probably avoid probiotics. Anyone with a weakened immune system or serious GI problems should check with their doctor or skip it, as adding more bacteria could cause you further issues. 

 If you don’t have any of these issues, then you can likely try a prebiotic to help to increase the absorption of certain minerals, reduce the number of harmful bacteria, and help you to feel more full and satiated after you eat. 


What’s The Correct Dose And Preparation Of Prebiotics?

Most people can get prebiotics through their diet quite easily by setting a goal to reach the recommended intake of fiber through their food. The recommended fiber intake for adults is 25 grams to 38 grams per day. If you eat plenty of whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables, this is often the best way to reach that goal.


Lots of prebiotic supplements provide a dose of around four to five grams of fiber per day. If you take a prebiotic supplement, start out slowly and take one only once a day until you see how your body reacts to taking the supplement. If you find that gas or bloating occurs, then cut your dose in half until you can adjust. If you find the supplement suits you, you can up your intake. 


Lots of people choose to combine prebiotics with probiotics for even more benefits. Because probiotics are short-lived, prebiotics is sometimes added to probiotics to maintain their levels in the gut. This combination of pro-and prebiotics is called “synbiotic therapy" or "synbiotics."


Prebiotics For General Health

Research still ongoing, but it is widely thought that prebiotics will provide health benefits to the general population. These benefits include improved absorption of calcium, decreases in the risk of allergy, improved immune system defense, and other positive effects on the metabolism. 


Research continues on the full effects of prebiotics on gut health, metabolism, and certain diseases. Not all nutrition experts are have yet been able to confirm that consuming prebiotics or functional foods will boost specific health outcomes. 


Do Probiotics Work Without Prebiotics?

People usually assume that the only way to have more good bacteria in your gut is to ingest this good bacteria in the form of a probiotic supplement. From a very simple point of view, this does make a lot of sense.


If you look at the health news headlines about gut health, of course, that’s what you’ll think too. A quick search on Google will offer up page after page of results about probiotics and their benefits. This is because there’s a lot of money involved in probiotics. In particular, the dairy industry has been lobbying very hard to promote dairy-based probiotics such as acidophilus and lactobacillus. This hard lobbying doesn’t mean that raw or fermented dairy isn’t necessarily a good thing for you, but rather that the benefits of dairy probiotics has been inflated in a disproportionate way. Probiotics are often expensive, so there’s a real benefit for companies promoting them as the answer to all kinds of gut woes. 


However, in the majority of cases, adding new bacteria to your body to improve your current bacterial base doesn’t really work as advertised. The bacteria in your body are quite resistant to change.


Humans have been around for about 100,000–200,000 years. Probiotic supplements have been around for a couple of decades. Our bodies are well used to managing without these supplements and don’t always need the help. 20 years is a very short time for the body to adjust to some of these isolated strains of bacteria compounds found in probiotics supplements. Even if these supplements were, theoretically, better than the natural substances that we can consume to get probiotics naturally, our body might not be equipped to handle them because evolution doesn’t move that quickly.


Of course, none of this means that taking a probiotics supplement is a bad thing. They can be the ideal solution and supplement for certain situations and people. There’s still real value in taking probiotics after antibiotics, for example. Probiotics can also be very useful during periods of intensive travel too when your body is suddenly exposed to a new, not necessarily better or worse, but a different, bacterial base in an unfamiliar environment. If you’re traveling a lot, it can be a good idea to start taking probiotic supplements or adding a probiotic powder to a smoothie.


But otherwise, adding new bacteria in the form of probiotics to your body to improve your current bacterial base doesn’t work all that effectively without their sibling supplement. This is where prebiotics come in.


What Should I Look For In A Prebiotic?

Prebiotics can be taken in foods or in supplement form. Since prebiotics is non-digestible fibers (carbohydrates) they are found in lots of plant-based foods that provide the body with good nutrition. This means that when you increase your intake of prebiotic foods you gain all sorts of other health benefits from the other nutrition that they provide.


If you look for prebiotic supplements to support the prebiotics you get in your diet, then you might see certain terms on the label that identify the prebiotics that is offered by the product. Commonly consumed prebiotics include:

  • Fructans (inulin and fructooligosaccharides)
  • Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
  • Oligofructose (fructose)
  • Resistant starch

Oligosaccharides are the best-known prebiotics.


If you choose to buy a supplement, it is a good idea that you look for a Supplement Facts label on the product that you are going to buy. This label should contain some vital information including the amount of fiber per serving, and other added ingredients like fillers, binders, and flavorings.


Lastly, it is advised that you look for a product that contains a seal of approval from a third-party organization that provides quality testing. These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations won’t guarantee that the product is completely safe or effective but it does provide some level of assurance that the product has been properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.


Should I Take Kombucha?

Traditional kombucha is a great source of probiotics. Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir all contain live microorganisms. As kombucha is made through a process of fermentation, a number of probiotic bacteria are produced as it is made. At specific concentrations, probiotic bacteria can be very helpful to balance the gut microbiome in humans and improve digestion. Look for a kombucha with added prebiotics, so your body can make proper use of the probiotics. Get everything you need for better gut health in one drink. 


Kombucha is also very high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage that can be caused by free radicals. Free radicals are a normal by-product of various processes in the body. It is important to minimize the impact of these free radicals by having a diet that is rich in antioxidants. Tea, especially green tea, is rich in a group of antioxidants called polyphenols. It is also thought that the fermentation time has an impact on the antioxidant properties of kombucha. 


Wonder Drink

If you’re looking for a good, and tasty, prebiotic to add to your diet, then you can try the kombucha drinks from Wonder Drink Kombucha. Available in give different flavors, these drinks are your gut’s new best friend. They’re also vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO. 


Kombucha, and therefore the drinks from Wonder Drink, is a functional beverage that tastes great. Kombucha is made by fermenting sweetened teas, using friendly bacteria and yeast starter cultures. It also contains organic acid and tea polyphenols. Studies have shown that these have the ability to modulate gut microbiota and could potentially promote better gut health. All this can help you to have a healthy digestive system. 


With Wonder Drink, you get all the benefits of Kombucha, with the added benefit of a prebiotic, to help your body make better use of any probiotics that you supplement with and better support the good bacteria in your digestive system. The tasty flavors mean Wonder Drink will do you good, without feeling like a ‘health’ drink. 


You can buy Wonder Drink on our online store and see if we are on shelf in a store near you! If you want to learn more about the benefits of our prebiotic kombucha drinks, you can call us at (503) 224-7331 or email hello@wonderdrink.com. Our website is also packed with information about gut health and how our products can support your overall wellbeing.

 

Wonder Drink does not claim to carry any of the health benefits listed in the article.

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