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Both are equally important for your gut health, but in different ways!
Thanks to modern research, it’s common to see a lot of information recommending “probiotics” and “prebiotics” as being vital to the health of your intestines.
After all, both help the beneficial gut bacteria to flourish, which in turn improves not only your digestive health, but literally every other aspect of your wellbeing.
But if you’re not familiar with these two types of nutrients, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve prepared a full “101” for you on how probiotics and prebiotics will change your life and health in some very important ways!
What Are They Anyway?
Let’s start with the basics: defining what probiotics and prebiotics are.
Probiotics are live bacteria cultures that are found in a variety of foods. For example, sauerkraut, kimchi, and certain types of yoghurt contain these live bacteria cultures. They act as reinforcements for the bacteria already present in your gut, providing more bacteria to work digesting the food you eat and breaking down wastes.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates and fibers that your body isn’t capable of digesting. Instead of absorbing them into your bloodstream like the rest of the nutrients you eat, these carbs and fibers are sent on down the digestive tract. However, they’re not eliminated as waste, but serve as “food” for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are important for encouraging healthier gut bacteria, but they do so in different ways. Probiotics are actually live bacteria that help to bolster the number of bacteria in your gut, while prebiotics feed the existing gut bacteria and encourage them to multiply.
Ultimately, both help your gut bacteria to do its job more effectively, which in turn leads to better overall health. However, it’s the way that these two foods improve gut bacteria function that differs!
There are a number of foods that contain live bacteria cultures, which are “probiotics” to provide your intestines with more reinforcements. Most fermented foods contain live cultures, so you’ll find them at the top of the list of probiotic foods.
This list includes:
Probiotic yoghurt with live cultures (specifically labeled as such)
Unpasteurized pickles and pickled vegetables
Pretty much all fermented foods contain some form of bacteria—after all, it’s the bacteria that do the fermenting—but only unpasteurized fermented foods will be probiotic. (Pasteurization kills the bacteria.)
Prebiotic foods are actually incredibly easy to find! They tend to be high-fiber foods, though some contain more of the carbohydrates that nourish your gut bacteria.
A few of the foods that qualify as prebiotic are:
Legumes, including beans, lentils, and peas
Fruits, specifically bananas and berries, which have a high fiber content.
Vegetables, specifically Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, garlic, onions, dandelion greens, and asparagus.
These foods all contain the fiber that your body can’t absorb, but which serve as the food to your gut bacteria. By eating more of these foods, you provide your intestinal microbiota with the nutrients it needs to multiply and flourish.
There are a very few foods that contain both probiotics (live bacteria cultures) and prebiotics (nutrients that feed the gut bacteria), and they fall into a category called “symbiotic foods”. They’re doubly effective, and they are amazing for improving your health.
Sauerkraut is one of those foods, thanks to the bacteria that fermented the cabbage and the high fiber content of the cabbage that acts as food for your gut bacteria. Certain types of cheese also qualify, thanks to their milk sugar (lactose) content. Kefir is another symbiotic food that is both fermented and rich in sugars that feed your gut bacteria.
The Importance of Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods and Supplements
As you’ve no doubt seen in recent years, science is coming to a much clearer understanding of just what our gut bacteria does for our body. Not only does it play a role in digestion, but it’s linked to nearly every other aspect of human health—from brain function to immunity to mental health. Gut bacteria are particularly important for your colon health, and they play a role in reducing both inflammation and cancer risk.
That’s why it’s so important that you consume the probiotics that act as reinforcements and prebiotics that feed your gut bacteria. By keeping your gut bacteria healthy and functioning at optimum capacity, you keep your entire body working smoothly.
Probiotic and prebiotic foods are readily available all over the country—and the world. Nearly every country has its own variation on fermented foods that contain live bacteria cultures, and there are plenty of fruits, legumes, and veggies available in every country. You should have no problem finding both probiotic and prebiotic foods wherever you are.
However, sometimes it’s good to consider taking a supplement to guarantee that you’re delivering the gut bacteria and bacteria-feeding nutrients your body needs. Probiotic supplements will contain live bacteria cultures (of the specific types found in your gut), and they’ll deliver them in a time-release capsule that will ensure the bacteria live through the stomach’s digestive acid to reach the intestines, where they can flourish.
Prebiotic supplements contain high levels of the indigestible fiber that feeds your gut bacteria, and they’re amazing for helping you to improve your health overall. In some cases, like with our Flat Belly Tea (which contains acacia fiber, one of the best-quality prebiotics around), they can even help with weight loss as well as improving digestion.
If you’re looking to improve your health and wellness, it’s definitely a good idea to look into both probiotic and prebiotic foods and supplements. They can ensure maximum gut health and help you to keep the bacteria in your intestines strong, healthy, and working at full capacity to protect your body.
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