Let's cut to the chase; people are over-hype probiotics while prebiotics sits in the corner. Nobody puts prebiotics in the corner.
What are Prebiotic & Probtiocs?
Prebiotics: are like fertilizer - they feed the bacteria and fungi in our gut. If you want to get technical, they are a non-digestible food that changes the microflora ecosystem towards a healthier one and improves overall health. You go, Glen Coco.
Most common forms & food sources:
fructooligosaccharides (FOS): Garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, Rye, Dandelion, Barley, Asparagus, Leek, Banana, Burdock, Yacon
Inulin powder is a FOS
lactulose: UHT milk, goats
galactooligosaccharides (GOS): cow's milk
I see so many people hate dairy on IG, which is most likely because they don't know or understand its prebiotic compound. In fact, lactulose is incredibly healing for the gut .If dairy is well tolerated, it can be great for gut health. Many people can tolerate goats' products. When it comes to cows milk, people often have trouble with the milk proteins or other factors in cow’s milk than the actual lactose. Who can benefit from prebiotics?
We can ALL benefit from PREBIOTICS! I always suggest food first. If you wish to add in an inulin power, please start low and go slow. Not everyone will build up a tolerance. Also, in certain GI disorders, inulin can have negative side effects.
If you have trouble with fiber, more is not always better. Try cooking your veggies, start slow, and do not overwhelm your system. Think of cooking as the act of digestion outside of the body.
What about powders?
If we are talking prebiotic fibers, we're talking inulin. If you want to add it in, please go slow and low. I have this cause SERIOUS bloating with clients. I suggest starting with a gentler fiber below and "graduating" to this one. But I cannot stress this enough; not everyone can tolerate this. It has become so trendy on social media.
I like to add fiber powders like acacia (not a prebiotic fiber, but still great!). This is great for bowel movements. Other fibers include slippery elm, pectin, psyllium husks, and guar gum - they are all colonic foods and can be great for gut health, but as always it really depends on the person. Start slow and go low if you choose to include. Think 1 tsp and work your way up to 1 tbsp.
Probiotics They are the live guys - the friendly bacteria! Most of them live in our gut.
If you want to get technical, they are 'live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host' (Hill et al., 2014)
They come in many forms, yogurts, drinks to powders, capsules, tablets, and oils.
Fermented foods include non-medicinal yogurts, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. I aim to include one serving per day. Kimchi is my JAM.
What about the pills?
They can temporarily colonize in the gut, and they are clinically back, meaning studies show they are helpful in DIAGNOSED conditions. Think of them like a car - they drive in fight over a parking spot with "bad" bacteria. They take that spot and block the bad guys.
So if you're dealing with IBS, SIBO, Crohn's, UC, etc., we have actual studies that show probiotics to be very helpful! For healthy individuals, they may not do much. We need more research.
Think of probiotics like dogs. Dogs are species just like probiotics. Within the species of dogs, you have all different breeds from labs to beagles to chihuahua and dachshund, same with probiotics. We have all different strains with funny, long names.
Let's say you work crazy long hours and are never home; you probably would not get the kind of dog I have, a German short-haired pointer. She is high energy and requires A LOT of exercises. You might want a dachshund, right?
Same for probiotics. When selecting a probiotic, you want to select the right strain (s). If you want to do more research, I suggest using the Probiotic Advisor. When pulling research, practitioners are looking at the strains that were shown to improve certain disorders. These strains do specific functions. Please note, certain strains can have negative impacts on certain conditions. I cannot advise on certain supplements unless you are an existing client. If you have a designated condition, working with a practitioner can be very helpful.
What if you are healthy and taking a probiotic?
That's fine! To be honest, it is probably not doing much. I don't normally recommend clients take a probiotic just to take one.
How you take a probiotics matters!
I STRONGLY suggest you take it right before or with a meal containing some sort of fat (chia & flaxseed are fats) . I see many people taking it on an empty stomach, but we have actual research that shows taking a probiotic with a meal increases the survival rate. Taking a probiotic with food can buffer the pH of the stomach, so the bacteria can survive much better and for longer! Your stomach has a pH of around 2/2.5 when empty, which decrease the survival rate, and with food, the pH increase to around 4/4.5
Takeaway: I am pro prebiotic and probiotic, but for most healthy clients, prebiotics is all they need.
I suggest slowly increasing your fiber and prebiotic-rich foods for most people. Stop overcomplicating things - think fruits and veggies. I also recommend adding in some fermented foods.
This blog post is for educational purposes only. Please consult with the physician before starting a new health routine.