What is a Probiotic and a Prebiotic?17.05.21
Dr. Param Jit Singh
Probiotics is what you HAVE. Prebiotics is what you have to TAKE.
Probiotics has been part of us from the time we are born. This is what you already HAVE.
And like whatever you have, it stays good if you look after it.
So, what is Probiotics and how do you look after it?
Probiotics are trillions of good, beneficial and live microbes made of
bacteria and yeasts that naturally live in our gut, mostly in large colon, and are known as microbial genome or microbiome.
We have, in fact more microbes in our body than the human cells thus we are more of microbes than humans!
These help our bodies to break down food and nourishes cells that line out gut and protect it from harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi thus providing various other health benefits.
There are two main groups of these - Bacteroides and Firmicutes.
Extensive research has been done which shows that these have significant health benefits.
There are studies which have shown that it can make cold last for shorter duration and can improve our response to vaccines.
Probiotics enhance our immune system to help fight infection and downgrade allergenic response.
They also reduce incidence of diarrhoea when taking antibiotics and travelling abroad
They help with serious gut infection like Clostridium difficile as well helping those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Food with similar live bacteria has always been made by human beings and can be taken as food or dietary supplements.
These should normally be kept in the fridge so that bacteria are alive and well when ingested thus helping us.
Not all fermented food are Probiotics. To be considered Probiotics it has to have sufficient living bacteria like Lactobacillae and Bifidobacteria which has been proven to be beneficial to health.
Again, we are all different and if after taking something you have unpleasant side effects or symptoms you should not take it any more without consulting your health professional.
Probiotics are found both in plant and dairy products.
Yogurt, cultured mild, cheese, Kefir are diary based.
If you have lactose intolerance or vegan then you should take non diary probiotics like Sauerkraut or Kimchi which are made from fermented cabbage. Fermented and pickled vegetables are a good source too.
Tempeh, Natto and Miso are soy based fermented probiotics.
Beverages like Kombucha, a fermented tea, Beet Kvass or water kefir are good source of probiotics too.
Sourdough is another source of probiotics, but it does contain some gluten and for those suffering from coeliac disease it might not be a good choice.
The bottom line is -if you have a microbiome which is optimised then your immune system is optimised and you have hit the optimum.
Prebiotics you have to TAKE.
You cannot make these in your body and has to take
Prebiotics are non-digestible complex carbohydrates-dietary fibre, that are fermented in the gut yielding energy and short chain fatty acids which promote the growth of Lactobacillae and Bifidobacteria as well as stimulate immune system and strengthen the gut wall.
Nature has been very kind to us and has given many of these foods in abundance.
These are high in fibre and cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes. These are like, artichokes, asparagus, bananas, chicory, various berries, tomatoes, garlic, onions, legumes, green vegetables, root and tuber crops as well as some fruits, and whole grain cereals.
Prebiotics can also be manufactured and added into foods or as dietary supplements
Eating the right balance of both prebiotics and probiotics establishes a healthy gut microbiome. This keeps you safe as well as provide above mentioned health benefits. The use of prebiotics and probiotics together is called microbiome therapy and the products containing both are known as symbiotics.
Knowing Probiotics and Prebiotics certainly helps to take the right steps towards a healthy living.
“Almost all our health concerns can be traced back to our belly. Ensure a healthy gut and the rest will take care of itself.” ― Behzad Azargoshasb
About the Author: Dr. Param Jit Singh
"I am a retired medical doctor who worked as a General Practitioner in England for over 40 years. My practise has always been to pass on the best advice to my patients that will improve their wellbeing, often in a written format so they can keep and refer back to it.
Sometimes this advice is based on previous medical experiences but it can also come from medical books, current government approved medical guidelines and protocols or as advice articulated by other doctors.
I do not claim that every line of this article is my original work but it is put together here by me in this format so that it is concise, easier to understand and follow and can help you improve your knowledge and wellbeing too."