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Prebiotic vs probiotic: digesting the differences

When comparing prebiotic vs probiotic, which will help your digestion most? Probiotics have been hogging the spotlight recently. But don’t you need prebiotics – since it starts with “pre” – for the probiotics show to go on?

Prebiotic vs probiotic: understanding the onus of each

prebiotic vs probiotic

More health professionals have begun recommending probiotics as a daily supplement for people of all ages. But they recommend taking probiotics especially when also taking antibiotics.

That’s because probiotics are the good bacteria found naturally in your gut flora, that is if they haven’t been killed off by taking too many antibiotics. Maybe that’s the meaning behind the “anti”. Other factors such as stress, birth control pills and more affect the amount of probiotics in our guts. Read more in my article “What you should know about probiotics for women, men and kids”.

You can replenish probiotics by eating foods including kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and yogurt. But these good bacteria are sensitive to heat and stomach acid, and don’t always survive the journey to your colon, where they’re needed. This is why some doctors recommend taking a probiotic supplement daily.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of fiber and serve as food for the probiotics in your gut flora. Prebiotics pass through your upper digestive tract undigested and collect in your colon where they are fermented by your gut flora.

So if your body lacks probiotics, it makes sense to add those to your diet first. Then consider adding prebiotics to help fuel your body’s probiotics and keep your gut flora in balance.

Why is our digestion so out of whack anyway?

According to “Feeling the burn?” in “Health and Happiness” (Lucky’s Market, November 2016), proper digestion requires stomach acid plus enzymes which occur naturally in many foods. These enzymes cause the foods to ripen, and eventually rot. But also mentioned in the article, about 40 years ago, food processors realized that destroying those enzymes would slow the natural rotting process and increase shelf life.

This is why processed foods are so bad for us, and why whole (live) foods are vital to our health!

Add the harmful long-term effects of antacids and other digestive medicines to our out-of-balance guts, and prebiotics vs probiotics becomes a draw. We desperately need both.

How you do naturally build up prebiotics in your body?

Similar to probiotics, depending on how depleted your system is, you may not be able to get enough prebiotics from foods, in which case you can take a supplement.

However, here are some tasty foods that will give you a prebiotic punch:

  • Acacia gum (gum arabic)
  • raw asparagus
  • raw dandelion greens
  • raw chicory root
  • raw garlic (add to hummus or dip)
  • raw Jerusalem artichoke
  • raw jicama
  • raw leeks
  • onion (raw or cooked)
  • under-ripe bananas

Getting your gut flora back into balance with the help of prebiotics may help:

  1. reduce inflammation, therefore reducing chronic conditions or diseases.
  2. boost your immune function.
  3. maintain healthier cholesterol levels.
  4. reduce indigestion and other digestive issues.
  5. balance your hormones (think thyroid, weight, mood, etc).

When contemplating prebiotic vs probiotic, choose healthy food sources of each. Talk with your doctor about supplementing. And cut out the processed foods that continue to sabotage your hard work to feel healthier.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 







healthier eaters blog

What you should know about probiotics for women, men and kids

Are you gearing up for spring break? Heading somewhere snowy or sunny or enjoying some time at home? Especially if traveling, you will want to pack the probiotics. Or make that your first pit stop after arriving at your destination.

Why you should make probiotics a priority

Probiotics are the good bacteria that help crowd out the bad bacteria, fungi and yeast in your digestive tract. And 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, according to “Probiotics Benefits, Foods and Supplements” by Dr Axe. This is why you need to take care of your guts!

So what affects the amount of probiotics produced by your body? You may be surprised.

Antibiotics, for one. While taking antibiotics will kill off the bad bacteria in your body, it will also kill off the good bacteria.

I learned this lesson the hard way, by taking antibiotics several times a year during college when I would get “sinus infections”, which were probably caused by my horrific diet and refusal to listen to my body. Eesh.

In the past 18 years though, I’ve taken antibiotics just 2-3 times. I learned that I could opt out of them during childbirth. I learned to use homeopathic remedies instead of antibiotics when the kids got ear aches or infections, which disappeared almost completely once I stopped feeding them baby cereals.

So please, take the lesson from me. You have other options besides antibiotics, such as essential oils, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies and so many more.

For times when you absolutely need antibiotics, you should definitely add probiotics to your diet.

Antibiotics aside, lots of other factors influence the probiotics in your body, such as:

  • consuming food additives, food colorings and sugars (sugars increase yeast).
  • drinking water with chlorine or fluoride.
  • using antibacterial soaps and products.
  • inhaling air pollution.

If your naturally occurring probiotics get depleted, your intestinal flora can get imbalanced, leading to inflammation – the root of many evils. These evils may surface in your guts, as bloating, diarrhea, lactose intolerance, irritated bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or leaky gut syndrome, which is what inspired my book.

Or the evils might surface as depression, chronic skin issues, thyroid issues, vaginal yeast infections and autoimmune disorders.

How you can add probiotics to help boost your immune system

You should consider taking probiotics if you have any chronic symptoms or if you have irregular bowel movements (regular = going at least once per day). You should also take them while traveling, when you’re taking antibiotics, if you’re feeling run-down or constantly exposing yourself to the probiotic “depletors” listed above.

More doctors are advising patients to take them daily, even long-term. Given my gut health, that’s what I am doing. I have also given my kids probiotics daily since they were babies.

probiotics sauerkrautFor a baby, you can use ¼ teaspoon of probiotic powder daily on the nipple if nursing or mixed into the bottle. Later, you can add that same amount to your kid’s cold or room-temperature foods, since heat will destroy the probiotic organisms.

When shopping for a quality probiotic supplement, Dr. Axe recommends looking for the following (his article goes into more detail if you love detail!):

  1. a high CFU count, from 15 billion to 100 billion.
  2. strains like bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
  3. “Live and active cultures” instead of “made with active cultures”.

You can also add these probiotic foods to your diet:

  • unsweetened organic goat, sheep or coconut yogurt
  • kimchi
  • some sauerkraut
  • some aged cheeses
  • kefir
  • kombucha
  • organic miso
  • Sicilian green olives
  • taro root

Just be sure they are fermented without vinegar or added sugars and non-pasteurized versions, which will be in the refrigerated sections at stores.

How much probiotics is too much?

Some experts advise that if you have an autoimmune disorder, to consult your doctor before taking probiotics. Dr. Andrew Weil says to avoid probiotics if you’re allergic to lactobacillus, acidophilus, bifidobacterium, or Streptococcus thermophiles.

If the probiotics seem to make you gassy or give you loose stools, you may need to reduce the amount you’re taking or switch brands.

Probiotics help so many health issues! In this overly stressed and busy, chemically-laden world we live in, we should all consider taking them.

And if you’re heading to spring break soon? Where you’re likely to get less sleep, drink unfamiliar water and eat less healthily? Then yes, pack your bags with probiotics you’ve tested and know work for you. Give your immune system a boost!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.