I am often asked about the benefits of including prebiotics and probiotics in the diet, so let’s talk it through here.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics come before the probiotic and helps the probiotic to thrive, the two then combine to have a synergistic effect, known as symbiotic. A prebiotic is actually a non-digestible carbohydrate that acts as food for the probiotic bacteria in a your gut. Most of the prebiotics identified are oligosaccharides. They are resistant to the human digestive enzymes that work on all other carbohydrates. This means that they pass through the upper GI system without being digested. They then get fermented in the lower colon and produce short-chain fatty acids that will nourish the beneficial microbiota that live there. Oligosaccharides can be synthesized or obtained from natural sources, such as Asparagus, artichoke, bamboo shoots, banana, barley, chicory, leeks, garlic, honey, lentils, milk, mustards, onion, rye, soybean, sugar beet, sugarcane juice, tomato, wheat, and yacón.
Choosing the right probiotic for you:
Because the different strains of probiotic bacteria have slightly different functions and are concentrated in various places along the digestive tract, probiotic supplements that contain multiple strains tend to be more effective overall than products containing an extremely high concentration of just one or two strains. This is because many strains work synergistically
Probiotic Species and Strains: What Are Their Differences?
Lactobacillus Species: The predominant and most important bacteria that reside in the small intestine are the Lactobacillus species. These species are responsible for producing lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose (the sugar in milk). They also collectively ferment carbohydrates in the gut, producing lactic acid as result of this process. Lactic acid helps create an acidic environment in the digestive tract, which discourages many unwanted microorganisms that thrive in an alkaline environment. Lactic acid also increases absorption of minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, and iron.
Strains include: L. acidophilus, L. fermentum, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. salivarius, L. gasseri, L. reuteri
What it supports: Overall digestion, nutrient absorption, relief from occasional cramping, gas, and diarrhea, immune health, urinary, vaginal health, detoxification, traveler’s diarrhea, oral health.
Bifidobacterium Species: Billions of Bifidobacterium line the walls of the large intestine (colon) and help ward off invasive harmful bacteria and other microorganisms, including yeast. Like the Lactobacillus strain, Bifidobacterium produce lactic acid, which provides up to 70 percent of the energy required by cells that line the intestinal wall, enhancing the natural protective barrier in the gut. Lactic acid also helps keep the pH of the large intestine acidic to discourage the growth of other bacteria. Bifidobacterium also produce B-complex vitamins and vitamin K. As we age, the numbers of Bifidobacterium found lining the large intestinal wall naturally begins to decline.
Strains include: B. bifidum, B. longum, B. infantis
What it supports: Overall digestion, nutrient absorption, relief from occasional diarrhea (particularly related to travel), detoxification, immune health, relief from occasional bloating and constipation.
Bacillus Species: Bacillus bacteria are rod-shaped, spore-bearing bacteria that produce lactic acid. Because it is a spore-bearing bacterium, it is highly resistant to heat, moisture, and light, making it highly resistant to stomach acid, and readily colonizes in the small intestine. Bacillus also resides in the body longer than other bacteria and is excreted slowly.
Strains include: B. coagulans
What it supports: Overall digestion, relief from occasional constipation, vaginal health
Streptoccocus Species: This probiotic species is found in the oral cavity’s mucus membranes and is known for its ability to produce BLIS (bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances), which inhibit the ability of other undesirable bacteria to grow.
Strains include: S. salivarius K12, S. Salivarius M18
What it supports: Overall oral health, immune health, healthy teeth and gums