There is more knowledge surrounding probiotics than there is for prebiotics. Both are forms of functional food, yet the former is more widely known about than the latter. Prebiotics have potential benefits like probiotics, but they are different.
What Are Prebiotics?
A form of functional food, prebiotics are specialised plant fibres that nourish good bacteria already present in the gut. Although they are like probiotics, this is where the similarity ends. The function of probiotics is to introduce beneficial bacteria to the gut, whereas prebiotics help the gut bacteria that are already present. Essentially, their function is to help what is already present to grow; thus, improving good bacteria to outweigh the bad bacteria. Having a healthy, well-functioning gut has been proved to have a direct link with positive overall health and well-being.
Aren’t They Just Like Probiotics?
Another way these functional foods differ from probiotics is that they cannot be digested by the body. They are a non-digestible ingredient found in certain foods. Probiotics are much more delicate in comparison. Quite often, they don’t make it to the gut because the bacteria have been killed by the heat and acid within the stomach. Because prebiotics can’t be digested, they are able to reach the gut and large intestine to work effectively.
The Perfect Match
It is safe to consume both probiotics and prebiotics together. In fact, given their overall functions, it makes sense for consumers to take them together. The prebiotics can promote a healthy environment within the gut so that the bacteria introduced by probiotics have a better chance of thriving.
Supplements are Probably the Best Way to Go
Being consistent when ingesting these functional foods is the best way to receive maximum benefit. Prebiotics can be found in a lot of fruits and vegetables such as: apples, bananas, onion, leeks and beans. They can also be found in other food items like: garlic, oats and wheat. However, to receive any real benefit, approximately 25 grams of prebiotics needs to be eaten. Understandably, such a daily intake is extremely difficult to maintain; especially since the appropriate foods only contain small amounts. As a result, taking supplements as part of a balanced diet may be a better option.
Further Research Is Needed
Regarding the claimed health benefits, evidence is stronger for some claims than others. Much like probiotics, there is much more human research that is required to find significant evidence of the existence of such health claims. Currently, claims of aiding mineral absorption and improving the function of immune system are the most promising results so far.
Prebiotics and probiotics both use different processes to achieve a similar result which is to aid the development of good bacteria in the gut. However, further research is required to back up the health claims that have been made.
If you think you’d benefit from consuming prebiotics, it is more advisable to consult a doctor first. Although, if you’re consuming a varied and balanced diet you may not need to improve your gut health. To be sure, consult a healthcare professional first.