Prebiotics vs Probiotics

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Bioactive compounds are compounds that have an effect on living organisms, tissues or cells. They are non-essential and essential compounds that are found in small amounts in nature and specifically in plants and some foods. Consumption of bioactive compounds influences human health in different ways. Some examples of bioactive compounds are caffeine, favonoids, carnitine, choline and taurine.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: Classification and Differences

Probiotics are microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed. The term Probiotic is derived from Greek which literally means “for life”. Common genera of Probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Bacillus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Saccharomyces which are further divided into their own distinct species. These microorganisms exert biological effects through a phenomenon known as colonization resistance. Probiotic organisms need certain characteristics in order to exert maximum therapeutic effects. Some of these required characteristics are: gastric acid and bile salt stability, ability to adhere to the intestinal mucosa, and ability to colonize the intestinal tract.

Prebiotic compounds are short chain carbohydrates that cannot be digested by digestive enzymes in humans and selectively enhance the activity of some groups of friendly bacteria. The term Prebiotic means “before emergence of life”. In the intestine, Prebiotics are fermented by beneficial bacteria to produce short chains of fatty acids. Common Prebiotics include inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, lactulose and lafinose. Prebiotics being highly stable, remain unaffected either by temperature or long term storage. Consequently, they can be added to almost all types of foods, drinks or supplements without compromising their effectiveness. They are resistant to the body’s enzymes and acids and are not destroyed, digested or absorbed as they travel through your digestive system. They reach the colon unaltered and intact.

Food Sources of Probiotics

The most common Probiotic or "good" bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus can be found in a variety of dairy foods such as yogurt or kefir. Nondairy food products like tempeh and miso are also excellent sources of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Other sources of probiotics are non-pasteurized fermented foods like Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kombucha Tea and some types of pickles.

Food sources of Prebiotics

There are plenty of natural food sources of Probiotics. Prebiotics are types of fiber that are found in vegetables, fruits and legumes. These types of fiber cannot be digested by humans, but can be digested by your good gut bacteria. Common food sources of Prebiotics include legumes, beans, peas, berries, bananas, asparagus, leeks, onions and garlic.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Women’s Health

The vagina relies on a precarious balance of good and bad bacteria, just like the digestive tract. When that balance is disturbed, it can lead to of the two very common, though thoroughly uncomfortable infections: bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. As a matter of fact, bacterial vaginosis can actually result in a yeast infection. Studies have found that L. acidophilius can help prevent such infections. Probiotics also have a useful role in maternal health, as pregnant women are more susceptible to vaginal infections.

Urinary Health

For people who suffer from urinary tract infections, Probiotics make a nice complement to antibiotics according to the research. There is emerging evidence that regular Probiotics can help prevent bad bacteria from invading the urinary tract by maintaining a supply of healthy bacteria on the tract.

Immunity

One of the basic functions of good bacteria is to stimulate immune response. By eating foods rich in Probiotics and maintaining good intestinal flora, you can also help maintain a healthy immune system. In a small study of students, those who were given a fermented dairy drink (instead of milk) displayed increased production from lymphocytes which is a marker of healthy immune response.

Diarrhoea

Probiotic consumption can help reduce chances of diarrhea, studies suggest. A clinical review published in 2012 found that people who took Probiotics together with antibiotics were 42 percent less susceptible to develop diarrhea compared to those that took the placebo.

Health Benefits of Prebiotics

Cancer Prevention

One of the most common Prebiotics, inulin is believed to have several cancer preventing properties. Bifidobacteria helps digest inulin in the gut flora in order to produce short chain fatty-acids: acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. It is believed that these acids can help prevent certain forms of cancer within the intestine.

Better Regularity

When consumed, Prebiotic fibers reaches the large intestine fully intact. At this point, healthy bacteria are able to grow. This bacterial growth results in an increase in intestinal biomass. As a result of this rise in fecal bulk material, the weight of stools increase, and as a result the fecal frequency also increases with it. Improved bowel functions allow for better regularity. Even people who suffer from constipation will notice a significant improvement in regularity.

Lower Inflammation

Prebiotics plays a vital role in lowering the chances of inflammation, which is the root cause of many diseases. People who consume more Prebiotics, and eat a high-fiber diet, tend to have healthier cholesterol levels and lower risk markers for cardiovascular diseases. Prebiotics and probiotics are believed to be instrumental in improvement of metabolic processes that are tied to both obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Reduced Risk for Heart Disease

People who consume foods high in prebiotics can reduce glycation, which increases free radicals, and triggers inflammation and lowers insulin resistance. Prebiotics have a so-called hypo-cholesterolemic effect, improving the ability of the body to prevent ischemic heart diseases and autoimmune diseases. They also balance the body’s electrolyte and mineral levels, including potassium and sodium, which are responsible for controlling blood pressure.

Protection of Bone Health

Prebiotics may enhance the absorption of essential minerals such as magnesium, iron and calcium in the body, according to a study conducted in 2012. All of these are needed to retain strong bones and to reduce chances of fractures or osteoporosis.

Probiotics and Prebiotics are both crucial to the proper functioning of the human body. A regular intake of both is needed to maintain the optimum balance required for growth and metabolism. While consuming a lot of food sources of Prebiotics and Probiotics can get you closer to that level, it may still not be enough if you already have deficiencies. Natural food sources contain lower levels of bioactive compounds which is why it always helps to use supplements to complement your regular intake of Probiotics and Prebiotics.

 

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