Do you need prebiotics if you take probiotics?
Prebiotics. Probiotics. What's the difference between them? Do you need them both?
These are important questions as we navigate our digestive health and try to make good choices based on what our body needs.
Let's start at the beginning. What are probiotics? Probiotics are living organisms, also known as the "good bacteria" that lives in our digestive tract. These good bugs help us digest food, manufacture certain nutrients, support strong immunity and even support our mental health via the Vagus nerve.
Many factors can influence these bugs. Our diet, stress level and any medications we may be taking play a role in shaping our gut bacteria. It is possible that, over time, the "good bacteria" may die off, creating opportunity for "bad bacteria to move in.
"Bad bacteria" is referred to as such because of how we feel when that kind of bacteria, yeast & fungus take over. Symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, loose stools, skin irritations, yeast infections and poor immunity can all be connected back to a proliferation of "bad" bacteria.
So, how do we keep our "good" bacteria abundant?
One way is to feed them! That's where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are the food that feeds our "good" bacteria. Eating a diet rich in both prebiotics and probiotics will help ensure we are putting good bacteria in our system and the food they need to thrive on.
Examples of probiotics rich foods are fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso, or yoghurt. Examples of prebiotic rich foods include onions, garlic, apples, oats and asparagus.
What about supplements? If you are supplementing with probiotics to support a health goal, should you ensure the formula includes prebiotics, too? Not necessarily. Some formulations will include prebiotics to feed the cultures in the supplements. Others will not.
Rest assured that however the product has been manufactured, stability testing has been done to ensure that you are getting the potency that is claimed on the product label.
If you generally eat a diet that includes fruit & veggies then you are likely consuming adequate prebiotics to feel your good bacteria but if you want to "top up" your prebiotic intake, a supplement of acacia fibre (an easy-to-take soluble fibre) is an excellent and palatable way to get more prebiotics into your system, while supporting good bowel health, as well. Win, win!