Prebiotics and Probiotics by Cherice Bronte-Tinkew Registered Dietitian (RD)
You may have heard it on the radio or television or read it on a new and improved product. Is it a superfood? Is it something my body needs?
What are prebiotics and probiotics?
Prebiotics are compounds found in foods which help the growth and activity of probiotics in the body. Prebiotics are found in many fruits and vegetables which have fibre or resistant starch. These fibres and resistant starches are not digestible (not absorbed by the body) but pass through your digestive tract and provide food for these beneficial bacteria. The digestive tract includes our stomach and intestines. Examples of food sources with prebiotics include oats, bananas, onions, garlic, apples, soybeans and flaxseed.
Probiotics are the live organisms which are the beneficial bacteria. Basically, they keep everything peaceful in our digestive tract. They are also found in certain foods and supplements. You may have seen the words ‘live active cultures’ on a yogurt container. Yes, there they are! Ready to enter and add to the wonderful population of beneficial bacteria in your body. These bacteria help to balance things in the gut.
There has been on-going research about the different strains (types) of probiotics when it comes to digestion and diseases of the stomach or intestines. Most common names are Lactobacillus (or L. bacillus) and Bifidobacterium.
Probiotics may help in
- Boosting the immune system
- Stopping harmful bacteria from growing on the lining of your stomach
- Decrease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Stops diarrhea associated with the use of antibiotics
Most research have shown improvements for IBS patients. Probiotics such as Bifidobacterium infantis, Sacchromyces boulardii, Lactobacillus plantarum and a blend of these bacteria, may help with symptoms of IBS. Examples of food sources with probiotics include kefir, yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) and soft cheeses (cream cheese, feta, ricotta, brie).
Prebiotics and probiotics work together as a team. Prebiotics feed the probiotics which help to balance gut flora (aka those tiny organisms in your stomach which help with digestion). Please note persons may experience symptoms or side effects (such as upset stomach, mild diarrhea, gas etc.) with probiotic supplements. Persons who are diagnosed with IBS or other gastrointestinal problems should consult with a registered dietitian prior to use.