Lately, it seems like everyone active in health and nutrition circles has been talking about prebiotics and probiotics, and those are not simply buzzwords. The reason people are suddenly talking about these essential microbes is that the science concerning gut microbiota has improved significantly in recent years, so there’s more knowledge now about how microbiota impact overall health. Prebiotics and probiotics both form vital parts of the gut microbiome, so they’ve been getting most of the attention because they deserve it.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are non-digestible nutrients that feed helpful bacteria in the gut. These naturally occurring substances are found primarily in plant-based foods and usually come in the form of specific types of dietary fiber.
Whether people get their prebiotics through supplements like those available at BiOptimizers or through food sources alone, these food components are essential to promoting improved gastrointestinal (GI) health and even enhancing calcium absorption. Examples of good food-based sources of prebiotics include:
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria found in the gut. As with prebiotics, they can be found in certain types of foods, especially fermented foods, and also in supplement form. You can see some of the best probiotic supplements for women at The Nutrition Insider.
Currently, researchers believe that lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are the most important types of probiotics, but live-cultured foods often contain other types of beneficial microbes as well. Examples of plant-based probiotic foods include:
- Live-cultured yogurt
How Prebiotics and Probiotics Work Together to Promote GI Health
Prebiotics and probiotics work best when they’re consumed together. The prebiotics act as an essential food source for the probiotic bacteria that populate a healthy person’s gut. Incorporating foods that contain both prebiotics and probiotics can help to improve GI health, so try combinations like stir-fried asparagus alongside tempeh or bananas mixed into live-cultured yogurt.
When to Supplement Prebiotics and Probiotics
Experts often recommend trying to incorporate enough prebiotics and probiotics into the diet to meet daily needs, but that’s not always realistic. Most Americans don’t eat enough fibrous plant-based foods, for example, which means they don’t get as many prebiotics as they need to nourish a healthy gut microbiome. Everyone should aim to consume around 30g of fiber per day to support optimal gut health, but if that’s not possible for some reason, it may be worth taking prebiotic supplements.
When it comes to consuming sufficient amounts of probiotics, the stakes are even higher. These living organisms can be out-competed by harmful bacteria following antibiotic treatment or as a result of acute or chronic dietary or health issues. When that happens, the best way to restore the gut microbiome to a healthy state is to take probiotic supplements designed to repopulate the gut with specific strains of beneficial bacteria. Just keep in mind that probiotics should always be refrigerated because heat can kill them.
Get on the Path to Better Health
Everyone needs both prebiotics and probiotics to maintain a healthy gut microbiome, but many Americans don’t get enough of these essential nutrients and microbes from food alone. If it’s not possible for someone to add sufficient plant-based foods and fermented dairy products to his or her diet, supplements are a good alternative. Just make sure to buy them from a reputable vendor.