If you search the internet on how to increase immunity, lower inflammation, improve health, and enhance digestion, you will probably find numerous articles on the importance of probiotics and prebiotics. Although probiotics and prebiotics sound remarkably similar, they do completely different things. Throughout this article, you will learn the difference between the two, how they impact your health, and why you need to include both in your diet.
Keeping your digestive and immune system healthy is vitally important. When these two systems are functioning properly, the body is better able to fend off illness and disease. Integrative Therapeutics offers targeted digestive control and live, active cultures to help proliferate the number of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are living, beneficial bacteria that reside in your digestive tract. When people hear the word bacteria, they normally think of bad bacteria that cause illness and disease; however, there are also good bacteria (probiotics) that help with digestion, improve skin health, promote urinary and vaginal health, improve oral health, and enhance immunity.
The two most common probiotic classes are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus is typically found in fermented foods. Bifidobacterium is found in certain dairy products. Lactobacillus helps the body absorb nutrients, break down food, and fight off dangerous bacteria and organisms that can cause diarrhea and other diseases. Conversely, Bifidobacterium relieves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, reduces inflammation in the body, and boosts immunity.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are food used to fuel the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Prebiotics are located in the lower digestive tract. Prebiotics are found in a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, including apples, berries, garlic, green vegetables, oats, tomatoes, and wheat. Prebiotics may also be added to foods. Certain foods, including yogurt, cereal, bread, cookies, and baby formula can be fortified with prebiotics. You can also take a prebiotic supplement to feed the probiotics in your digestive tract.
In addition to feeding your healthy bacteria, prebiotics can keep your digestive tract healthy, improve gut motility to reduce the risk of constipation, decrease the risk of blood sugar spikes, and help the body absorb calcium. Prebiotics are fibrous fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that provide the nutrients the beneficial bacteria in the body need to flourish.
What reduces the number of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract?
Your diet, lifestyle, and things in the environment can impact your gut health. If you do not eat a wide variety of foods, your gut flora can be altered. Including a variety of whole foods helps to replenish the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. If you do not consume enough prebiotics, your digestive tract can become unbalanced. Some examples of prebiotic foods are bananas, oats, beans, apples, and nuts can reduce systemic inflammation and feed healthy bacteria.
Chronic alcohol consumption can decimate the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. In addition to alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut. Stop smoking and reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption to improve your gut health.
Sleep deprivation occurs when your body does not get the amount of sleep that it needs to function properly. Most experts agree that healthy adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. If you are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, bad bacteria can begin to outnumber good bacteria, resulting in gut dysbiosis.
Another thing that can destroy healthy bacteria is antibiotic usage. Antibiotics clear up bacterial infections. Unfortunately, antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria. Taking a probiotic supplement can help to restore beneficial bacteria and reduce the side effects of gut dysbiosis.
Stress can overwhelm your body. When you are under chronic or severe stress, the body pumps out stress hormones which can increase inflammation in the body, reduce blood flow, and alter the bacteria in the digestive system.
A sedentary lifestyle can impact the health of your digestive tract. When you do not get enough daily physical activity, systemic inflammation can occur, which can reduce good bacteria in the body. For best results, get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
How to improve your gut health
There are several things that you can do to improve your gut health. First, eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grains. These prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria in the digestive tract. Take a probiotic supplement and eat fermented foods like kimchi, tempeh, kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt. Practice proper sleep hygiene to improve your sleep and ensure your body is getting the rest that it needs for optimal health. Finally, reduce your stress levels through exercise and stress reduction techniques like meditation, prayer, and guided imagery.
The bacteria residing in your gastrointestinal tract can impact your overall health and wellness. If this delicate balance becomes disrupted, it can lead to decreased immunity, systemic inflammation, yeast infections, and an increased risk of illness. Following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular checkups can ensure your gut flora is balanced and healthy. If you are experiencing chronic constipation, diarrhea, reduced immunity, digestive problems, and systemic inflammation, a functional doctor can help by recommending lifestyle and dietary modification to help balance the bacteria in the digestive tract.