We are hearing a lot about prebiotics and probiotics, whether it’s an ad for a supplement, an article in a magazine or a segment on the morning news show. So why are they so popular, and are they truly important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
First of all, we need to understand what they are.
The Mayo Clinic defines prebiotics as specialized plant fibers that act like fertilizers which stimulate good bacteria in the gut. They can be found in some fruits, vegetables and grains that contain complex carbs like fiber and resistant starch. Apple cider vinegar, which is made from fermented apples, is considered a prebiotic, as well as bananas, leeks, asparagus, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, whole grains and oats (not instant). Not sure if you can get these into your daily diet? There are also many supplements on the market that can provide the adequate daily dose. Check with your doctor for a recommendation.
Unlike prebiotics, Mayo Clinic explains probiotics contain live organisms, usually specific strains of bacteria, that increase the healthy microbes in the gut. Yogurt is the most common source, but other bacteria-fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi are also good sources. Probiotic supplements also contain live organisms and are often marketed toward specific concerns like irritable bowel syndrome. Because there are so many different kinds of supplements on the market, again it is best to consult with your doctor to decide what would be most beneficial.
So prebiotics and probiotics work together, creating good, helpful bacteria to maximize gut health. In addition to keeping the digestive system regular (which is a great benefit itself!), they may also help prevent yeast and urinary tract infections, as well as boost immunity to some viruses. If you’d like to learn more about getting prebiotics and probiotics into your daily diet, contact our Registered Dietitian, who can set up a plan customized to you!