A recent client question regarding PROBIOTICS and PREBIOTICS spurred this blog. She was confused as to what all the hype surrounding these supplements was about and if they were something she needed to be concerned about.
First things first – good for her for questioning the media and not falling prey to the commercialization of nutrition. One of the first steps toward good health is education. Hopefully that is where I can be of help.
Our digestive system normally has what we would call “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. Maintaining a correct balance between the “good” bacteria and the “bad” bacteria is necessary for optimal health. Many different factors can disrupt this balance such as illness, medications, diet and the environment.
It is up to you and your doctor to decide if Probiotics are for you.
Here are some facts that may help you make an educated decision:
What are probiotics?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, probiotics are live microorganisms—usually bacteria, but they can also be microbes such as yeasts—that people can ingest to bolster the population of desirable bacteria in the gut. Probiotics exist naturally in some foods and are also available as dietary supplements in powder, capsule, and tablet forms. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations call probiotics the “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
In laymen’s terms – Probiotics can help balance out the bacteria that is necessary for normal gut function. Research has indicated that they may be helpful in such conditions as inhibiting yeast and urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal ailments such as diarrhea/constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
How do they protect the body against disease?
The favorable bacteria in the gut is constantly defending the body against “invaders” that if left unchecked may lead to illness. The thought is that by helping the gut’s good bacteria to grow and thrive by ingesting probiotics, it may help a person to defend their health.
What is a prebiotic?
The Prebiotic is a specialized plant fiber that beneficially nourishes the good bacteria that already exist in the gut. The body itself does not digest these plant fibers; instead, the fibers act as a fertilizer to promote the growth of many of the good bacteria in the gut. These, in turn, provide many digestive and general health benefits.
In a nutshell, pro and prebiotics work together to benefit a healthy balance.
What are some food sources of Pre and probiotics?
PROBIOTICS are found in foods such as yogurt and other cultured dairy products such as kefir. ( it is best to stick with plain yogurt as many of the flavored types are filled with sugar!)
PREBIOTICS are primarily found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic and honey. Some brands of yogurt will add the ingredient inulin to their product. This is an example of a prebiotic. It is an indigestible carbohydrate that can help with the already existing probiotic in the yogurt.
Probiotics and prebiotics are added to some foods and also available as dietary supplements.
Tips for selecting a Probiotic supplement:
I gleaned this info from Epoch Times:
BUYER BEWARE - The production of supplements in the United States is not monitored by the FDA. The responsibility of testing for safety and efficacy lies in the hands of the manufacturer—which can mean there are a lot of supplements out there making false claims.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Look for proof of participation with voluntary certification programs, like CL or GMP. CL stands for Consumer Lab, and their seal of approval will tell you the product has been tested for purity, strength, and safety. In addition, always check the expiration date and how the supplement needs to be stored. If it is sitting in your kitchen cabinet rather and needs to be in the fridge….. It is not going to do much good, is it?
Noreen’s bottom line: FOOD FIRST
Always take a food first approach. Regard supplementation as your insurance policy. The best way to get probiotics is to eat naturally probiotic rich foods. Try to include foods with beneficial bacteria, such as cultured vegetables (like kimchi and raw sauerkraut, which are lacto-fermented) and miso. Make sure these foods are not pasteurized and do not contain preservatives, like sodium benzoate, which will kill any beneficial bacteria.
The above information does not in any way replace the information that you will receive from your MD. It is always best to speak with your doctor before self treating any condition that may be concerning you.
To your health – Noreen