From capsules and infused water to topical skincare and professional skin treatments we are seeing a rise in the use of prebiotics and probiotics. So what exactly is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics and is it a craze, or here to stay?
Regular probiotic intake has been shown to promote the healthy balance of gut bacteria which is linked to a wide range of health benefits such as; clear skin, weight loss, immune health, IBS, gut microbiota modulation and may even improve some mental conditions and heart health. But be warned, not all probiotic products are created equally.
Most probiotics (except for a select group) are likely to degrade until they reach the intestines, an environment that supports their growth.
The degradation process begins steadily from the moment they are manufactured. The process can be expedited by:
Moisture exposure (humidity)
Different brands of supplements and capsules contain anywhere from 1 to 30 billion colony forming units (CFU’s), which should be listed on the ingredients list of any product claiming therapeutic probiotic properties. If the product does not list the amount of colony forming units and the probiotic strains then it is likely that the product is of no therapeutic benefit. Most commonly produced probiotics are so fragile that approximately 90% of the bacteria will die before reaching the consumer. Also (depending on the strain used) some will be destroyed in the acidity environment of the intestinal tract. This is why high dose refrigerated probiotic supplements or capsules are recommended by professionals over probiotic foods or drinks to ensure that the probiotics that do survive are in high enough amounts to benefit the host.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that when taken can help improve gut health. But did you know that for probiotics to actually have an effect we need to create the right environment for the good gut bacteria to thrive?
For a visual representation, you can liken prebiotics and probiotics in our gut to planting plants in a garden. Imagine this; you carefully select a plant (probiotic) from a reputable supplier and intend to plant it in your garden without first considering the quality of your soil and the state of your garden's ecosystem (your gut). After some time the plant wilts and dies, and you wonder what you could have done to prevent it. Was it that the plant was destined to not survive? Was it because the environment wasn’t correct for the type of plant, or perhaps the garden was ridden with weeds? By firstly creating an improved ecosystem with nutrients (prebiotics) to support the plants growth there is a much better chance of survival.
In respect to ingesting prebiotics, a combination of all three could be the reason for inefficiency. In order to get the most out of taking probiotics first consider if the strain you are taking is infact the one your body needs. Secondly ensure that you choose a prebiotic that is active and thirdly consider that increasing your prebiotic intake is going to improve the state of the ecosystem and be able to nurture healthy living organisms within your gut.
This is where inulin prebiotics come in. Inulin is a fructan which is indigestible by our body, but the good bacteria in our gut flora flourishes in its presence and makes it stick to the bowel wall. Not only does it support probiotics, but Inulin also helps to improve absorption of minerals, and can also help satiate the appetite to aid in weight loss. Either available in powder form or from food sources such as chicory and Jerusalem artichokes found in Vita-sol Infinity and Purity wholefood powder.
Kailasapathy, K., & Chin, J. (2000). Survival and therapeutic potential of probiotic organisms with reference to Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp. Immunology and Cell Biology, 78(1), 80–8. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1711.2000.00886. http://www.nature.com/articles/icb200012
S Berman, D Spicer. Safety and Reliability of Lactobacillus Supplements in Seattle, Washington (A Pilot Study). The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine. 2003 Volume 1 Number 2.http://ispub.com/IJAM/1/2/5652#
Do Probiotics Need to Be Refrigerated?https://www.enviromedica.com/refrigerated-probiotics
Soil Based Organisms - Friend or Foe?https://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/blog/2015/06/soil-based-organisms-friend-or-foe