Many of us are familiar with the term probiotics, the ‘good bacteria’ found in a healthy gut. Less well known is the term prebiotic, the food that these beneficial bacteria thrive on. If you’re wondering why we’re talking about the difference between prebiotics and probiotics then read on.
Prebiotic or Probiotic? What are the differences?
Probiotics are live bacteria found in dairy products like yogurts, and other fermented foods. These probiotic strains can be also delivered in pill form – prescribed to help treat the side effects of antibiotic medication.
Although proven to help manage gastrointestinal conditions, these types of probiotic living organisms are often less effective than prebiotic supplements.
Getting enough probiotics to make a difference can be a big challenge. Any probiotics you consume need to survive the heat and acid conditions in the stomach. And for those who don’t consume dairy, it is almost impossible to eat adequate amounts of probiotics without supplementation.
What is considered ‘good bacteria’ varies from person to person. A bacterial strain beneficial for some people, could have a detrimental effect or have no effect at all.
Strains commonly believed to have a positive effect on gut health include;
- Bifidobacterium, found in foods such as yoghurt and fermented milk
- Streptococcus Thermophilus, helps fend of harmful pathogens in the gut
- Lactobacillus, part of the lactic acid bacteria group helping convert sugars to lactic acid
- Lactococcus, used as a starter bacteria in the fermentation of cheese
However, some scientists worry that probiotics are not as helpful to health as we have been made to believe. A study in 2019 found that melanoma sufferers were 70% less likely to respond to cancer immunotherapy if supplementing with probiotic bacteria.
The study was conducted by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco.
“We wanted to bring this to the forefront of people’s minds: That probiotics sold over the counter aren’t necessary,” said Dr. Jennifer Wargo, lead author of the study and an associate professor of surgical oncology at MD Anderson. “They may not help you, and might even harm you.”
Demand for probiotics is increasing, based on a belief that supplementing with specific strains of bacteria, consumers are able to ‘self-correct’ their gut microbiome and improve their health. The issue may lie in the imbalance in gut microflora this creates, with one or two strains of bacteria becoming predominant in a system which prefers a natural balance.
While the vast majority don’t experience side effects, the most common reaction to probiotic supplements is a temporary increase in gas and bloating.
Those taking yeast-based probiotics may experience constipation and increased thirst. It is not known exactly why some people experience these side effects, but they typically subside after a few weeks of continued use.
If side effects continue for more than a few weeks, stop taking the probiotic and consult a medical professional.
Prebiotics are non-living, non-digestible forms of soluble dietary fiber. They naturally occur in fruits and vegetables, but can also be taken in the form of nutritional supplements.
It is possible to find prebiotics in many everyday foods including onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, and bananas. However, in order to experience any meaningful health benefits from these sources, you would have to consume large portions.
Prebiotics easily survive the heat and acid conditions in the stomach to which probiotics are so vulnerable.
Prebiotics stimulate the growth and activity of your own “good” probiotic bacteria in your large intestine. Instead of introducing additional probiotic bacteria, prebiotics act as a kind of natural fertiliser, improving the ‘good to bad’ bacteria ratio in your gut.
Prebiotics have a number of key functions, making them an essential part of a balanced healthy diet;
- Stimulating the growth and reproduction of only useful microflora
- Helping maintain an optimal pH in the intestine
- Stimulating local immunity
- Removing excess mucus from the walls of the small intestine
- Reducing the formation of gasses in the gut
- Suppressing the reproduction of pathogenic bacteria in the gut
- Stimulating peristalsis, helping keep things moving in your gut
- Improve the work of the digestive system, helping you extra nutrients from the food you consume
Gut health has been shown to have a direct impact on your overall health – from your stomach to your brain to your skin cells!
Prebiotics are also resistant to the body’s gastric acids and enzymes. They are far less likely to be destroyed, digested or absorbed as they pass through your digestive system – reaching the colon intact and unaltered.
Prebiotics are also known to increase bone density, strengthen the immune system, and improve bowel regularity. They can also help you get rid of spots, a common skin condition often linked to poor diet.
Improve your gut flora… for a clearer complexion!
Did you know an important difference between prebiotics and probiotics is that prebiotics can boost your transit system which in turn helps you achieve clear skin? A healthy gut that regularly rids the body of toxins, bacteria, and fungus is yet one more way to ensure your complexion is flawless.
Increasingly, research is pointing to gut health as a key factor in immune health. which in turn shows great potential as an effective acne treatment.
Developing a healthy digestive system full of a balance of beneficial bacteria (your gut microbiome) is recognised as a step towards all-over clear skin. It may not be something that you would associate with your beauty regime, but as we’re always being told: “You are what you eat”. A regularly, well-flushed body means there are fewer toxins to be expelled via your skin – another factor to rank alongside the causes of acne.
Whilst the prebiotic fiber Oligofructose occurs naturally in lots of plants and vegetables, the chicory root has one of the highest percentages. This is the source of prebiotics we use in our PRAVENAC help: clear skin spot treatment dietary supplement formulation. With natural Oligofructose, PRAVENAC help: clear skin™ is clinically proven to reduce the appearance of spots and blemishes.
Data from clinical trials show that we should consume five grams of prebiotic fiber per day for optimum digestive health. This amount of soluble fiber gently assists in the expelling of yeast and fungus from your body. The results is a reduction in toxins being excreted through your skin and potentially causing outbreaks.
A daily dose of Oligofructose, one of the vital ingredients in PRAVENAC help: clear skin, ensures you are looking after your skin from the inside.
You may be one of the 1 in 10 people who suffer from a poor digestive system, and have a diet lacking in prebiotics. If this is the case, then one sachet per day of PRAVENAC help: clear skin can provide a boost of these much-needed nutrients.
Do be careful not to consume an excess of prebiotics. Large amounts of prebiotic fiber can cause proliferation of gut bacteria resulting in an excess of gas in the intestine.
The most common side-effects of prebiotics are abdominal bloating and discomfort, occurring when large doses are consumed.
If you find you are experiencing abdominal discomfort and bloating, you should reduce the dose of prebiotics you are consuming.
If you are taking a supplement its important to adhere to the recommended dosages of any product, a larger dosage is not always beneficial.