What are probiotics?

Probiotics versus Prebiotics

A healthy colon is one that is populated with strong healthy numbers of good or ‘Probiotic’ bacteria. If your levels of probiotics are poor and the not so healthy bugs have been able to become more established then you are likely to experience wind and bloating after eating. With food processing, pollution and antibiotic therapy, numbers of good bacteria occurring naturally in our gut are reduced, and research has shown, by actively consuming the bacteria, the size of the colonies in the gut can be increased, which improves digestion. Moreover, the numerous studies have also shown that with optimal numbers of good bacteria, the immune system is improved, increasing our ability to fight disease.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live strains of good bacteria, which help our digestive system work efficiently, e.g. bifidus, lactobacillus and acidopilus. They are found in live yoghurts, powders or specially formulated probiotic drinks, though beware, many of these are loaded with sugar and have insufficient amounts of bacteria to be of any use. The best ones are those found in tablet-form, in high doses.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are types of carbohydrates (oligosaccharides) that cannot be digested in the small intestine: they reach the colon where they selectively support the growth of benign bacteria already present. In this way, the healthier bacteria in the colonic microflora are stimulated and are given a competitive advantage over other types of bacteria present. Some foods naturally contain small amounts of oligosaccharides (leeks, onions, asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, bananas, oats). Human breastmilk can be considered the original functional food; it contains many factors that support  bifidobacteria growth in the colon, and this may protect the infant from gastrointestinal problems. (See research on prebiotics devised by Gemma Walton PHD, School of Food Biosciences at University of Reading here.

To find out about the part your gut plays in your immune system go here.