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Probiotics and Prebiotics: A Synbiotic Boost

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Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics have a long history of safe use in both foods and dietary supplements. Probiotics are defined as the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and one translation from the Latin language means "for life".

In a society where we are obsessed with using anti-bacterial soap, you might be wondering is there really such a thing as good bacteria? The answer is yes!

Probiotics help to defend against harmful bacteria and pathogens.

The most important healthful (and well-known) bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Foods fermented with lactobacilli are crucial to the diet of many people in the world. Foods such as cheese, yogurt, miso and tempeh are fermented with lactobacilli and offer great nutritional and therapeutic value.

Probiotics play an important role in nutrition and health. They:

  • Improve the digestive process and absorption of nutrients.
  • Support the body's immune system.
  • They help to balance the intestinal flora naturally.

Gastrointestinal flora differs from one person to the next. Indeed, it changes within the life of an individual too. Our intestinal balance is affected by our diet, stress, medications, environmental toxins and infections.

Given all of these factors, it would seem to be normal that the flora balance is more out of balance than in balance.

When the microflora is out of balance, it is referred to as dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is associated with illnesses such as

  • Crohn's disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

It may also be the result of repeated antibiotic use. The imbalance from antibiotic use frequently evolves into an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and the beneficial bacteria colonies are outnumbered.

The use of probiotics is a very common sense approach for helping to restore and keep this balance.

Probiotics also:

  • Inhibit the growth of other organisms by competing for nutrients
  • Alter the pH and oxygen of the intestinal environment (less favorable to other organisms)
  • Attach to intestinal walls; preventing other organisms from attaching
  • Produce antimicrobial factors

The most important benefit of probiotics is promoting a balance of intestinal flora which plays a major role in the health of the host. When intestinal flora is out of balance, it affects the immune system, cholesterol metabolism, toxin load, carcinogenesis and aging.

Prebiotics

Many people ask, what is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

The Mayo Clinic: "Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a synbiotic. Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, are considered synbiotic because they contain live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive."

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Quick Facts

Probiotics

  • Probiotics are live microorganisms similar to the good bacteria found in your intestines
  • They improve the digestive process and absorption of nutrients
  • They help defend your body against harmful bacteria and pathogens
  • Probiotics help to balance the intestinal flora naturally
  • Probiotics are friendly stomach bacteria found in such foods as yogurt and such fermented foods as sauerkraut

Prebiotics

  • Prebiotics are a type of beneficial fiber that acts as a food for probiotic bacteria
  • They create a hostile environment for bad bacteria
  • Prebiotics remain stable regardless of temperature, humidity or acid levels
  • Prebiotics are found in prepared items such as cereals