Prebiotics and Probiotics
Digestion is the way us humans process food into energy. When our digestive system is functioning optimally, it is the biological fueling system that keeps us active and engaged. Probiotics (basically ingestible bacteria) are a well known element in helping most of us improve upon this system. When ingested in the proper proportion, probiotics can be quite beneficial for a healthy individual.
Some of the purported benefits of probiotic intake include:
- Management of lactose intolerance
- Prevention of diarrhea
- Reduced risk of colon cancer
- Lowering of (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure
- Improved immune system function
However, it is important to note that some of these potential benefits are being reported from preliminary research. The theory behind taking probiotics is to balance good and bad bacteria (also referred to as pathogens) in the gut. However, there is some proof that probiotics can be harmful for certain populations. For instance, in the study Probiotic prophylaxis in predicted severe acute pancreatitis, a correlation between the consumption of probiotics (in people with an existing illness) and mortality was shown. Because of this study and others like it, please consider your own health before considering probiotics.
If you think probiotics might be right for you consider taking prebiotics as well. Prebotics are indigestible carbohydrates that usually encourage the growth of probiotics in the body. Prebiotics can be found naturally in certain fruits and vegetables such as oats, wheat, garlic, bananas, asparagus, tomatoes and onions, and they can also be obtained from grains and legumes. Because of probiotics’ ability to live inside the body and prebiotics’ ability to encourage the growth of probiotics, both have gained popularity in the field of health and wellness.