Probiotics, prebiotics, antibiotics … it seems that the world has gone biotic crazy! And what do all the prefixes even mean? Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of prebiotics. But how do they differ from probiotics?
First, let’s unravel the biotic family …
Because We’re Living In A Biotic(al) World
The word biotic comes from the Greek biotikos, meaning “pertaining to life.” And when it’s talked about in medicine or science, it essentially refers to the community of living organisms on our planet – plants, animals, humans, and those weird little dudes we call bacteria.
So, when you get an illness caused by bacteria, the doctor gives you antibiotics to help kill those bad bacteria.
Turns out, bacteria aren’t all bad. Some really cool, “friendly” bacteria were getting a bad rap. Their job is to keep the balance in the “house” (your body) and make sure that the bad guys don’t overrun the place and destroy the furniture. So, perfect harmony in the body is when you have a solid balance of good and bad bacteria.
This is easier said than done. Bad diets, stress, illness, medications (including antibiotics), and overly sterilized foods can kill off the good bacteria in your body. This not only upsets your digestive system, but from what we now know, it can also play havoc with your immune system. This potentially leaves the gate open for a myriad of diseases.1
Enter the probiotic, which provides a way to get more friendly bacteria back into our guts and re-adjust that balance.
Probiotics supplements have become incredibly popular for good reason, and the science very much supports them. However, you can also get probiotics naturally from the food you eat.
Fermented foods are the best probiotics, because they produce lactic acid bacteria during fermentation. These foods include natural yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kefir-style drinks, sourdough bread, and kombucha.
So, What About Prebiotics?
Right! Back to where we started. As the prefix would suggest, prebiotics come first. They are the “fuel” for probiotics – the substances that help probiotics to grow.
Prebiotics come from fiber-rich carbohydrates that humans can’t properly digest. Instead, those friendly bacteria in your gut munch on this fiber and produce more good bacteria. Unlike probiotics (which are alive and pretty fragile), prebiotics can’t die – they are strong enough to resist stomach acid, heat, and cold.
To be a prebiotic, however, fiber does need to meet strict criteria. It must be able to resist gastric acids in the stomach, be fermented by the gut microflora, stimulate the growth of “friendly” gut bacteria, and not be absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract.2
Some examples of this kind of fiber include:
- Chicory root (inulin)
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Green bananas
How Can Prebiotic Fiber Help Your Body?
Dr. Steven Gundry of Gundry MD is one of the big advocators for prebiotics, and I love the way he talks about the benefits of prebiotics. Dr. Gundry is a former head of heart surgery who’s gone on to guide people on changing their health before they need to go “under the knife.” He’s also formulated his own supplements, including a prebiotic supplement called PrebioThrive.
Dr. Gundry believes that the typical Western diet is extremely low in fiber (instead, we’re all too busy chasing sugar). He explains that because fiber is missing from your diet, the good bacteria have nothing to eat, and so they die. And these are the bacteria that we need to stay slim, nourish our gut lining, and protect our digestive system.3
Prebiotic fiber may also help to boost our immune systems and improve our moods – and that’s nothing to laugh at! 4,5
PrebioThrive incorporates two of the most renowned sources of prebiotic fiber: acacia gum and inulin (agave inulin).6 The supplement also contains:
- Flaxseed, another great fiber source, with the bonus of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant properties.
- Galacto-oligosaccharides, which can help improve mineral absorption and support your immune system.
- Guar gum, a fiber derived from the guar plant.
You take PrebioThrive each day as a single scoop of powder in water, or any other favorite beverage.
I’m a personal fan of Dr. Gundry’s line, but of course, feel free to shop around. You can try PrebioThrive, as well as any other supplement on Gundry MD, completely risk-free with a money-back guarantee if you don’t get results (which is why I think it’s a good place to start). If you want to read more about prebiotics from a fully accredited doctor, pop over to the Gundry MD website.