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What is the difference between prebiotic and probiotic?

2 min read

Good bacteria in the gut break down carbohydrates to provide part of our daily energy as well as helping the body fight infection and disease by combating the effects of bad bacteria. The healthy bacteria that live in the gut strengthen the bowel wall, improve mineral absorption and aid in the regulation of hormone production, which has a range of essential benefits. Obesity, diabetes, bone density, heart health, anxiety, and a large range of lower GI problems can improve with large amounts of beneficial bacteria in a healthy lower gut.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria in yoghurt and other dairy products, there are hundreds of species available and some are thought to play in role in helping conditions such as irritable bowl syndrome. However it is still not clear which species of probiotic are the most effective and the overall health benefits are yet to be medically proven. Probiotics are easy to consume if dairy products form part of your daily diet but must be kept alive in order to work and unfortunately can killed by heat or stomach acid.

What is a prebiotic?

The prebiotic is a specialised plant fiber that nourishes existing good bacteria in the gut making it healthier.  It is not killed by heat or stomach acid and has been proven to provide a range of health benefits. They may be helpful or preventative for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

Prebiotic fibre is found in many fruits such as the skin of apples and in bananas, as well as in vegetables such as leeks, onions, garlic, chicory root and artichokes. Unfortunately these foods contain only very small amounts though - chicory root has the highest percentage of prebiotic fibre per gram, about 2 grams per serving. To reap the benefits of prebiotic fibre you need to consume in the region of 25 grams per day, so while it's almost impossible to get enough through ingesting food alone it's very easy to add to your diet as a supplement.

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A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.