Did you know that 57% of the human body is bacteria???
There are 69 trillion cells in the human body. 30 trillion of these cells are human cells forming everything from the blood, all the organs, tissues, bones, and skin. The remaining 39 trillion cells are microbial cells. Although the word bacteria is usually associated with disease, most of the bacteria in our bodies is beneficial and actually makes it possible for us to survive.
Most of the bacterial repertoire in our bodies we are born with and as we grow and develop, the number of bacteria in the system grows as well. Both, Probiotics as well as Prebiotics help the beneficial bacteria. Despite the very similar name, their characteristics and functions are completely different!
Probiotics are the live bacteria found in yogurt, kefir, fermented and pickled products, kombucha and probiotic pills. Consuming these products introduces the actual good bacteria into the gut.
Probiotics are effective in treating diarrhea, IBD and reducing bowel infections but there are no proven benefits to otherwise healthy individuals.
Probiotic Pills are highly beneficial for patients with antibiotics to combat the gastrointestinal side effects of the medication. However, there are a few downsides to their consumption. There is up to a 1000 different species in the human gut but each probiotic pill on average only contains 100 different bacterial species. The effect of Probiotic Pills might, therefore, be limited and not as strong. In addition, Probiotic bacterial species are very delicate and can easily get damaged by heat, cold or stomach acid. They might not survive past the stomach which makes them essentially useless.
Even if the Probiotic cultures safely arrive in the colon, it is still not a guaranteed success! They have to be sufficiently fed in order to survive. This is when Prebiotics come into play!
Prebiotics nourish the good bacteria which is already present in the gut and enable them to grow and survive.
The most common Prebiotic is plant fiber found in all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The body does not obtain enzymes sufficient enough in order to digest these fibers and therefore they survive the digestion journey all the way to the colon, where the good bacteria can feed on it. Prebiotics are found in natural whole foods and should be consumed daily as their benefits have been previously medically proven and their effects directly correlate with overall health and well-being of the entire organism, from the digestive and cardiovascular systems to the brain. Studies show that the right balance between good and bad bacteria plays a major role in mental health, depression and stress management.