If you are thinking of taking prebiotics and probiotics together, then great news, because you can.
Taking them together is a type of microbiome therapy, and in this post, we explore the therapy and the difference between the two types of biotics.
What are Probiotics?
Within our intestines live countless bacteria. Many of these are known as ‘good’ bacteria, as they help our bodies in many ways. The scientific name for god bacteria is probiotics, and they support:
- Nutrient absorption
- Immune system functioning
Probiotics can be found in certain foods, so including them in your diet is beneficial to gut health. Some of these foods include:
Although found in foods, probiotics can also be synthesized and sold as health supplements, usually in the form of a pill.
Our gut-dwelling probiotic bacteria are split up depending on whether they are aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic probiotics function using oxygen and are the type of probiotics that can be synthesized.
Whereas anaerobic bacteria do not function with oxygen. In fact, anaerobic bacteria cannot even survive in the presence of oxygen, and so cannot be produced as good bacteria health supplements.
The health benefit that you get depends on the type of probiotic supplement which you take. This is because probiotics come in different strains, and strains carry out different functions.
Probiotic supplements can help to maintain a balance and good diversity of the microbiome, as well as other health benefits.
A large part of gut bacteria activity is to support our digestive systems, how well we absorb nutrients, and bowel movement. Studies show that probiotics can also be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome, as well as other bowel conditions such as constipation and diarrhea.
As the gut houses close to 70% of our immune system, by regulating bacterial balance, probiotics can help to keep our immune system strong. The gut is also connected to our brain.
And when a healthy gut transmits to the brain, it helps to produce neurotransmitters as well as several hormones. But a healthy gut will also produce some of these hormones itself.
One of these is serotonin, and this is responsible for creating the feeling of happiness. So an imbalance of gut probiotics could be behind mood swings and feelings of depression.
What are Prebiotics?
Although they share a similar name to probiotics, prebiotics are not a type of good bacteria, but rather food for probiotics.
There are certain carbohydrates that the human body cannot digest, and some of these are dietary fibers found in many types of fruit and vegetables. And it is these carbohydrates which probiotics feed on.
Prebiotics are, therefore, nothing more than carbohydrate supplements taken to promote the growth of anaerobic probiotic bacteria.
Probiotics will do their job just fine without you taking any prebiotic supplements. If they did not, we would have serious problems.
However, the idea behind prebiotics is to give our probiotic bacteria an increased energy source to promote growth and increase their effectiveness.
So when our probiotic bacteria consume prebiotic carbohydrate supplements, they ferment them to use as energy. This releases molecules such as calcium and magnesium, as well as short-chain fatty acids. As well as releasing energy, it discourages harmful microorganisms from multiplying within our digestive system.
Prebiotics naturally occur in foods such as asparagus and garlic. And Prebiotics supplements are usually found in either liquid or powder form.
As prebiotic carbohydrates are not digested by our bodies, they help to move along waste products. This helps to keep our digestive systems clear and running smoothly.
Fiber also helps to manage body weight. It does this by inducing a feeling of being full and killing off appetite after we eat. And because it takes longer to chew, fiber increases saliva and gastric acid production. This causes a healthy pressure to build in the stomach, stopping us from wanting to eat more.
Can You Take Prebiotics And Probiotics Together?
Prebiotics are the food source of probiotics. For this reason, some probiotics are produced with added prebiotics, just enough to activate them optimally.
The good probiotic bacteria interact with the prebiotic food source as soon as the carbohydrate prebiotics reach the intestines.
By consuming the prebiotics, the probiotic bacteria gains an energetic food source. This allows them to reproduce to increase their defense against harmful bacteria.
By combining prebiotics and probiotics, you get two primary benefits that give optimal support.
The first is helping probiotic bacteria to make it all the way to the gut without dying. And to then multiply in number and colonize the intestines. And the second benefit is to support the good anaerobic bacteria. These are the ones that cannot be synthesized.
Although prebiotics are good for our guts, they do not all provide equal support. When combining probiotics with prebiotics, a little thought needs to go into selecting the right supplements. This is because some prebiotic carbohydrates feed certain probiotic bacteria strains better than others.
You may feel some discomfort when you begin combining the supplements. This is normal and is your gut getting used to the increased probiotic bacteria count, as well as greater carbohydrate food source.
Along with simply getting used to the supplements, your gut may also feel discomfort because bad bacteria are also being killed off.
As the probiotics kill off the bad bacteria, toxins may be released into your digestive system, usually causing gas, bloating or nausea.
If this continues for a prolonged period, then consult a doctor.
Combining Prebiotics and Probiotics Takeaways
When combined, probiotic and prebiotic supplements can contribute towards a healthy gut. Certain probiotics will function better with specific prebiotics, so it is always best to research supplements before buying.