PRObiotics vs. PREbiotics?

WELLNESS--By now everyone has heard of probiotics. Pro means good and biotic means bacteria, so probiotics are good bacteria that help maintain a friendly gut flora. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that feed probiotics and are mostly carbohydrates in the form of fiber. Think of prebiotics as fertilizer for probiotics. They are found primarily in vegetables. The more prebiotics that we consume, the greater the colonization of probiotics in our gut. 

By eating enough prebiotics, we ensure that the friendly bacteria in our gut maintain a healthy population. This is important for many reasons including keeping inflammation levels at a minimum and helping to keep our immunity strong. When the healthy bacteria levels drop, inflammation levels go up. When the friendly bacteria levels drop, it is more likely that inflammation will rise and we run the risk of getting leaky gut syndrome. 

The health of the large intestine and gut is more important than we ever expected. Links with poor probiotic levels and the gut have now been linked to many ailments including mental health issues, autoimmune problems like colitis and chrones disease, and elevated levels of inflammation that can negatively effect every system in the body. 

One of the most obvious ways to check the health of the gut is simply by looking at your digestive health. After eating is there gas and bloating? Are the stools formed and normal or do you tend to go in the direction of loose stool or diarrhea? Also, once the food is broken down it is to be used as fuel, so your energy level should tell you a lot about how efficiently your body is breaking down food. There are also blood tests to check your levels of inflammation in the blood that you can ask your primary care provider to run. 

The most effective way to get all of your prebiotic needs met is by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables. If your lifestyle is set up in a way making it difficult to get the vegetables you need, there are prebiotic supplements. There has been chatter about how prebiotics and probiotics should not both be taken, but they are ungrounded. Taking both a prebiotic and probiotic will not be a problem. Ideally, take them both at the same time each day and ideally with food. 

Keep your gut healthy in order to maintain optimum health mentally and physically.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR)