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Prebiotics vs. Probiotics...Which One's Best For Me?

September 2, 2017
The terms prebiotics and probiotics are showing up more and more on news feeds supplements labels, and food packaging. But for a lot of people it leaves them questioning…what do these terms really mean?

In simple terms, probiotics contain live, active bacteria such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria, that when consumed enhance gut motility and function. They have to be taken daily in order to have a continual supply of healthy bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics, are carbohydrate foods, such as inulin and fructose-oligosaccharides that when consumed, encourage the growth of “good” bacteria in the gut. Prebiotic foods do not contain live bacteria, but rather enhance the growth of bacteria during digestion. Some examples of prebiotic foods would be garlic, onions, asparagus, whole grains, etc., while some examples of probiotics are sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir.

For the general, healthy population, consuming both prebiotics and probiotics can be beneficial and extremely healthy for your gut. A healthy gut or aka ‘a healthy gut microbiota’ has been shown to decrease one’s risk for many chronic diseases and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. However, If you’re an IBS sufferer, you may want to stay away from prebiotics and strictly focus your attention on probiotics. Why might you ask? Well prebiotics contain FODMAPS (Fermentable, Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide, Monosaccharide and Polyols) that are carbohydrate foods (insoluble fiber) that are not digested and absorbed properly in people with IBS. When FODMAPS are consumed, it causes excessive bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that I have seen some people with IBS benefit from consuming both prebiotic and probiotic foods. However, these situations are generally people with very mild cases of IBS who haven’t had to completely change their lifestyle and follow the strict and often time’s difficult low-FODMAP diet.

The choice of what foods to consume is entirely up to you. For further help and education on prebiotic and probiotic foods, or help with following the low-FODMAP diet, book an appointment at Speaking of Nutrition, LLC. Remember to always listen to your body for any signs, signals, or warnings that something isn’t working and making you feel your absolute best!

“A healthy lifestyle takes confidence, knowledge, and persistence to achieve, but never disappoints when it finally arrives”.


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