In the world of alternative and holistic health, probiotics have been a topic of discussion for quite some time. Heck, even conventional medicine has come to recognize the health benefits they provide, and all of the TV commercials that tout them are yet another sign that they’ve gone mainstream (though not all are created equal).
Lately, in the circle of resources I rely on, I’ve noticed another word creeping into the conversation: prebiotics. Hmm…Probiotics? Prebiotics? What’s the difference? As per usual, the question got this self-healther curious and looking for a better understanding.
We’ll start with the more familiar of the two. What exactly are probiotics? The Mayo Clinic defines probiotics as “good bacteria that are either the same or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body.” This article further reminds us that all of the bacteria in our intestines (good and bad) outnumber the number of cells in our entire body by a considerable amount. Seems like something that would be important for us to keep in check. Dontcha’ think?
So, what exactly are prebiotics? The Global Healing Center defines prebiotics as any natural indigestible fiber that:
- Resists digestion and absorption in the upper gastrointestinal tract
- Is fermented by the intestinal microflora
- Selectively stimulates the growth or activity of friendly intestinal bacteria
Prebiotics, which are basically food for the good bacteria residing in your intestines, is a type of fiber found in certain vegetables and fruits. It would seem that prebiotics are what makes probiotics effective. After all, every single living thing needs to eat, including the bacteria in our system.
In the name of gut health, prebiotics and probiotics are equally important, and they both play a key role when it comes to improving your gut flora and your overall health.
But just throwing these two things down your gullet isn’t a cure-all, as Dr. Lowell Keppel explains in his blog post “Are You Buying or Renting Your Probiotics?” In fact, they simply cover up whatever symptoms led you to them in the first place. The key is in the healing of your internal environment. Healing should always be the focus, yes?
If your support system is trying to heal, Dr. Keppel offers simple suggestions that may help, including products such as Gut Flora Complex and Lactic Acid Yeast from Standard Process. Working with a trained healthcare professional is also essential in determining what your specific symptoms are trying to tell you.
As my self-health education often reveals, there’s more to the topic of probiotics and prebiotics than just their strict definitions. If you notice any signs that you need to support your intestinal bacteria, remember that your ultra-sophisticated body is nudging you toward seeing the big picture of your inner workings.
What new terms have you been noticing in your self-health educational resources?
Image from iStock/ChrisChrisW.