Probiotics and Prebiotics, What are They?

Wardha Hussain Rizvi Jan 13 2015

In today’s world ‘germophobia’ is prevalent – humans are on a continuous battle with bacteria. We carry numerous sprays, lotions, powders and creams as weapons to finish an enemy that heavily out number us. A lot of us are unaware of the fact that some bacteria are actually beneficial and ready to help us. They live in various parts of the human body and create an environment where toxins and pathogens face trouble surviving.

What are Probiotics?  How Do They Reach the Gut?

The good bacteria that colonize human gut are specially termed, ‘probiotics’ which means ‘in favor of living.’ They are live cultures found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt, kefir and aged cheese. For people with lactose sensitivity supplemental probiotics are available that can be taken with a doctor’s prescription.

What Are They Good For?

Probiotics live in our gut, stimulate immune system, help in absorption by synthesizing nutrients like amino acids, vitamins and minerals specifically vitamin k, b5, b12 and biotins, and help regulate gut pH. They are also known to be anti-inflammatory as they combat infections like yeast infection, and certain allergies. Since probiotics are incredibly similar to the bacteria that naturally line the gut, they greatly enhance these bacteria. They are essential for a healthy digestive process hence, are beneficial for overall health.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics always tag along wherever probiotics are present. Prebiotics are essential for growth and colonization of probiotics. Simply put, prebiotics are food for probiotics. They are non-digestible food ingredients. They are found in bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat foods.

Dynamic Duo

When both prebiotics and probiotics are found simultaneously in food products, it is termed symbiotic. They work synergistically; prebiotics promote probiotics and, probiotics in turn promote a healthy gut.

  • Decreasing pathogenic gut bacteria
  • Building and strengthening healthy gut flora
  • Improving bowel movement regularity
  • Maximizing dietary mineral absorption (especially calcium and magnesium)
  • Increasing immune factors
  • Enhancing control of appetite and weight

How to Pick the Best Symbiotic

Even though different symbiotic supplements are easily available you can use these tricks to make symbiotic bacteria even tastier. Make a yogurt and banana smoothie, perfect symbiotic. Try to avoid frozen and processed yogurt and opt for regular yogurt. The reason being: the freezing process kills all the live culture. Pick out products that have ‘live and active culture’ seal on them when you step into the dairy aisle to buy cheese, yogurt or milk. Use these to make your dairy foods like kefir, lassi, raita, chai tea and all your desserts: kheer, kulfi, custard, cakes, halwa etc.

What Should We Not Do?

Where there are do’s, there are don’ts as well. Do not start an antibiotic course on your own. When one of these evil bacteria hit your system, and doctors recommend you an antibiotic, increase your symbiotic bacteria uptake as the antibiotic unknowingly kills both evil and friendly bacteria in your gut. Avoid high acidity foods as a low pH can also kill your symbiotic bacteria. Reduce alcohol consumption.  Lastly, do not let yourself dehydrate. Drink before you are thirsty.

Wrapping it all up, a healthy gut means a healthy you! So while you keep your diet in check and balanced, make sure you are providing your gut with natural intestinal flora new partners, along with their promoters. Make friends with symbiotic bacteria for a happier gut.

Wardha Hussain Rizvi

Wardha Hussain Rizvi:

Wardha is currently a student of M.B.B.S second year in Ziauddin University and aspires to be the best dermatologist in Pakistan. Due to her dissatisfaction with the current health industry she is doing her bit in creating health awareness by freelance writing for HTV, Pakistan's most effective health platform.