Your digestive system is host to a variety of bacteria, many of which play an important role in the breakdown of the foods you eat. Probiotics are live microorganisms similar to the good bacteria found in your intestines. Prebiotics are a type of fiber which stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics are live bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, that are absorbed into your intestines and help good bacteria flourish and prevent bad bacteria from proliferating. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that enhance the effects of probiotics by stimulating bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics provide nourishment to the good bacteria already in the gut.
Probiotics are highly sensitive to extreme temperatures. According to Abbott Nutrition, these live bacteria are affected by changes in heat, moisture, oxygen and acid. Probiotics can be killed as a result of manufacturing processes, aging of the product and even the stomach's acidic environment. Prebiotics are not affected by cooking or baking. Prebiotics remain stable regardless of temperature, humidity or acid levels. Prebiotics are found in prepared items such as cereals.
Probiotics are most commonly found in yogurt and fermented foods including sauerkraut. Asparagus, garlic, onions, bananas, tomatoes, spinach, black beans, whole grains, oats and wheat, all contain prebiotics. You cannot digest prebiotics, so they are considered a form of dietary fiber.
According to research published in 2007 in the "Journal of Nutrition," eating probiotics can help reduce the risk of diarrhea and digestive problems due to viral and bacterial infections. The healthy bacteria added by the probiotics may help to get rid of harmful pathogens. MayoClinic.com reports that the role of prebiotics in the treatment of disease is controversial but there is some evidence to their benefit in some bowel-related problems such as colitis and some forms of diarrhea.
- Abbott Nutrition: Prebiotics Education
- "The Journal of Nutrition"; Probiotics and Prebiotics: Effects on Diarrhea; Michael de Vrese and Philippe R. Marteau; March 2007
- Jackson GI: Prebiotics (Fiber) Versus Probiotics (Bacteria) What's the Difference?
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Prebiotics and probiotics: are they functional foods?; Marcel B Roberfroid; June 2000
- NCCAM: An Introduction to Probiotics
- MayoClinic.com; What are prebiotics? How are they different from probiotics, and what health benefits do they offer?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.