Don't go confusing prebiotics with probiotics. We're just getting used to the new strangeness of probiotics, and they go and throw another one at us that sounds practically the same.
But though "prebiotics" and "probiotics" sound similar they perform two very different services for our intestinal health. Prebiotics are soluble fiber that our gastrointestinal tract is unable to digest.
Fortunately, though, our probiotics (healthy bacteria) find this soluble fiber to be quite edible. Probiotics consume, and thrive on, prebiotics.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are complex sugars, like fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and lactulose, which nourish our healthy bacteria.
Healthy bacteria will flourish when enough prebiotics are present. Healthy bacteria will also help to restrain the overgrowth of any bad bacteria.
For most of us, this may prove to be the path to a healthier intestinal flora and greater overall well-being. Be aware, though, that there are some people who have sensitivities to FOS.
If you should happen to be one of them, this will not make your gastrointestinal tract healthier. In fact you can find yourself becoming ill, and you should not take prebiotics.
Prebiotics may also be a problem for people who have arthritis or any other autoimmune conditions.
For those of us without such considerations however, these complex sugars activate and stimulate the growth of intestinal bacteria that will ultimately promote excellent health.
Prebiotics are fermented by gastrointestinal microflora. Bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria will proliferate, and this will improve digestion, increase the absorption of nutrients, and enhance the immune system.
Prebiotics regulate blood sugar. This can be accomplished because prebiotics produce good short-chain fatty acids, maintain low insulin levels and shorten our digestion time.
Prebiotics may improve or prevent colon cancer, constipation, diarrhea caused by antibiotics, intestinal infections, irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) and lactose intolerance.
Prebiotics reduce blood lipids (fats). They improve the absorption of calcium.
The breakdown of the complex sugars produces a fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate may prevent or reduce the growth of cancerous colon cells, and is essential for the health of large intestine cells.
Prebiotics are found in asparagus, bananas, barley, chicory root, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, oats, onions, rye and tomatoes. Supplements can be purchased as well.
If you are taking a course of antibiotics, you should increase any prebiotic supplementation substantially. Make sure to continue taking your prebiotics for at least twice as long as you take antibiotics.
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