Within the health and nutrition community, Pre and Probiotics are familiar words. What’s fantastic is that we are seeing them more and more pop up in the media, on food labels and on supermarket shelves.
Let's first clearly define them. A Probiotic is a food or supplement that carries helpful bacterial strains that when consumed help seed the large intestine with beneficial bugs. Example foods are cheese, yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut.
Prebiotics are special carbohydrates that do not get digested or absorbed in the small intestine. They end up in the large intestine and are eaten by microbes. Prebiotics are also known as fibre. Example foods are literally any whole food. Prebiotics feed bacteria, and Probiotics are fellow bacterial friends looking for a pleasant place to call home.
It can be difficult to know which probiotic food or supplement is best to consume, because trying to find out which bugs live inside you isn’t that simple. Each of us has a microbe gut colony that can be up to 90% different from others! Understanding our individuality is essential.
Think of taking a probiotic as throwing some tomato seeds into a neglected garden. Some may grow, but only if the environment and circumstances are right. This is when it's important to do some research and work with a Health Professional who can help you select a specific probiotic for you.
An ethical code of conduct is to eat various fruits and vegetables and seek new ones all the time! Prebiotics are more effective than probiotics in altering the microbial population of the gut. If you provide various vegetables (prebiotics) to the bacteria inside you, you will help create diversity!
And that’s the key, bug diversity equals a healthier gut microbiome.
We touched on the effects of antibiotics in a previous blog, but let’s discuss them in a little more detail. Just look at the word “anti-biotic”. Broken down, this word means “the opposite of life.” The opposite of life is death, and that’s what happens to your bugs when you take one.
Most antibiotics taken are broad spectrum, meaning they attack and kill a wide range of species. So instead of taking out only the bacteria that is causing an infection, in the words of
Darth Sidious, you “wipe them out, all of them.”
Something that's common and unfortunate is people taking an antibiotic when they have a cold or the flu. These are both viral infections, not bacterial. Using an antibiotic is 100% useless, and has damaging consequences.
It’s important to mention again that some antibiotic prescriptions are essential and can be life saving, but they must be prescribed and used responsibly.
Amazingly, there are supplement companies that work with hospitals to help patients on antibiotics take a probiotic simultaneously!
This helps the beneficial bacteria we have stay alive while the antibiotic does its thing.
Companies like Bio K have linked up with some Canadian hospitals to provide this essential service.
One of the more common side-effects of antibiotics is diarrhea, a clear testament that something is seriously wrong in your gut. These drugs cause huge shifts in colonies, and it’s warfare in the gut!
Let me paint a picture for you.
All these different bugs are fighting for food and a lovely warm place to live. When the environment or terrain is balanced, there is harmony. But when the terrain is compromised by infection, a dis-ease or a drug, then things get messy. One course of antibiotics can take 1-3 years to recover from. This is a long time to get your unique balance back.
Probiotics have been shown in recent evidence to be a treatment for some common dis-eases that conventional medicine has no answer for. Dis-eases like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, also called SIBO, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome-C (the C stands for constipation).
Multiple strain probiotic administration can reduce abdominal pain, increase stool frequency and quality of life, while normalizing gut microbe composition.
Prebiotics, also known as fibre, have been shown to decrease the risk of infection potential. Certain fibrous foods feed particular bugs that will create the perfect environment for you to absorb nutrients, help create a solid protective gut layer, and increase your health.
Fibre in the form of whole grains, vegetables and fruit has been shown to be cancer protective in areas like the colon and rectum. Remember, these are areas with significant microbial numbers. When our bugs come into contact with these undigested fibres, they produce molecules that are cancer protective. Diets high in fibre are also linked to lower breast and esophageal cancer risks.
Let's finish with some information that everyone can relate to, GAS. Contrary to what you may believe, everyone experiences flatulence around 14-23 times a day.
People do not naturally produce gas, it comes from our bugs, which ferment what we eat, and mainly from swallowing air.
We swallow air from rapidly eating or drinking, chewing gum, smoking and speaking.
Much of the foul stench of flatulence comes from the fermentation of proteins.
Most of those real stinky ones are from sulphur containing gases. Foods like beans, Brussels sprouts, and eggs are all foods we can associate with flatulence, that’s because they are high in sulphur containing amino acids. A healthy colon produces dry, slightly smelly gas, and consists of normal colon transit time. It’s the wet, stinky farts and accelerated colon transit time that suggest serious issues with malabsorption and digestive dis-ease.
All the best people.
Simon Brazier. Dip HN, NNCP