Probiotics and prebiotics and maintaining good gut health

What are probiotics and prebiotics? And what is the difference between them?

Probiotics are living bacteria that promote gut health and boost the immune system. The composition of bacteria and micro-organisms living in the gut is known as intestinal flora. Probiotics can improve the level of good bacteria in the intestinal flora and aid the digestive process. Healthy intestinal flora helps dietary fibre to be broken down in the colon. This is essential to ensure good dietary transit and to avoid intestinal ailments.

Prebiotics are ingredients in the diet that allow good bacteria to flourish. They cannot be digested on their own but are digested by healthy bacteria which grow and populate the intestinal flora. They also assist with the absorption of minerals.

• Can probiotics and prebiotics be combined?

Yes, probiotics and prebiotics can be taken together. It is not essential to take a prebiotic for a probiotic to work, but it may make the probiotic more effective.

• When is the best time to take probiotics and prebiotics?

It may help to establish a routine to take them at the same time of day. It is advisable to take them on an empty stomach or just before a meal so they are not overwhelmed by the digestion process.

• Which foods are rich in probiotics and prebiotics?

Choosing food rich in healthy bacteria and prebiotics is the ideal way to promote good intestinal health and have a diverse microbiome. Foods that are natural probiotics include yogurt, fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, fermented soybean products like miso or soy sauce, fruit, vegetables (especially legumes) and cereals.

The array of probiotic yogurts available can be confusing. Ensure the product has live and active cultures and avoid products with high sugar content. Prebiotics naturally occur in bananas, tomatoes, onions, garlic, endives, artichokes, pulses and whole grains.

• What are the long-term benefits of prebiotics?

Long-term use of a prebiotic restores gut flora to its optimum level ensuring a healthy digestive system. OptiFibre® is a prebiotic which can be used to supplement the diet and other consumption of probiotics.

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