Pro or Pre?

If you’ve read my blog about gut health you’ll know that this is something I already touched on. But it’s stuck in my mind ever since and I thought it’s worth giving this subject its own dedicated blog. It was rather hard to find an image though. So I settled for the Pacman… 🙂

Well we’ve all heard of them. Mostly through TV adverts showing you a small drink you can have every day to improve your gut health. We’ve all probably heard loads of claims of what Probiotics can do for your body. So I had a look at some actual research and the NHS website to find which ones are substantiated by tests.

It is absolutely recommended that you take Probiotics when and after you are taking antibiotics. They wipe out the good with the bad bacteria and therefore it is a good idea to put good bacteria back in your gut. The same goes for after having a tummy bug. I know plenty people who said they felt a lot better after taking a Probiotic when suffering with a tummy bug that just wouldn’t shift.

Probiotics may help to reduce bloating and flatulence in some people with IBS. This is supported by a research published in 2010, although we don’t yet know the extent of the benefits, nor the most effective type of Probiotic. They won’t work for everyone with IBS, but it’s certainly worth a try. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggests that you take them for at least 4 weeks.

However they don’t seem to work on babies with colic. There is also insufficient evidence on the claim that Probiotics boost your immune system, prevent eczema, or relief the symptoms of Chrohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

What are they?
So what are they. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. Probiotics are foods, or food supplements. This includes live yoghurt, some cheeses and fermented foods. Traditionally produced yoghurts, ‘live’ yoghurts and yoghurt drinks contain Probiotic cultures, but they may not survive the acidic environment of the stomach and reach the intestines intact. Some yoghurts state the cultures used to make them in the ingredients list and diversity is usually beneficial. Stick to natural yoghurts; fruity yoghurts usually contain sugar and additives, which might cancel out any potential health benefits. Some yoghurt drinks contain very high numbers of bacteria that are considered to promote health – far more than you would find in a normal yoghurt. However, they can also contain lots of sugar and can be expensive. Can I just point out that the Forever Active Probiotic is delivered by patented encapsulation technology to ensure ‘good bacteria’ is released in the important part of your intestinal tract. These easy-to-swallow beadlets require no refrigeration, making them convenient to take while travelling or on the go. 🙂 (

They are something not as well known – yet! They are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for Probiotics.

Where to find them
Prebiotics can be found in foods such as bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, chicory and wholegrains, particularly oats. All fairly common ingredients, so simply include them in your diet. Guess what is also a Prebiotic? Aloe Vera! So start drinking it! You can also get Prebiotics in the form of Fermented Foods. They can introduce good bacteria to your gut but know that it’s better to make your own. Store-bought options are usually pasteurized, which kills good bacteria. We can’t be certain the bacteria they contain reach the gut, but in countries where this type of food is eaten frequently people appear to have better gut health and less bowel disease (Go Germany!). However, other factors could be responsible. Some of the best fermented foods for promoting gut health include Sauerkraut (Love that!), Kefir, Soy Sauce and homemade pickles (with the traditional fermentation methods).

Probiotics vs Prebiotics
There have been tests that it is generally more beneficial to take Prebiotics than Probiotics, unless you have just wiped out all the good bacteria from your body (through something like antibiotics). If that isn’t the case, taking Prebiotics will help the good bacteria grow and multiply – so no need to take a Probiotic and add bacteria to your gut. Fertilise your good bacteria instead. Consider drinking Aloe Vera rather than yoghurt drinks (even though the latter probably taste better).

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