The Important Synbiotic Relationship Between Probiotics and Prebiotics

prebiotics

By Marisa Brenizer

The nearly-fanatical obsession with probiotics has been thriving for roughly a decade, but recently a new contender has been ushered into the spotlight – prebiotics.

According to the MRC Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre in Cambridge, prebiotics are:

nondigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacterial species already resident in the colon, and thus attempt to improve host health.

In layman’s terms, these hard-working prebiotic fortifiers serve as food, or fuel, for probiotics (or the “good” bacteria that lives in your gut).

The combination of probiotics and prebiotics is known as a synbiotic relationship, which indicates that when the two supplements amalgamate, they work together to stimulate and improve the presence of good flora in the intestines.

Although they do exist in an average diet, most people don’t consume nearly enough probiotics to make a substantial impact on the survival of the good flora in the digestive system. Prebiotics can do the heavy lifting.

How Do I Increase Prebiotics?

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Increasing your intake of bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, Jeruselem artichokes, green apples, bran, yams and other root vegetables is recommended, as well as keeping up with your probiotics (plain yogurt is the most popular source, of course). It may be more convenient and effective, however, to opt for supplements that include both prebiotics and probiotics in the mix. This synergistic supplement exists in tablet, capsule, and powder forms.

See: How Exercise Activity Increases Good Gut Bacteria

When making a concentrated effort to up your intake of these supplements, remember that changes to your diet may shake things up a bit at first. Things may seem to get worse before they get better, as rapid or dramatic changes to the flora in the digestive system can lead to a Herxheimer reaction (more commonly known as “die-off” effects). This occurs when the pathogens in the body “starve” and die, releasing toxins as they go, which in turn may bring about flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal disturbances, and other temporary nuisances.

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Although these symptoms are somewhat unavoidable, you can curtail them by introducing the supplements slowly, while making sure to stay consistent with your diet and supplemental health efforts. You may see positive changes without the “die-off” if you incorporate prebiotic foods to your diet.

This article (Why Prebiotics Are Important: The Synbiotic Relationship of Probiotics and Prebiotics) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Marisa Brenizer and Era of Wisdom.org. Some additional commentary was added by Natural Blaze for clarification and is not necessarily endorsed by the author or source website. 

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