LET SCIENCE GUIDE YOUR WAY TO...
By Dr Megan Chircop
Are you confused about the difference between a prebiotic and a probiotic? Don't worry, you are not alone! People come to see me in my clinic everyday and more often than not have a gut health issue ranging from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, cramping tummy, food intolerance, blood sugar and hormonal imbalance and so much more.
As such, one of the most common questions I get asked is what is the difference between a pre- and probiotic and do I need to take a supplement?
Prebiotics do not contain bacteria. They are food for good bacteria, namely the fermentable carbohydrates, resistant starch and inulin. These carbohydrates are also non-digestible dietary fibre and are found in bananas, cooked & cooled potatoes, onions, garlic, brussel sprouts, broccoli, legumes.
Probiotics are live bacterial cultures. The most common bacteria strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and can be found as supplements in powder or liquid form. However, it is best to focus on real foods instead of supplements, so opt for probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh.
Prebiotics and probiotics work together to support a healthy gut, which is critical to our overall health as poor gut health can lead to malnourishment (damaged gut lining blocks nutrient absorption), food intolerances, hormonal imbalance, fatigue, poor immune system, skin irritations such as eczema.
Be aware though that there are different types of probiotic supplements, which can have a different effect on your gut health. For example, some target IBS, others target eczema, while others are better for mental health and there is evidence to suggest that it could help as a treatment for obesity (in combination with a healthier food intake). Talk to your qualified health professional to help you find the right supplement for you.
Good gut health starts from birth
Immediately upon birth, trillions of bacteria check out the new bub and begin to establish their new home. Without the right mix of gut bacteria, our babies may never gain the full health-boosting potential of food, such as breast milk. Recently, prebiotics added to infant formula were found to make the formula more closely resemble the health content of breast milk. However, the true health benefits only appear to be reached when used in combination with probiotics. Seek advice from your doctor or midwife about which probiotic and formulae (if not breastfeeding) will be beneficial for your new bub, particularly if they are having a lot of issues with gas.
As your bub grows, that is within the first few years of life a 'microbiome' signature (profile of good vs bad bacteria) is formed, which can have a major impact on the child's future health, such as ability to fight infection, susceptibility to develop allergies & food intolerances, weight, and risk of diabetes, certain caners, and more. A balanced diet to support a healthy gut can do wonders for setting up your kids for a happy healthy future.
Welcome. I am Dr Megan Chircop. I am a medical scientist and nutritionist with 20 years in medical research. As such, I have extensive knowledge and a thorough understanding of how the body works. I am able to simplify the science behind the way food fuels the body and mind to provide energy and nutrition needed to achieve optimal health and vitality. I am also a keen sportswoman, and have extensive knowledge of sports nutrition.
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