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Prebiotics, Probiotics and the Microbiome

Overview

From the moment of our birth, we are exposed to a multitude of microbes. The number of unicellular organisms present both externally and internally on an individual surpasses the number of cells constituting their own bodily structure. The microbiota, a distinctive assemblage of bacteria, is specific to each individual. Various regions, such as the gastrointestinal tract, harbor distinct microbial communities known as microbiomes and microbiota, respectively.

What is prebiotics?

Prebiotics refer to a class of non-digestible dietary fibers that selectively promote the

One of the primary methods to enhance the abundance of advantageous bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract is through the utilization of probiotics. However, an alternative approach involves nourishing the existing beneficial bacteria residing in the gut, hence promoting their proliferation and subsequent colonization, leading to a greater representation within the overall microbiota composition. 

Certain types of carbohydrates present in our dietary intake are classified as dietary fiber due to their indigestible nature. A diverse range of dietary fibers can be found in our food, which serve as a source of nourishment for beneficial bacteria. The aforementioned fibers possess prebiotic properties. 

  • Inulin, a kind of fructooligosaccharide (FOS), is widely recognized and has been subject to significant research as a prebiotic. It is naturally present in various plant sources, including chicory, whole grains, onion, garlic, asparagus, banana, tomatoes, and Jerusalem artichokes, among others. 
  • Chicory is commonly marketed for commercial purposes under the brand name Benefibre® because of its high inulin content, although alternative varieties are also available. 
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) are oligosaccharides composed of plant sugars that are interconnected and can be found in breast milk, fermented dairy products, legumes, and some root vegetables.

When consuming these dietary items, the prebiotic components remain undamaged during the passage through the stomach and small intestine. Subsequently, the fibrous substances are metabolized by bacteria in the large intestine through a process known as fermentation, wherein they serve as a source of energy. This phenomenon facilitates bacterial proliferation, resulting in the formation of more extensive populations of beneficial bacteria.

It is advisable to gradually augment one’s consumption of prebiotics, as abrupt alterations in the number of fiber foods ingested may result in symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and other digestive discomforts.

Enhance Prebiotic Consumption by Incorporation of These Food Items into Your Dietary Regimen

  • Jerusalem artichokes, scientifically known as Helianthus tuberosus
  • Bananas, artichokes, tomatoes, and leeks.
  • Onions.
  • Garlic, chicory root, and other whole grains such as oats, wheat, and barley.
  • Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and soy, are a diverse group of plant-based foods.
  • Various types of nuts and seeds, such as almonds and flax, are being considered.

There are two primary prebiotics that hold significant importance in relation to human health:

  • Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are a type of carbohydrate present in various plant sources, including onion, chicory, garlic, asparagus, banana, and artichoke.
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides, which are present in legumes and specific types of underground plant structures, such as root vegetables.

There exists research suggesting that the use of prebiotics may potentially yield benefits such as improved digestion, increased calcium absorption, enhanced immunological function, prevention of allergy disorders, reduced cholesterol levels, improved cognitive function, and a potential decrease in the likelihood of developing colon cancer.

The Role of Prebiotics in the Management of Digestive Disorders

  • It was found that increased use of prebiotics may exacerbate symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that numerous prebiotics exhibits a high carbohydrate content, namely consisting of fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs).
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), encompassing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is distinguished by an absence of beneficial gut microbiota. Several studies have indicated that the use of prebiotics, specifically fructan-oligosaccharides, may have a beneficial effect on mitigating gut inflammation and alleviating symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Previous research has indicated that prebiotics exhibits potential as a safe and efficacious intervention for the prevention of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, a condition frequently linked to the utilization of antibiotics or recent hospital admittance.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics can be found in various food sources, including yogurt and sauerkraut. Prebiotics are present in various food sources, including but not limited to whole grains, bananas, leafy greens, onions, garlic, soybeans, and artichokes. Furthermore, the incorporation of probiotics and prebiotics into certain food products and their availability as dietary supplements is seen.

Probiotics are predominantly available in the form of dietary supplements, although certain food items also contain probiotics. It is important to note that probiotics should not be conflated with fermented foods, as they are distinct entities. 

Numerous goods prioritize the number of organisms included in a single dose, potentially influencing consumers to select the product with the greatest count. However, it is important to note that the product with the highest count may not necessarily be the most suitable option for an individual. Nevertheless, there exists a body of research that can assist individuals in identifying a product that aligns with their specific requirements.

It is advisable to consult with your healthcare professionals prior to initiating probiotic supplementation, ensuring that there exists substantiated data supporting the potential benefits of the specific strain you intend to consume. 

What is the mechanism of action of probiotics?

The primary function of probiotics, sometimes referred to as beneficial bacteria, is to uphold a state of optimal equilibrium within the human body. Consider conceptualizing it as maintaining a state of bodily equilibrium. During illness, the human body becomes susceptible to the infiltration and proliferation of harmful germs. This disrupts the equilibrium of the human body. Beneficial bacteria actively combat harmful bacteria and promote homeostasis in the human body, hence contributing to an improved state of well-being.

Benefits of probiotics

Beneficial microorganisms play a crucial role in maintaining human health through their ability to enhance immune function and regulate inflammatory responses. In addition, specific strains of beneficial bacteria are capable of:

  • Assist in facilitating the process of food digestion within the human body.
  • Prevent the proliferation of harmful germs to decrease the risk of illness.
  • Developing vitamins is a crucial endeavor in the field of nutrition and health.
  • Assist in bolstering the integrity of the gastrointestinal epithelial cells to impede the translocation of potentially harmful bacteria, which may have been ingested by dietary intake, thus averting their entry into the bloodstream.
  • Analyze and assimilate pharmaceutical substances.

The process of maintaining equilibrium is an inherent and continuous occurrence within the human body. It is not necessary to consume probiotic supplements in order to get this outcome. Beneficial bacteria are an inherent component of the human body. Consuming a nutritionally balanced diet that is abundant in dietary fiber on a daily basis contributes to the maintenance of optimal levels of beneficial bacteria.

Is it possible to utilize probiotics as a means of alleviating medical conditions?

Currently, much research is being conducted to explore the potential effects of probiotics on human physiology. Despite the existence of numerous potential favorable effects, researchers continue to strive for conclusive findings about the efficacy of probiotics in addressing diverse medical diseases.

Nevertheless, certain medical problems exist in which probiotics may provide assistance. Individuals may exhibit variability in their responses, indicating that strategies effective for one person may not yield the same results for another individual. The aforementioned variations can also be contingent upon the specific probiotic strain that is ingested.

There are several conditions that may potentially benefit from augmenting the quantity of probiotics within one’s body, either through dietary sources or supplementary means. These illnesses encompass:

  • Diarrhea encompasses both cases induced by antibiotic usage as well as those resulting from infection by Clostridium difficile (C. diff).
  • Constipation.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of chronic inflammatory disorders that mostly affect the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurring abdominal pain or discomfort, along with changes in bowel habits, without any identifiable structural or biochemical abnormalities.
  • Yeast infections.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Periodontal disease.
  • Lactose intolerance refers to the inability of an individual to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products, due
  • Atopic dermatitis, commonly referred to as eczema.
  • Upper respiratory infections encompass a range of ailments, including ear infections, the common cold, and sinusitis.
  • Sepsis, with a specific focus on its occurrence in newborns.

Postbiotics

The term “postbiotics” refers to the metabolic byproducts or bioactive compounds that

The majority of the advantageous impacts of gut bacteria do not stem directly from the microorganisms themselves, but rather from the metabolic by-products they produce. Bacterial metabolism results in the generation of waste compounds, which, despite their initial repulsion, possess potential utility for human applications. As an illustration, the consumption of fiber by bifidobacteria leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids, which subsequently contribute to enhancing immunological function and fortifying the integrity of the intestinal barrier.

Should you use prebiotics or probiotics?

It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before initiating probiotic supplementation in order to determine the most suitable products for individual needs. The selection of an optimal probiotic(s) is contingent upon an individual’s digestive health, presence or absence of certain diseases, dietary and lifestyle choices, and various other determinants. 

For instance, it is probable that the bacterial strains that demonstrate efficacy in individuals with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome differ from those that provide therapeutic benefits for those with Crohn’s disease. Consuming fermented foods and prebiotics has been found to have a positive impact on digestive health for the majority of individuals. It is advisable to gradually incorporate these food items into one’s diet, first with smaller portions and gradually increasing intake as per individual tolerance. Additionally, it is recommended to adhere to the guidelines provided for fostering a favorable microbial environment within the body.

If an individual experiences prolonged dysbiosis, such as recurrent C. difficile infection, and expresses a desire to pursue microbiota restoration, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. The medical professional may direct you to a specialist who possesses the expertise to thoroughly evaluate your problem and determine the appropriateness of the treatment options available.

Conclusion

Probiotics and prebiotics are two distinct components that play a significant role in maintaining healthy gut microbiota. Probiotics refer to live microorganisms that, when administered in enough amounts, confer health benefits to the host. These beneficial microorganisms

Probiotics refer to food products or dietary supplements that incorporate viable microorganisms with the purpose of preserving or enhancing the presence of beneficial bacteria, often known as normal microflora, within the human body. 

Ongoing research is being conducted to investigate the correlation between gut microbiota and various diseases. The definitive proof of the health benefits associated with currently available probiotics and prebiotics remains elusive.

Nevertheless, the occurrence of negative effects is few, and the majority of individuals in good health can incorporate prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods into their dietary regimens without risk. Subsequent investigations have the potential to yield enhanced probiotic formulations that exhibit heightened efficacy in promoting overall well-being.

References:

  1. https://www.verywellhealth.com/prebiotics-and-ibs-1944748
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/probiotics/faq-20058065#
  3. https://badgut.org/information-centre/a-z-digestive-topics/prebiotics-probiotics/
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-019-0173-3 

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