Prebiotics and Probiotics Print

The growing awareness of the relationship between diet and health has led to an increasing demand for food products that support health above and beyond providing basic nutrition. Probiotics and prebiotics are components present in foods, or that can be incorporated into foods, which yield health benefits related to their interactions with the gastrointestinal tract (GI).

There are 400-500 different types of live bacterial species that exist in your intestinal tract. Many of these are beneficial and occur naturally in the large intestine.1

Probiotics

Probiotic cultures, or sometimes called “good bacteria”, are live microorganisms that, when consumed in sufficient amount, can provide health benefits. These cultures survive the digestion process intact and deliver good bacteria to the large intestine, where they can contribute to the well-being of the digestive system. There are approximately 20 different species of Probiotics.1 Common examples are Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and L.acidophilus

How do they work/why are they good for us?

The effectiveness of probiotics is related to their ability to survive in the acidic environment of the stomach and the alkaline conditions of the duodenum (intestine), as well as their ability to adhere to the intestinal mucosa of the colon. They have been shown to enhance the immune system, prevent unfriendly (bad) bacteria growth, and improve digestive function.3

Should you consume probiotics?

Probiotics have been used with some benefit in the prevention and treatment of some gastrointestinal disorders including:

  • Individuals that have been on antibiotics: antibiotics wipe out both good and bad bacteria and probiotics can help build up healthy bacteria.
  • Gastrointestinal infections such as traveler’s diarrhea or antibiotic associated diarrhea- probiotics can prevent and treat diarrhea.
  • Lactose intolerance: probiotics can increase lactase and help your body break down lactose easier.
  • Bowel disorders: such as Crohn’s disease, or IBS may benefit from probiotic immune system boosting and improved digestion function.
  • Childhood allergies: there is some evidence that probiotics can reduce allergies when given to pregnant women with a family history of atopic eczema/asthmas and postnatally to their infants for 6 months.
  • Urogenital infection: such as urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis may benefit from probiotics by boosting friendly bacteria to fight off bad bacteria.
  • Colon cancer prevention: there is some limited research to suggest probiotics may prevent or delay onset of certain cancers.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non digestible carbohydrates that stimulate the growth and metabolic activity of certain bacteria such as bifidobacteria that are useful to the intestinal flora, thereby providing good digestive health. Examples are fructo-oligosaccharides and inulins. To be effective, prebiotics must escape digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract.3

Why are they good for us?

Prebiotics may protect against some intestinal pathogens and may be helpful in some inflammatory bowel diseases. They may also have anticarcinogenic effects (colon cancer), and some prebiotics are used for the treatment of constipation. They may also enhance mineral absorption, such as calcium and magnesium (check out our article on calcium below) and might help protect against osteoporosis. There is some preliminary research that certain prebiotics might be some benefit in diabetes.1

Where do we get probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics Source Potential Benefit
Certain species and strains of Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, Yeast Certain yogurts*, cultured dairy products such as Kefir, cottage cheese and buttermilk, and supplements**. May improve gastrointestinal health and systemic immunity
Prebiotics Source Potential Benefit
Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Polydextrose, Arabinogalactan, Polyols-lactulose, lactitol Whole grains, onions, bananas, garlic, honey, leeks, artichokes, fortified foods and beverages, and dietary supplements**. May improve gastrointestinal health; may improve calcium absorption

  * Raw (unpasteurized) yogurt has high amounts of probiotics. Most yogurts today are pasteurized and therefore probiotics are destroyed. However, some friendly bacteria are added back. Look on your yogurt label for products that advertise “live and active cultures”. ** Be aware that The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dos note regulate supplements in the same way it regulates drugs. Legally, manufacturers can sell supplements, even with little or no research on how well it works or how safe it is. Also because supplements can interact with medications, check with you health care provider before using any supplement.

The Bottom Line

Research shows that the combined use of prebiotics and probiotics may enhance the effectiveness of probiotics and prebiotics.3 Although benefits vary depending on the type and amount of a pre- or probiotic consumed, daily consumption of foods containing these functional components is beneficial. Did you know? FUN FACT! If you would lay all the bacteria in your body end to end, they would circle the earth 2.5 times! (2) References

  1. Prebiotics as “Good Carbs” (Carol Ann Brannon, MS, RD, LD) Today’s Dietitian Vol. 8 No. 8 p12 todaysdietitian.com/
  2. Helpful Bacteria – Should you take probiotics? (David Schardt) Nutrition Action
  3. Prebiotics and Probiotics PDR Health, http://www.pdrhealth.com/

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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