Everything you need to know
Prebiotics and probiotics! These are nutrition buzzwords you may have read about in magazines, heard
about in advertisements, or seen marketed on food and supplement labels. But what are they? And
what is their relationship to each other, your gut, and your overall health?
Prebiotics are a specialized form of plant fiber, commonly found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains! Prebiotics help to promote a healthy gut as they act as food for probiotics. Research studies have shown that prebiotics help to regulate inflammation, reduce constipation, and. benefit overall digestive health.
With a well-balanced diet and adequate fiber intake, prebiotic supplements are usually not indicated as there are diverse and abundant dietary sources.
For more information on food sources of prebiotic fiber and the affects of fiber check out this article here on Total Shape Magazine.
On the other hand, probiotics are living organisms, most commonly bacteria or yeasts that populate the
gut microbiome and make up the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. There are many different bacterial strains of
probiotics, and they all support health in different ways. In general, probiotics strive to help us digest
food, fend off diseases through immune regulation, and communicate with the brain via the gut-brain
Food sources of probiotics include:
Dietary sources of probiotics are not always enough, and probiotic supplementation can be indicated after
antibiotic use, where both good and bad bacteria are killed off, and to correct an imbalance in the gut
As a functional medicine registered dietitian, part of my job is helping clients to identify
when they would need a probiotic supplement, and what probiotic supplement would be best for them!
There are so many different probiotic supplements on the market, of all which make different health
claims - some substantiated and some not – and it can be very overwhelming to navigate if you do not
know what to look for. When I help clients select a probiotic these are a few things I pay close attention
Type of Bacterial Strain
Depending on the results of a client’s GI test (a standard of care in my practice), I will select a probiotic containing the appropriate strain(s) to restore balance to the microbiome. Probiotics can contain a single type of strain or multiple different types of strains.
Number of Colony Forming Units (CFUs)
The number of CFUs represented the number of live cells that will be present in one serving of the probiotic supplement. In general, probiotics should contain at least 1 billion CFUs, coming from either the Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Bacillus or Saccharomyces boulardii genus as these are well-researched.
***Saccharomyces should not be used in those that are immunocompromised, pregnant, or breastfeeding
Always read the supplement label to determine storage requirements as well as expiration date. Probiotics are living organisms; some require storage in a refrigerator as they are killed off by heat. Regarding expiration date, the number of CFUs decreases after this time.
Like other supplements, probiotic supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), thus, extra caution should be used when choosing a product. Make sure the brand of probiotic you choose has research available specific to its products. I always recommend high quality, 3rd party tested supplements to my clients.
Prebiotics and probiotics have the ability to heal your gut and restore your health, but it is important to
be an informed consumer if you want to reap the benefits. I hope this post helped give you some
guidance on the amazing, and expansive, world of gut-health. If reading this inspired more questions or
resonated, please reach out and comment below.