Prebiotics or Probiotics?
This question was posed to me about 5 years ago someone on a quest for better digestion. I had not been impressed by the value of probiotics during the upswing of their recommended use. But I had not heard of "prebiotics."
The medical community latched onto probiotics for nearly every digestive malady with only modicum scientific support. But the probiotics offered a nonharmful treatment with a holistic flair. In fact, the selection of microorganisms in probiotics are based on ease of packaging and extended shelf life rather than a remedy to restore natural bacteria to the colon. Store bought probiotics do not recolonized good bacteria in our gut. So, these products are literally flushed down the toilet.
Science writer Ed Yong clarifies the real science and understanding of our microbiome in his book, I Contain Multitudes. Our microbiome are a unique balance of micoorganisms living on our skin and in our bodies, and is as unique to us as our fingerprint. Our first exposure to our microbiome is in the birth canal. Babies born by c-section have different initial exposures. Some health issues of babies born by c-section may be attributed to their initial microbiome exposure.
Getting back to our question: prebiotics or probiot
ics? Prebiotics are foods, containing a specific class of insoluble fiber called oligosaccharides, that feed our naturally occurring bacteria. The benefit from these foods do restore the balance of our unique colonies, and our good bacteria’s end products (specific short-chain fatty acids) are reabsorbed into our bodies for revitalizing internal organs, such as kidneys, liver, heart and brain!
Prebiotics are usually found in bitter root vegetables, such as chickory root, Jerusalem root, sunchokes, and jicama, and generally contain high amounts of inulin (not insulin). These are foods of an era of an earthly (and healthier) diet. Today, inulin fiber is being packaged in powder form, and can be sprinkled on cereal and spooned into smoothies.
Seeing clinically better digestion and clearer skin among those who are using PREbiotics, I advocate for more dietary prebiotics with plenty of water for lower intestinal symptoms and maintaining all around robust health. So, while you consider your Thanksgiving meal plan include less marshmallows and more jicama.