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Probiotics & Prebiotics Supplements: Which is the right one for your health?

Many food supplement brands have probiotics and prebiotics supplements, which they claim to improve our health. But what exactly are probiotics and prebiotics? Do they improve our health according to research? If so, which is the right and safe probiotic and/or prebiotic for us?

Probiotics

Normally people think that bacteria is bad and should be avoided. However, research has shown that there are certain bacteria that benefit our health. Probiotics are often referred to as the good microorganisms (bacteria, yeast) in the gut. According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit in the host. According to the research, probiotics are recommended to contribute to the following processes:

  1. Production of useful by-products for our metabolism and health of colon, such as vitamins
  2. Digestion of food, which we cannot digest
  3. Boost our immune system
  4. Compete with bad bacteria from overgrowing in the gut
  5. Prevent or treat vaginal yeast infections in women
  6. Prevent or improve the symptoms of diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome
  7. Prevent or improve skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis and acne
  8. Replacing the body’s good microorganisms, which have been lost in cases, such as the administration of antibiotics or when we are ill

The effectiveness of probiotics has not been conclusively proved. Some researchers say that they are effective, while others say that they are not beneficial. Future research will provide further information on how probiotics improve our health.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are complex non-digestible carbohydrates, mainly plant fibers. Thus, they pass through the gastrointestinal tract and become food for probiotics. Apart from probiotics viability, prebiotics contribute to nutrient absorption and bowel regularity. Prebiotics are among others FOS (fructooligosaccharide), inulin and prebiotics from natural sources like chicory roots.

Prebiotics & Probiotics Food Supplements: Which is the right one for you?

To get probiotics and/or prebiotics from your diet, you should eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Probiotic-rich foods are some juices, yogurt and kefir. Prebiotic-rich foods are whole grains, bananas and greens. For higher concentrations of probiotics and/or prebiotics, try probiotics, prebiotics and/or synbiotic food supplements. Synbiotic is a probiotics food supplement, in which prebiotics have been added. The addition of prebiotics might stimulate the probiotics growth, because the probiotics will be fed by both the gut’s and the supplement’s prebiotics.

You should keep in mind that there are roughly 1000 different bacteria strains in our gut. Some of them are included in probiotics supplements and their amount in different supplement brands vary. You should also consider that there are many types of supplements and there is no one-size-fits all application. Different probiotic strains and prebiotics types fulfill individual needs. Therefore, when taking a probiotic and/or prebiotic, consider your condition and select the supplement based on that condition. Also, it is important to follow the supplement’s storage and administration instructions, because some probiotics need to be refrigerated and should not be administered with hot beverages. Furthermore, do not use probiotics supplements past their expiration date. Last but not least, the chosen food supplement should have a notification number, which is issued by the National Organisation for Medicines.

Probiotics supplements are considered to not be harmful. Reported side effects are mild digestive symptoms, such as gas. However, people with weakened immune systems due to underlying medical conditions, such as cancer, should use probiotics with caution, because infection has been occasionally reported. As with any drug or supplement, always talk to your pharmacist or your doctor to confirm if the probiotics supplement is the right and safe for you.

Probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotic supplements are on offer in our pharmacy.

Bibliography

Markowiak P. et al. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017 Sep; 9(9): 1021

Kavita R. et al. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Dec; 52(12): 7577-7587

Mayo Clinic Staff. Prebiotics, probiotics and your health. www.mayoclinic.org

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