Understanding Prebiotics and Probiotics

66-ThinkstockPhotos-stk74622cor-RESIZED Diet and health were already complicated before the buzz words “prebiotics” and “probiotics” were introduced into our vocabulary about a decade ago.   More people are faced with colon complaints and seek not just answers, but viable dietary solutions. While eating healthy foods sounds easy, researchers have determined that each of our gastrointestinal tracts has over 1,000 different types of bacteria. You may be wondering if this is important information. Absolutely! Have you ever eaten the same food and found your body responded differently both times? It has everything to do with the amount of good bacteria in your body. Before we go any further, I will readily admit that understanding the biology of our body is challenging. The definitions are not simple; however, beyond that, we can begin to see how our body can benefit from natural prebiotics and probiotics. And, that means always choosing healthy foods.  


Most prebiotics come in the form of non-digestive carbohydrates, or a plant-based food, such as sugars, starches, and fibers. Raw garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, wheat bran, and banana, or cooked wheat flour are a few examples. Each food item has a natural ingredient, a good chemical that causes a beneficial growth to occur, such as a bacteria or fungi. It will remain undigested in the gastrointestinal tract until a probiotic can digest it.

A probiotic is nothing more than good bacteria in the form of cultured or fermented food such as yogurt or buttermilk; aged cheese; fermented barley, soy or rice; or beer or wine.

Health Benefits

While specific probiotics can shorten or reduce the risk of infections, they may also result in an improved immune system, a smaller risk of colon cancer, a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, a control over certain allergies, and a solution to your lactose intolerance. Doctors around the world have arrived at the same point. If your gut is unhealthy, your risk is much greater for many chronic health problems. Yes, through probiotic66-ThinkstockPhotos-stk73403cor-RESIZEDs, you can develop healthy bacteria and improve your overall health.

Research has concluded:

  • Children who have eaten live or active yogurt cultures with the ingredient “Lactobacillusalleviated the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and altered an “acute diarrheal illness.”  
  • In adults, yogurt and other naturally fermented foods proved to strengthen the immune system by reducing colds and gastrointestinal infections.
  • Through the National Cancer Institute, reports have confirmed that colon, rectal, and colorectal cancer involve microbial processes and can be improved through a regiment of “food related” probiotics.

While there are probiotics in supplement form, meaning pills, research proves the best way to resolve gastrointestinal tracts problems is with food.   The best solution is to experiment with a variety of foods to determine what works best for you. Since each of us is different, there isn’t a foolproof diet comprising a list of specific items.

Brenda Sutton has determined that drinking “Kombucha,” a non-alcoholic fermented tea, which is rich in probiotic properties will help detoxify and promote her gastrointestinal health. Brenda writes, “We keep two gallons of Kombucha in process all the time, and drink it daily. I found Kombucha produced commercially can be rather pricey, but costs only pennies to make at home. To get started, you need a living “scoby,” or “mother” starter, from another Kombucha maker. It is always rewarding to share our experiences and a “scoby” with friends. In addition, seasonal fruits make great flavorful additions in the final fermentation process if you want to keep an interesting variety of Kombucha drinks to consume throughout the year. The addition of live, fermented foods rich in probiotics can be delicious additions to a healthy diet.”

The health benefits of prebiotics and probiotics can be great – investigate ways to incorporate them into and improve your diet!