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Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: What's the Difference?

Updated: Jun 8

Let food be thy Medicine, and Medicine be thy food...!

~Imhotep, Ancient Physician, Architect, Mathematician, Scientist & Multi-Genius from Khemet



A faithful companion since conception, our MicroBiome, 100 Trillion strong, yet, still far too tiny to see, has an extraordinary influence on our body, mind, and quality of life.  


This fascinating world of micro-organisms, completely micro-manage the cards of chance for the delicate balance between life and death, regardless of what we may think. Our emotions, our health, and even our wealth rest securely in the hands of our mighty micro-community, made up of various flora, bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other microbes.


For almost six decades, we have been fascinated by these micro-warriors-- some good, some bad, and others ugly-- yet collectively maintaining an exceptionally beautiful hold and orderly balance on our Gut-Brain health.  


Although many studies have presented these facts and the importance of Microbiome on our Gut and Brains, many still struggle with understanding Micro-Organisms, their healing properties, and the difference between PROBIOTICS and PREBIOTICS.  Here we will seek to engage some questions on the matter and share some information on the above.


Before we begin, let's clear the following terminology, to better comprehend the importance of micro-organisms on life.


WHAT IS A MICROBIOME?

The microbiome refers to the collection of all the micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes, that inhabit a particular environment. In the context of human health, the human microbiome specifically pertains to the diverse community of microbes living on and inside the human body, with a significant concentration in the gut.


Key points about the microbiome include:

  1. Diversity and Balance: A healthy microbiome is characterized by a diverse and balanced community of micro-organisms. This diversity is crucial for maintaining various bodily functions, including digestion, immunity, and metabolism.

  2. Gut Microbiome: The gut microbiome is the most extensively studied part of the human microbiome. It plays a vital role in breaking down complex carbohydrates, synthesizing vitamins, and protecting against pathogens.

  3. Immune System Interaction: The microbiome interacts closely with the immune system, helping to regulate immune responses and protect against infections. A balanced microbiome can enhance immune function, while an imbalanced one can contribute to inflammation and disease.

  4. Metabolic Functions: The microbiome is involved in metabolic processes, including the fermentation of indigestible fibers (prebiotics) into short-chain fatty acids, which provide energy and have anti-inflammatory properties.

  5. Influence on Health and Disease: The composition and balance of the microbiome can influence overall health and susceptibility to diseases. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the microbiome, has been linked to various conditions, including obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and mental health disorders.

  6. Personalized Microbiome: Each person's microbiome is unique, influenced by factors such as diet, lifestyle, genetics, and environmental exposures. This uniqueness means that interventions to support microbiome health, such as probiotics and prebiotics, can have varying effects from person to person.


In today's world, understanding and maintaining a healthy microbiome, is an emerging area of research with significant implications for preventing and treating a wide range of health conditions. Thus, it is important that we educate ourselves on the microbiome to navigate the decisions we may be asked to make currently or in the future when choosing how we will treat presenting health challenges.


WHAT ARE "BIOTICS"?

The term "biotic" refers to anything related to or resulting from living organisms. It encompasses all living components within an ecosystem, including plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and any other forms of life. Biotic factors interact with each other and with abiotic (non-living) components such as climate, soil, water, and sunlight, playing crucial roles in the functioning and balance of ecosystems.


These interactions can influence growth, reproduction, survival, and the overall health of the ecosystem. Biotic elements are fundamental in the study of ecology, as they shape and are shaped by their environment.


WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?  

Probiotics, often referred to as "good" or "friendly" bacteria, offer a multitude of healing benefits that contribute to our overall health and well-being. These live micro-organisms help maintain a balanced gut microbiome, which is essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.


By enhancing gut health, probiotics can alleviate symptoms of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).


Additionally, they play a crucial role in strengthening the immune system, as a significant portion of the body's immune cells are located in the gut.


WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF PROBIOTICS?

The health benefits of Probiotics lie in the role they play in both the gut and the brain. Probiotics can also help prevent and treat infections by outcompeting harmful bacteria and reducing inflammation. Beyond digestive and immune health, emerging research suggests that probiotics may positively impact mental health by influencing the gut-brain axis, potentially alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Regular consumption of probiotic-rich foods or supplements can thus contribute to a wholistic approach to maintaining and improving your overall health. 


What are PREBIOTICS

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut and offer significant healing benefits that support our overall health.


What are the Healing Properties of PREBIOTICS?

By nourishing the good bacteria, prebiotics help maintain a balanced gut microbiome, which is crucial for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.


This balance can alleviate digestive issues such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Prebiotics also enhance immune function by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria that can outcompete harmful pathogens, thereby reducing the risk of infections and inflammation. Additionally, prebiotics contribute to better metabolic health by regulating blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or at risk of developing the condition.


Emerging research also highlights their potential role in mental health, as a healthy gut microbiome is linked to improved mood and cognitive function through the gut-brain axis.


Incorporating prebiotic-rich foods such as garlic, onions, bananas, and whole grains into the diet can thus be a powerful strategy for promoting overall health and well-being.


Lastly, now that we understand the importance of have good GUT HEALTH, let us explore some factors that may play a role in affecting this balance.


Introducing.... ANTIBIOTICS.


HOW DO ANTIBIOTICS AFFECT GUT HEALTH?

Antibiotics can significantly affect gut health by disrupting the balance of the gut microbiome. While antibiotics are designed to kill or inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria causing infections, they can also inadvertently harm beneficial bacteria in the gut. This disruption can lead to a decrease in microbial diversity and an imbalance known as dysbiosis.


Some of the effects of antibiotics on gut health include:

1. Reduced Microbial Diversity: Antibiotics can decrease the variety of bacteria in the gut, which is essential for a healthy and resilient microbiome.


2. Overgrowth of Harmful Bacteria: With beneficial bacteria suppressed, opportunistic pathogens like Clostridium difficile can proliferate, potentially leading to infections and conditions such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea.


3. Impaired Digestion and Absorption: The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in digesting certain foods and absorbing nutrients. Disruption can impair these processes, leading to digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies.


4. Weakened Immune System: Since a large part of the immune system is located in the gut, a disrupted microbiome can weaken immune defenses, making the body more susceptible to infections.


5. Increased Inflammation: An imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to increased gut permeability ("leaky gut"), which can trigger inflammation and contribute to various health conditions, including allergies, autoimmune diseases, and metabolic disorders.

To mitigate these effects, it is often recommended to take probiotics and consume prebiotic-rich foods during and after antibiotic treatment to help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.  


Keep in mind that all PROBIOTICS are not created equally as some are not formulated to properly assist in replacing lost GUT MICROBIOME communities during ANTIBIOTIC use.


Also, be aware that in some cases, it will require possibly several months or even years to restore our healthy MICROFLORA, however, the use of certain intensive probiotic treatments can bring about some level of balance and assist us in the post-antibiotic wellness journey.  


With that being said, don't give up on your GUT HEALTH, despite the setbacks, because in due time, with the application of a whole food diet- free of artificial colorants, artificial flavors, or chemicals (more on that later)-, regular fasting, alongside a healthy workout routine of walking, and maintaining an overall positive outlook on life, full of more gratitude, love and far less vitriol (smile), we should accomplish these health, wealth and wellness goals in no limit of time!


Until next time, I wish you Peace & Much Love!

I am truly grateful for you!

Please, get & Stay Well!

~ Dr. Tisa M, DNM.

@drtisaM




Do you want to try PREBIOTICS or PROBIOTICS?

If you are interested in incorporating PREBIOTICS or PROBIOTICS into your daily routine, try some of the ones offered by APRWI. TRY PREBIOTICS, here.


Want to experience the power of PROBIOTICS?

To experience the restorative healing benefits of PROBIOTICS in your life, please review and purchase some of our powerful PROBIOTIC Cultures offered by APRWI for both you and your family. TRY PROBIOTICS, here.

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