Prebiotics and Probiotics: What's the Difference?
| Cecilia Kitic
There is a lot of talk about prebiotics and probiotics in the world of gut health. You may have even heard of postbiotics! It can all get confusing so let’s take a look at prebiotics and probiotics, what they do, and where to find them.
Prebiotics are non-digestible components of food that feed our gut microbes. To be classified as a prebiotic, a compound must be proven to promote the growth of beneficial microbes (so beware of claims that something is prebiotic as it may not have the science to back this up!).
As prebiotics make their way their way through your lower digestive tract, your gut microbes ferment or break down the prebiotics to produce beneficial functional bioactive compounds. These compounds may sometimes be called postbiotics and they do incredible things for your reproductive health!
How do Prebiotics Work?
Prebiotics stimulate the production of beneficial compounds including short chain fatty acids, vitamins, amino acids and organic acids.
Increasing prebiotics in your diet has a direct positive effect on increasing the diversity of your gut microbes, promoting the production of all those beneficial postbiotics.
Imbalances in gut microbiota have been shown to negatively impact our reproductive health, impacting ovulation, egg and sperm quality and how receptive your endometrium is for implantation.
With prebiotics to promote a healthy, diverse gut community this:
⚈ lowers inflammation
⚈ trains the immune system to mount an appropriate response
⚈ reduces the activation and absorption of toxins
⚈ promotes metabolic health
⚈ regulates sex hormone balance
Another positive impact of a healthy gut community can be increased solubility, and therefore availability of essential minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium.
Nurturing the diversity of your gut microbes provides a great foundation to ensure you are getting the most out of the food you eat, and providing a great foundation for your reproductive health!
Where do I Find Prebiotics?
Prebiotics can be found in foods that are high in fibre (and in some other places). These include nuts and seeds, fruit, vegetables, legumes like chickpeas and lentils, and also in certain breads and cereals.
Including foods like garlic, onion, asparagus, leeks, wheat, apples, pears, cashews and blueberries (just to name a few!) will encourage the growth of your beneficial microbes.
What Prebiotics Are on The Menu?
There are a lot of microbes living in your gut. We carry around more microbes than human cells in fact! If we have so many microbes on board, how do we know what they like to eat?
The most common prebiotic fuel sources for most beneficial species living in your gut include fructooligosaccharides (FOS), followed by inulin and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). Quantities of fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides that naturally exist in foods are low but these can be concentrated from natural sources (like we have with Fertile Gut!).
Aim to include prebiotics in your diet daily. When you miss out on prebiotics in your diet or only have them occasionally, your gut bacteria search for an alternative source of food. They begin to dine on the lining of your gut which promotes more inflammation, leading to gut imbalances that impact our reproductive health.
Have a prebiotic packed vegetable stir fry, make a poke bowl with edamame, mushrooms and asparagus, or cook a lentil pasta. Aiming for diversity in the foods you eat each week will provide a diversity of prebiotic fibres to nurture your gut microbiota.
We know that getting a variety of proven prebiotic fibres consistently is not always possible, which is why we crafted Fertile Gut. If there was one thing we knew helped our clients at The IVF Project get on top of their reproductive health it was a mix of proven prebiotic fibres, which led to the creation of Fertile Gut.
As not all prebiotics are created equal, we scientifically selected natural compounds that possess the biochemical complexity of fruits and vegetable cellular materials, and is 100% plant based. Fertile Gut’s complex biochemical structure allows it to be fermented along the entire colon length so the beneficial metabolites are progressively absorbed to deliver more gut goodness!
What Are Probiotics?
While prebiotics are food for your good microbes, probiotics are the actual live microbes, which are usually bacteria. Effective probiotic strains taken in high enough doses can also improve gut health. If you already take probiotics, remember that they will need a source of food to thrive, and this comes from having prebiotics in your diet each day.
You can find probiotics in a number of supplements, but you can also add some beneficial bacteria to your diet with foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut that contain probiotics. Often the best probiotic foods would be fresh, locally made or homemade. If you see bubbles, there is most likely live bacteria in there which is a good sign!
Our gut microbiota are almost as individual as a fingerprint. If you are considering a probiotic, do your research to check that the strains have been shown to be beneficial for you and your fertility. If you have endometriosis Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains may be beneficial. If you have PCOS then certain Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains may be effective.
Nurture Your Gut
A healthy gut is the foundation for optimal reproductive health. Changing your diet to incorporate more prebiotic foods to fuel your beneficial microbes already on board can nurture positive changes in your gut community in just a few days.
With consistency you will build a flourishing gut community to nurture your reproductive health!