Why Probiotics Need Prebiotics, and We Need Both
 

You’ve probably heard some talk about the benefits of probiotics for digestion. The term “probiotic” was first introduced in 1965 to describe microorganisms or substances that are secreted by one organism and stimulate the growth of another. This marked a new era in the study of the digestive system. And that’s why.

 

In our body there are about one hundred trillion cells of microorganisms – microbes that form the microflora. Some microbes – probiotics – are important for gut function: they help break down food, protect against bad bacteria, and even influence obesity tendencies, as I wrote about recently.

Do not confuse them with prebiotics – these are indigestible carbohydrates that stimulate the activity of bacteria in the digestive system. They are found, for example, in cabbage, radishes, asparagus, whole grains, sauerkraut, miso soup. That is, prebiotics serve as food for probiotics.

 

On average, the human digestive tract contains about 400 species of probiotic bacteria. They kill harmful bacteria, helping to prevent infections in the gastrointestinal tract and reduce inflammation. Lactobacillus acidophilus, which are found in yogurt, make up the largest group of probiotics in the intestines. Although most probiotics are bacteria, yeast known as Saccharomyces boulardii (a type of baker’s yeast) may also provide health benefits when consumed alive.

 

The possibilities of probiotics are now being actively studied. For example, it has already been found that they help prevent and treat gastrointestinal diseases. According to the Cochrane survey (Cochrane review) In 2010, 63 probiotic trials involving eight thousand people with infectious diarrhea showed that among people taking probiotics, diarrhea lasted 25 hours less, and the risk of diarrhea lasting four days or more was reduced by 59%. The use of pre- and probiotics in developing countries, where diarrhea remains the leading preventable cause of death in children under 5 years of age, may be key.

Scientists continue to explore other potential health and economic benefits from adapting research findings into functional foods and therapeutic drugs for a wide range of diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and malnutrition.

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