In the usual confusion of terms that some people have, prebiotics and probiotics have a special place. And it is that many of us usually confuse both terms, believing that they are the same or using them in an indistinct manner. However, although they are related, they are not the same thing. Therefore, we will try to establish what prebiotics and probiotics are and what the differences between them are.
What are prebiotics
Prebiotics are compounds that the body cannot digest. They are not living organisms, but a type of fiber that, as we say, is not digestible. These fibers have certain beneficial effects on our body as they favor the growth of specific bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the colon.
These fibers are found in some foods and although our body cannot digest them, they are fermented so that they serve as food for these bacteria. Some of the best known prebiotics are inulin and fructooligosaccharides that we can find either naturally in some foods or artificially added to some products.
Where can we find prebiotics
Some foods such as bananas, artichokes, garlic, asparagus, tomatoes, leeks, whole wheat or onions present this compound although in moderate quantities. At other times we can find it as a supplement or artificial addition in other products.
What are the benefits of prebiotics
The prebiotics have the ability to modify the intestinal flora helping to develop the beneficial bacteria that we can find in our intestines. This also decreases the number of pathogenic microorganisms that may be in the intestine.
Among the benefits that this brings to our body we find that they help to stimulate the immune system, favors the synthesis of some vitamins, helps to avoid constipation since it improves intestinal transit, helps the absorption of calcium and magnesium, reduces gas, and reduces the risk of colon cancer.
What are probiotics
Unlike prebiotics, probiotics are living microorganisms. In this case, they are bacteria or yeasts that we can find in some foods, but also in medicines and some supplements.
Among the most used are the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which can be found on many occasions in yoghurts, since especially Lactobacillus is used very often to ferment milk.
Sometimes these probiotics are used to repopulate or treat bacterial floras when there are infections such as candidiasis or antibiotics have been consumed that have damaged the flora. These probiotics grow in the intestine adhering to the mucosa and thus help prevent some harmful bacteria from adhering as well.
Where can we find probiotics
One of the main sources of probiotics in our diet is usually yogurt. In addition to the yogurt itself, other fermented milks are also a source of probiotic. In addition to this, we can find them in medicines like the ovules used for some vaginal infections. In addition, some foods are enriched with these bacteria.
What are the benefits of probiotics
In the case of probiotics, there are different species and not all of them offer the same benefits. Even the strains of each species can have different functions, so you have to evaluate each species and strain individually.
In general, the benefits of probiotics are based on improving the immune system and the health of the intestines. Among the benefits that are usually attributed to them are those to help cure diarrhea or even serve as a treatment for irritable colon. However, we must bear in mind that many of the investigations in this regard are inconclusive and that some studies go so far as to ensure that consuming probiotics is not as beneficial as we might believe.
Thus, some research finds that these bacteria have no effect in some cases, especially if we are healthy.