What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

The Beauty Chef - What's the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

When it comes to maintaining optimal gut health, both prebiotics and probiotics are essential. While they have different functions, they work synergistically to help support our microbiome – the incredible mini-ecosystem of bacteria that live within our digestive tract – and our overall health.

To truly understand the benefits of both prebiotics and probiotics however, it’s first important to understand the complexity and importance of our bacteria in general. For example, while traditionally probiotics have been described simply as ‘good’ bacteria, the latest research shows that this view is, perhaps, a little too simplistic. Rather than thinking of our bacteria as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – we must instead think of them in terms of those we want, those we don’t want (pathogenic bacteria) and those that are relatively neutral, depending on how they interact with their environment. And, most importantly, for good gut health – as well as glowing skin – we need a diversity of bacteria to thrive!

WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?

Probiotics are the live, beneficial bacteria that we can consume – either through food or supplements – which help to support not only our gut health, but our immune function and overall wellbeing as well.

There is also a growing body of research linking certain species and strains of probiotics to a myriad of health and skin benefits. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces, for example, are now widely supported to be beneficial in the treatment of skin conditions.

But, despite their benefits, there is also no perfect probiotic profile that’s suited to everyone which is why taking a probiotic pill or supplement (consisting of just one or two species or strains) is arguably not so great for your microbiome. Instead, the best thing you can do is eat a nutrient-dense, balanced diet including probiotic-rich fermented foods which are naturally rich in a variety of species and strains. Good examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, natto, tempeh and yoghurt (and The Beauty Chef products!) – which all contain an abundance of gut-friendly probiotic bacteria.

WHAT ARE PREBIOTICS?

If you think of your gut as a garden, prebiotics are akin to fertiliser, helping to nourish and feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, encouraging their proliferation while also helping to reduce levels of pathogenic bacteria.

Prebiotics are the non-digestible plant fibres that are resistant to digestion, passing through the stomach and small intestine to be metabolised by bacteria in the large intestine, or colon. As you can see, prebiotics are essential for digestive health as without adequate prebiotic intake, your beneficial microbes may not receive the nourishment they need to thrive.

Prebiotic soluble fibre is particularly good for gut health as when soluble fibre is metabolised by bacteria and fermented in the colon, the by-product of this fermentation is the production of short-chain fatty acids – such as butyrate, propionate and acetate. These anti-inflammatory compounds are essential for our immune health and brain health as well as our gut health – helping to improve intestinal barrier function. Fruits, vegetables and legumes are all good sources!

Interestingly, in the Western world, our fibre intake is much lower than that of people who live in un-industrialised regions, with some rural communities in Africa incorporating up to seven times more fibre into their diets. While a lower fibre intake is not only thought to be linked to less microbial diversity, as we explain in The Beauty Chef Gut Guide, “Pre-clinical research also shows that when microbes are starved of fibre, they may feed on the protein found in the mucosal lining of the gut, triggering inflammation and gut-related diseases”

As you can see, both prebiotics and probiotics play an integral role in our gut health and overall wellbeing – and it’s this synergistic relationship between the two that we embrace at The Beauty Chef. By harnessing the power of fermentation, our inner beauty powders are rich in both prebiotics and probiotics to holistically support your health, beauty and wellbeing from the inside, out.

To discover more about the importance of prebiotics and probiotics, check out The Beauty Chef Gut Guide – available now!


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