Prebiotics and Probiotics
Lately there has been an influx of food products advertising that they contain probiotics as part of their ingredients. These products are normally yogurts and soft cheeses. But what are probiotics and what do they do for you?
In everyone's digestive tract, there live different types of bacteria. Some of these are harmful bacteria, the type that can make you sick. However there are also beneficial bacteria living in your digestive tract that keep the bad bacteria in check. This class of bacteria is called probiotics.
Probiotics not only keep harmful bacteria and yeast from growing in your digestive tract, they also aid in digestion and help produce Vitamin K.
Common strains of probiotics include the Lactobacillis and Bifidobacterium families of bacteria.
When you eat foods containing probiotics you add them to your digestive tract. Once in your stomach, probiotics fight against bad bacteria and aid in bodily functions. Probiotics can be found in yogurts and other fermented products like sauerkraut. Other foods may also add probiotics to their ingredients and they will say so on the label.
So probiotics help to keep your digestive tract healthy, but what keeps the probiotics healthy? After all, they are living organisms inside of you. The answer is prebiotics.
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods we eat that make their way though our digestive tracts to feed the probiotics and help them grow and remain healthy. So some of our food is actually food for our food!
Prebiotics come mostly from carbohydrate fibers called oligosaccharides. Because you don't digest them, they remain in your digestive tract to feed the probiotics. Oligosaccharides can be found in fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Yogurt made with bifidobacteria also contains oligosaccharides.