Probiotics, Prebiotics: Fact and Fiction

yogurt probioticsThese days with so much access to information we tend to get overloaded with it. We can’t tell what’s valid information and what isn’t. There is so much confusion surrounding probiotics and prebiotics, and outrageous marketing claims of yogurt companies and other companies isn’t helping.  Here’s a basic overview of what probiotics are in comparison to prebiotics, and some information to help cut through the clutter of claims.  

The Pros of Probiotics

Probiotics are basically microorganisms that promote health.  They are primarily bacteria that offer health benefits when eaten or supplemented with.  There are many different strains of bacteria that offer an array of health benefits.  The two most common strains include:  L. acidophilus and B. bifidum,

Eating yogurt is rarely enough to obtain the many health benefits of probiotics.  Many commercially-available brands of yogurt don’t contain “live cultures.”  If you’re choosing one, be sure to choose one that says “live cultures” on the label.  The claim doesn’t guarantee that the cultures are intact, but it may increase the odds.

The Myths about Prebiotics

Prebiotics are the food that probiotics feed on to enable them to populate the intestines.  Many food products and supplements come with claims that they contain prebiotics that are necessary for probiotics to work but that isn’t the whole story.  While it is true that probiotics feed on prebiotics, they are rarely necessary and more often take up valuable “real estate” within a tiny capsule.  Carbohydrates such as sugars, starches, and fiber are technically prebiotics that feed probiotics.  They are found in all plant-based foods.

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Adapted with permission from my upcoming book, The Probiotic Miracle (DaCapo).

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