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Probiotics and prebiotics: Differences, functions & tips

Healthy intestinal flora is absolutely essential for many processes in the body. After all, a large proportion of the body’s defence cells are found in the gut, making it crucial for a good immune system. Probiotics and prebiotics are often recommended to keep the gut healthy. But what exactly are they, can they be taken together and which foods contain probiotics and prebiotics?

What are probiotics and prebiotics?

A large number of bacterial strains live in the gut. The large intestine in particular is home to hundreds of trillions of microorganisms, which can be summarised as the intestinal flora or microbiome. It is these microorganisms that have such a positive effect on the entire body.

A healthy microbiome helps with the utilisation of food and fends off pathogens. It is therefore essential for a functioning immune system. And, of course, a healthy gut flora also ensures regular digestion. Incidentally, intestinal bacteria also produce vitamin K and healthy fatty acids.

Probiotics and prebiotics have a health-promoting effect on the gut. Probiotics are health-promoting microorganisms that support the intestinal flora. They are therefore the desired inhabitants of the intestine. They strengthen the intestinal barrier and can thus keep pathogens at bay.

Prebiotics are non-digestible food components. They promote the growth and activity of good bacteria in the gut. Classic examples of prebiotics are dietary fibres such as oligofructose or inulin.

Probiotics and prebiotics can be taken together without any problems. This is often even recommended. Products that contain both are also called synbiotics.

The difference between probiotics and prebiotics

The definition of probiotics and prebiotics is clear:

Probiotics are viable microorganisms

Prebiotics are the food for said microorganisms

This also explains the difference between probiotics and prebiotics. However, this does not change the fact that both are equally important for a healthy gut. You should therefore eat foods that contain both.

Probiotics and prebiotics: These foods contain them

A healthy and balanced diet usually provides the body with all the substances it needs to function properly. This also applies to the gut. If you want to take probiotics or prebiotics in a targeted manner – for example because of intestinal complaints or a proven disordered intestinal flora – you should know the foods that supply the intestine with sufficient probiotics or prebiotics.

Probiotics: Around 400 bacterial strains in food

There are around 400 different types of probiotic bacteria in total. Of course, not all of these can be found in food. It is therefore better to eat a balanced diet in order to colonise as many different active intestinal cultures as possible in the gut. This makes the intestinal flora really healthy and strong.

Fermented foods are a good source of probiotic bacteria. This is because metabolic products are produced during the fermentation process. These not only provide the acidic flavour of the food, but also viable bacterial strains.

There is also an important connection between probiotics and yoghurt: it is probably the best-known source of healthy intestinal bacteria. It should not be pasteurised or heated. It then usually contains the bacterium Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Kefir, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and sourdough are another way of supplying the gut with probiotics.

Asian cuisine also contains a number of ingredients that have a positive effect on the intestinal flora. The Japanese fermented soya paste miso contains probiotics. The Korean pickled cabbage kimchi is also an excellent dish. Tempeh – a fermented product from Indonesia made from cooked soya beans – can also be beneficial.

Where are prebiotics found?

Most people probably realise that vegetables are part of a balanced diet. One of the reasons for this is that they contain a lot of fibre – i.e. prebiotics . The good bacteria virtually pounce on these food components. They feel particularly at home in the gut and can fight off pathogenic bacterial strains. Prebiotics therefore help with diarrhoea, intestinal sluggishness or constipation.

Examples of foods containing prebiotics are

– Chicory

– asparagus

– Jerusalem artichoke

– sugar beet

– onions

– Garlic

– Artichokes

– Black salsify

– honey

Fruit such as bananas, apples and pears also contain prebiotics. Especially when the fruit is raw and unprocessed, it provides good nourishment for the intestinal bacteria. Psyllium husks are also popular and can be combined with oat flakes in muesli.

Probiotics and prebiotics – when are food supplements advisable?

Although there are many foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics, food supplements are also well known. But when are probiotic and prebiotic food supplements suitable?

Supplements are only intended to compensate for deficiencies in the diet. They should never replace a healthy diet. However, if there are disturbances in the intestinal flora, it may be advisable to supplement with prebiotics or probiotics in powder form, for example. Impaired intestinal flora can be caused by increased stress, a poor diet, illness or a colonoscopy. A high intake of probiotics and prebiotics is particularly important after taking antibiotics. The medication makes no distinction between good and bad bacteria. It sometimes destroys important cultures in the gut. A course of probiotics and prebiotics is recommended in such cases.

Incidentally, probiotics are already suitable as support during antibiotic therapy. This can counteract the complete loss of good bacterial strains.

If you do not intervene in time in the case of a disturbed intestinal flora, this can result in persistent intestinal complaints or even chronic illnesses. High-quality food supplements are recommended to prevent this. The so-called intestinal packages , for example, contain many supplements that function as a kind of intestinal reorganisation.

And how should you take probiotics and prebiotics? The best way to find out is to take a look at the package leaflet. Each product is slightly different and contains different strains of bacteria. However, it is important to take high-quality food supplements to ensure that the viable microorganisms arrive alive in the intestine. Kingnature only offers natural products from selected sources that can be easily absorbed by the body.

Probiotics and prebiotics in baby food – why are they so important?

Babies and children are often quite sensitive when it comes to their intestines. This is no wonder: after all, good intestinal flora only develops in the course of life. The first few years are crucial for this.

If you breastfeed your child, you provide it with all the necessary substances via breast milk – including probiotics and prebiotics. However, if the mother is unable or unwilling to breastfeed, the infant should be provided with probiotics and prebiotics by other means. There are special baby foods that are designed to support healthy intestinal flora.

Studies have shown that this can have a lasting positive effect on a person’s health. Skin diseases and allergies occur much less frequently. And the immune system is also better when attention is paid to healthy intestinal flora.

However, before parents buy probiotic and prebiotic products, they should consult a specialist. This will ensure that the offspring receive the best possible care.

Probiotics and prebiotics: Caution with histamine intolerance

Even though probiotics and prebiotics are generally considered to be very healthy, there is a word of caution: some probiotics and prebiotics can form histamine in the gut. For people with histamine intolerance (HIT), this results in symptoms such as digestive problems, headaches or hives. The reason for this is that those affected cannot adequately break down histamine ingested through food.

For example, the otherwise very healthy bacterium Lactobacillus casei can cause corresponding reactions. The decisive factor here is how long the lactic acid bacteria mature and where they come from. This bacterium can therefore both produce histamine and help to break it down.

People with a histamine intolerance should therefore take a close look at food supplements containing probiotics and prebiotics. There are products that undergo a specific test procedure to ensure that no histamine is formed.

Conclusion: This is how important probiotics and prebiotics are

Healthy intestinal flora is important for many processes in the body. Probiotics and prebiotics are very important to keep it healthy. They are contained in some foods and can also be taken in the form of food supplements . Probiotics with prebiotics are particularly suitable for antibiotics, as the drugs can attack the healthy intestinal bacteria.