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Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: Your Questions Answered

It's likely you've heard about the importance of probiotics for proper digestion. But do you know why you're taking them? And what about those prebiotic things... should you be taking those too?

Probiotics have taken the spotlight recently as our digestion-saver, and killing of the bad bacteria in our guts. 

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Why does this bacteria matter anyway? 

Your digestive system is full of bacteria–both good and bad–that affect how our body digests food, combat illness, and impact our energy levels. These microorganisms that make up what we call our "gut microbiome". In this microbiome, we have Probiotics like "good bacteria" and yeast, that work to keep the balance between the good and the bad. 

Why are probiotics such a hot topic now?

As we use medication (especially antibiotics and the Birth Control Pill), the probiotics that make up our gut microbiome can be wiped out, leaving us with more bad bacteria that can lead to illness, digestive upset, and even issues like tooth decay (yes, tooth decay!) 

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Where do probiotics come from?

You can get probiotics from a variety of sources, especially fermented foods like sauerkraut (purchase the stuff from the refrigerated section!), yogurt, kefir, tempeh, miso paste, and kimchi.  And probiotics from food are your best bet at repopulating the good bacteria in your gut as they stay there in the long run. 

Taking probiotic supplements are another great option, especially if you've just completed a round of antibiotics, are doing a cleanse, or have been having long-term digestive issues such as chronic constipation.

When looking for a probiotic, be sure to choose one that includes a human strain, alongside Lactobacillis and bifidobacterium. And the amount of CFUs ( colony forming units), that you will need will depend on what you want them for. 

For a healthy individual using it everyday, 10 billion should be good. Just finished a round of probiotics? Reach for a minimum of 50 billion. 

Remember, a healthy gut is essential to maintain a healthy weight, and feel energized. 

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So what's a prebiotic?

This is the non-digestible part of food, a fibre, that goes through your small intestine and starts to ferment in the large intestine. This feeds the good bacteria here (like the probiotics we talked about above). 

However, it's important to know that some people actually have issues digesting these prebiotics as fermentation can cause more issues in the intestinal tract, especially gas, bloating and constipation. 

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Here are some sources of prebiotics: 

  • Grains like oats, corn and barley
  • Vegetables like asparagus, and jicama
  • Garlic, leeks, and onions
  • Legumes like soybean, and kidney beans
  • Cows dairy 

 Learn how to incorporate both probiotics and prebiotics into your diet with the help of a trainer!

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