Which is better? Prebiotics + Probiotics or just a mega dose of Probiotics?

This is an interesting question and one whose answer may be more influenced by a person’s lifestyle and food choices.

Until recently,  products that contained both pre and probiotics weren’t an option… there were issues with the prebiotics and probiotics being combined in the same capsule and for that type of  combination to have the ability to survive various gut conditions. Therefore, the option was left to the specific combination, number of different strains and number of CFU’s in a probiotic formula.

If you eat a good amount of fiber – both plant and grain based – then the good bacteria in your gut are most likely well fed.  Also, if you feel that your foods are being digested and broken down well, that would be further evidence that your good bacteria are getting the food they need to prosper. This couples with daily ‘exercise’ or at least a non-sedentary lifestyle would suggest that mega (10 or more strain and 20 billion or more CFU) probiotic would most likely be your best choice.

On the other hand if you’re not a big whole grain, fruit and veggie eater and don’t move about much on a daily basis, then your gut flora would more likely appreciate some prebiotic support – and a good prebiotic and probiotic combination may serve your needs best.

Record Breaking Year – 2018- for Food (poisoning!)

2018 is a record breaking year when it comes to food.. No, not food over-consumption… well, maybe that’s true too, but this story focuses on the record breaking year of food borne illnesses! The CDC would like you to believe it’s because of improved detection methods.. but no, it’s really just because there really have been an increase in food borne illnesses (ie: food poisoning from bacteria and parasites). Click here to get those details.  Romaine lettuce (the most popular type of lettuce) has been hit especially hard this year… helping to create this unwanted record breaker!

Those with pre-existing medical issues and immune disorders along with the very young and seniors are often hit the hardest.  Keeping your gut flora healthily balanced with pre and probiotics and pumping up on antioxidant and nutrient dense intakes can help keep the effects less harsh.

Why Gut Health is Crucial to Overall Health

We’ve come a long way in terms of understanding the importance of our gut (intestinal tract) and its importance to overall health.

Years ago (1980’s) a handful of scientists and doctors were researching the influence of intestinal health and its likely connection to overall health and disease.  The mere mention that the ‘bugs’ in your intestine had an effect on your ability to fight infection and disease was met with harsh criticism from conventional medical researchers and negative attention from the FDA.   Most of these pioneer ‘gut bug’ researchers took their work to countries outside of the US, where they were free to pursue this ‘radical’ idea.

Fast forward (2018) –  my how things have changed.  Research regarding intestinal microbes (‘good’ and ‘bad’ bugs – bacteria-  that  live and flourish in the intestines) is considered one of the most critically important. In general there are billions and between 300-500 different kinds of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bugs that live in the intestines.  The balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is now known to be a key factor.

Coming up with perfect intestinal bug combination is a work in progress.  Everyone’s intestinal microbe make up is unique – much like a fingerprint.  We now know that gut microbes are determined partly by the mother’s microbe mix — the environment that a person is exposed to at birth — and partly from diet and lifestyle. Research has also proven that these intestinal microbes affect everything from metabolism, to mood, to the immune system.

Further, research suggests the gut bacteria in healthy people are different from those with certain diseases. It’s thought some types of microbes may protect against illness, while others increase the risk.  Additionally, there are issues that can positively or  negatively influence a person’s intestinal microbe count and mix.

With the established general link between gut microbes and disease, scientists began to focus on specifics.  Continued research has shown a clear connection between certain illnesses and the bacteria in your gut.  These illnesses include: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), obesity, colon cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, depression and anxiety.

We’ve also learned that eating a diet high in fiber rich foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), regular exercise, and supplementing with probiotics can help encourage a healthy and balanced gut microbe mix.  Likewise, a diet high in fat and sugar and low in fiber can kill certain types of gut bacteria (upsetting the balance). The use of antibiotics, which not only wipes out the intended ‘bad’ illness causing bacteria, also kills ‘good’ protective bacteria. (When antibiotics are needed, a discussion regarding supplementing ‘good’ intestinal flora with a probiotic should be addressed with the health care professional prescribing the antibiotic treatment).

What’s next?  We know that microbes (‘good’ and ‘bad’ bugs) also live on our skin and in our lungs.  These too have a connection to disease or lack thereof.  Experts say that future research needs focus on those areas as well as the intestines in order to pinpoint the exact types of bacteria that lead to certain ailments.  Then, you may be able to just take a probiotic pill and stave off diabetes or treat arthritis… that’s the future.  Considering how far we’ve come in 25 years…  that future may not be too far off.