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What is the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Prebiotics and probiotics are two types of friendly bacteria found in the intestinal tract. They differ in both their sources, as well as how they are used in the digestive tract. While probiotics are found in digestible food sources and are absorbed into the body, prebiotics are not digestible and help promote the growth of probiotics.

Several food groups are good sources of prebiotics. Non-digestible carbohydrates are the source of prebiotics used by the body. Fruits and vegetables are full of these helpful carbohydrates. Other sources include any form of whole grain as well as legumes.

Probiotics are found in many different food sources. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and yogurt, are the most commonly used sources of these live cultures that people include in their diets to obtain this healthy bacteria. Depending on the source of the bacteria, it could be one of several strains. The two most common strains of probiotics include Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillis bacteria. Supplements of the strains can also be purchased at most health food stores, typically in capsule form.

Both prebiotics and probiotics are thought to help keep the digestive system healthy. The presence of either bacteria can help prevent the growth of yeast in the intestinal tract. The production of vitamin K in the body is also dependent on these friendly bacterias. In addition to favorable intestinal health, prebiotics and probiotics are thought to keep the immune system healthy as well.

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When these two types of bacteria are in balance in the body, they can help prevent viruses, toxins, and harmful bacteria from creating illness in the body. When illnesses do occur, these bacteria can help lessen their impact on the person affected. Helpful bacteria also enable the body to properly digest nutrients.

Many factors can contribute to the decline or absence of friendly bacteria within the digestive system. People who have to take antibiotics for any type of infection are at risk of killing their intestinal storage of the helpful bacteria. Stress can also deplete one's reserves of prebiotics and probiotics. Poor dietary choices are another contribution to loss of good bacteria.

If the body lacks enough prebiotics and probiotics, it can revert to a state of intestinal dysbiosis. This condition consists of an imbalance of bacteria in the body. Harmful bacteria and yeast are able to outnumber the helpful bacteria in the digestive tract if this condition develops, which can cause sickness and other health problems.

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