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Prebiotics and Probiotics: Boost Your Intestinal and Overall Health

Prebiotics and probioticsPrebiotics and probiotics have been getting a lot of attention in the news media lately. More and more research is coming out on how prebiotics and probiotics may help to improve the health of your intestinal tract as well as your overall health.

With increasing reports of the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics, supplement manufacturers have made more and more of these available in pill form. There is now a dizzying array of choices available.

What are Prebiotics?

Most people are not quite as familiar with prebiotics as they are with probiotics, but that does not mean that prebiotics are any less important. Prebiotics are non-digestible supplements that stimulate the growth of bacteria in the colon.[1] There are many different prebiotics available.

Some of the prebiotics available include:[2]

  • Inulin
  • Oligofructose
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Fructo-oligosaccharides

How Often Should I Take a Prebiotic Supplement?

Take a prebiotic supplement every day in order to give your intestinal tract the best chance at staying or becoming healthy. Because everybody’s digestion is different, it might take you a while to find a prebiotic supplement that really seems to be helpful. The important thing to remember is not to get discouraged and to keep looking until you find the perfect prebiotic supplement for you.

Understanding Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that colonize the gut and may positively influence health.[3] They are commonly referred to as “good bacteria”. People typically use the term “probiotics” to refer to food or supplements containing beneficial bacterial.

Natural Sources of Probiotics:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir (a fermented beverage very similar to yogurt)

Taking a Probiotic Supplement

Just like as is the case with prebiotic supplements, there are many different probiotic dietary supplements available. You will have to spend some time figuring out which probiotic supplements work best for you.

If you start to experience any digestive discomfort after taking a probiotic supplement, switch to a different one. But there’s no need to worry about becoming seriously sick as a result of taking a probiotic. Probiotics are generally safe to consume.[4]

The Future of Prebiotics and Probiotics

A lot more research needs to be done to understand the full impact of taking prebiotics and probiotics. Emerging research indicates that prebiotic and probiotic supplements may have more health effects than previously thought. But it will be some time before exactly how prebiotic and probiotic supplements heal the body is understood.

The intestinal tract and human digestion are very complicated. Making things even more complicated is the amount of individual variation that exists as far as intestinal tracts go. Different individuals have different amounts of different bacteria in their guts. Partially because of this, the beneficial effects of prebiotic and probiotic supplements and foods may never be fully understood.

To start increasing the health of your digestive system now, make an effort to eat more probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir. Though these do provide you with beneficial bacteria, they do not actually colonize the system, and you want them to do so for lasting benefits. This is the benefit of supplements.

You may want to start experimenting with different prebiotic and probiotic supplements until you find the ones right for you. You will know you have found supplements that work well with your body when you start noticing improvements in your digestion and possibly your general sense of well-being. Prebiotic and probiotic supplements aren’t just for sick people – we all need a healthy digestive system to feel at our best.


1. University of Nebraska – Lincoln: A Healthy Lifestyle With Probiotics and Prebiotics

2. Kenyon College: Probiotics and Prebiotics

3. Penn State University: What are probiotics?

4. University of Florida: Commonly Asked Questions about Probiotics and the Potential

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