Probiotics has become a fairly common term in the field of nutritional supplements, but lately we’re hearing more and more about prebiotics as well. Are they related? What’s the difference?
Where does the term probiotics come from? A literal translation would be “for life” and when it comes to colon care and intestinal microflora, probiotics are the good bacteria bifidobacterium longum and lactobacillus acidophilus, often shortened to acidophilus, that should be living there. And while they are distinguished from prebiotics, they most definitely are not contrary to prebiotics, In fact, the two work together.
Prebiotics (yep, the literal translation would be “before life”) are actually the food for the probiotics. Are we sure we want to feed the bacteria inside us? Well, the good bacteria we do. And prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin selectively feed the good bacteria only, creating an environment where the good guys can grow and multiply, crowding out the bad guys. There is limited real estate in our intestines, and if there are sufficient good bacteria, the bad bacteria — the ones that make us ill, challenge the immune system, and wreak havoc on our digestive systems — are crowded out.
So the prebiotic component of acidophilus supplementation is an important partner to probiotic acidophilus, the actual good bacteria itself, the bifidobacterium longum and lactobacillus acidophilus. It makes the most sense to rely on a two-product system that delivers both of these partner components for healthy digestive balance.