I hope I don't sound too despondent when I say that we are living in troubled times albeit a more advanced world, nonetheless in which things, opinions countries ideas are always clashing.
Today also we have thankfully a far smaller clash on hands – Probiotics vs Prebiotics. Like I said in our modern world we are constantly clashing ideas, and older concepts are presented in newer forms and some things that were hidden in shadows are brought to spotlight. These two concepts are no different and have been steadily making leeway in our health regimes.
As most of us would be aware that the live microorganisms also known as good bacteria present in food items are called Probiotics. Their purpose is to maintain the balance of good bacteria, along with already present bacteria in the stomach, hence maintaining healthy digestive system.
If you were to look up Prebiotics you will find that they are definitely unalive, fiber component which cannot be digested and they promote or facilitate the growth of probiotics in our gastrointestinal tract. Basically together their purpose is to support good bacteria, fight bad bacteria and helps you have a healthy working tummy. There are various types of pro and prebiotics.
Common prebiotics include:
Inulin, Fructose-oligosaccharides, Lafinose etc. found in Chicory root, Leeks, Onions, Artichokes and others.
Common Probiotics include:
Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium etc. commonly present in dairy products like yogurt, buttermilk, soft cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, and others.
On the subject of Vs. Probiotics are sensitive, being living culture they can be destroyed by heat and acid in the stomach, so not all consumed probiotics reach the desired destination to work their magic. Prebiotics, on the other hand, face no such difficulty and reach the small intestines, colon easily and do the job, which is one of its selling points.
As to the question, do we need them? Well going by the fact that they are present in so many food items provided to us by nature, they are a part of our diets, whether we choose to add them or not, and in a way, we do need them to maintain the microflora in our stomach. But do we need the extra dosage that is the prescription these days as supplements? To that effect, preliminary research shows that probiotics and prebiotic aid the consumption of minerals in the body, it definitely improves digestion, and can treat some types of diarrhoea as well. Also, there are studies showing that they can help treat and prevent urinary tract infections and yeast infections, especially in growing children they can help reducing the risk of illnesses like asthma, eczema.
There are more researches suggesting they may help detoxify as well, and they also improve bone density. So, all in all, it sounds like a wonder pill. Other than that there aren't much side effects, one may suffer from gas and bloating. But the crucial fact to note is that these researches are all preliminary, there is more need to study and come up with guaranteed benefits. Also, which pro and prebiotics have what type of effect needs to be taken further.
Lastly as to the side effects, in some people suffering from any pre-existing conditions they can aggravate your symptoms rather than help. So caution is your answer. We need probiotics and prebiotics, but when taking supplements consult a doctor and make sure to note if you face any changes in your system.
Probiotic comes from Greek, meaning "For Life", so take care. Go for Life!