When it comes to the human body, biotics refers to the bacteria that live inside of us. Some of these bacteria can be beneficial, while others are harmful. There are actually a lot of different “good” bacteria, but they tend to get overshadowed by the bad ones, because they are responsible for so many different types of health problems. You might have heard about two kinds of biotics in particular – prebiotics and probiotics. Here’s some information on what they are and why they are so important.
These are biotics that help good bacteria thrive in the system. They benefit good bacteria like certain types of oil additives help an engine run more efficiently Prebiotics are typically found in fiber and other kinds of carbohydrates that humans aren’t able to digest. Basically, they are the food that fuel beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. These bacteria, known as “gut” bacteria, are also known collectively as the “gut flora.”
If you undergo a great deal of stress, or you either don’t exercise or eat a healthy diet, that increases the chance that harmful bacteria will outnumber the good in your gut. This imbalance can help harmful bacteria thrive, leading to infections and a host of other health issues. However, when there is a proper balance of good and bad bacteria, the body is able to produce the substances needed to protect itself.
There are a lot of different kinds of foods – mainly fruits, legumes, and vegetables – that are good sources of prebiotics. These include asparagus, bananas, beans, berries, garlic, onions and several others. When you eat them, the good bacteria in your gut turn these prebiotics into an acid known as butyrate. There have been several studies conducted on butyrate that have shown it can help reduce inflammation inside the colon.1
Probiotics are biotics that help to boost the numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are found in many types of foods you’ll find on your grocery store shelves, but they also come in supplement form, typically in capsules but sometimes in powders or drinks.
For example, yogurt is an extremely popular food. High-quality yogurt contains live cultures of beneficial bacteria. Other foods that contain probiotics are fermented, such as sauerkraut and non-pasteurized pickles. It is very important that if you are looking for foods rich in probiotics that you stay away from pasteurized versions. The reason is that the pasteurization product kills harmful bacteria, but it also kills beneficial bacteria as well.
Sauerkraut is actually considered both a prebiotic and a probiotic food. It not only contains fiber that acts as food for beneficial bacteria, it also contains good bacteria.
The Importance of Good Gut Bacteria
Again, the gut bacteria help protect you from the effects of bad bacteria. They help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Some types of good bacteria are also essential to the production of short-chain fatty acids as well as vitamin K. Short-chain fatty acids are the main source of nourishment for the cells that line the colon. When this lining is healthy, it forms a barrier that keeps bad bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances out.2 Vitamin K is important because it helps the blood coagulate.
There are several ways that the food you eat affects your gut bacteria. For example, if your diet consists of too many fats and sugars, that can help harmful bacteria thrive to the point that they overtake good bacteria.3 As you continue to feed those bacteria, they can colonize a great deal easier because they don’t have as many beneficial bacteria to get in their way.4
So, when you see over and over again that it’s important to eat healthy, now you know one of the reasons why.
But the way that certain foods are prepared can also have a major impact on your gut bacteria. You might be eating as well as you possibly can and still have an imbalance due to factors that are largely out of your control. For example, studies indicate that pesticides applied to food can negatively affect gut flora.5
Should You Take Biotics in Supplement Form?
When it comes to biotics and supplements, probiotics dominate the market. However, there are prebiotic supplements out there as well. The main difference is that people have to take several capsules in order to obtain the 2-6 grams of prebiotics they need each day.6 That’s why powders are usually the preferred method.
Probiotics are available in powders, capsules, or liquids. Capsules tend to be more effective in delivering beneficial bacteria to the gut, because they are better equipped to handle the difficult journey through the stomach. Acids in the stomach can easily kill those bacteria before they ever get to where they’re designed to go. But not all capsules are created equal – some of them are better manufactured than others. Some capsules are poorly made and will dissolve in the stomach – killing the beneficial bacteria before they can get to the intestines. Do some research before you purchase a supplement, and make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
Optimizing your gut flora through the use of biotics can have a profound impact on your health. But talk to your doctor before you radically change your diet or start taking supplements, to make sure they will be safe for you. There is a chance, for example, that you could have some sort of food allergy you weren’t aware of previously, or you might be sensitive to a particular ingredient found in a supplement. Stay on the safe side and get medical advice first.