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Prebiotic vs Probiotic: What’s the Difference and Why Are They Important?

Prebiotic vs Probiotic: What’s the Difference and Why Are They Important?

Many people find the prebiotic vs probiotic argument very confusing. They sound like they should be the same thing – but they’re not!

Each has a very different but very important function in the gut, and both should be consumed daily to maintain good digestive health.

Probiotic vs Prebiotic

What Are Probiotics?

To understand the difference, consider the prefix: PRO and PRE. The term “pro-biotics” literally translates as ‘for life’. That’s because probiotics help to promote good health!

The official definition of probiotics from the World Health Organization is:[1]

“live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”.

This simply means that probiotic bacteria live in your gut, helping to break down food that you eat and helping your body to absorb nutrients and enzymes. Unsurprisingly, this supports overall health.

Things that disrupt your levels of good bacteria include age, genetics, certain medications, alcohol and diet. Dysbiosis results when pathogens and yeast overwhelm the good bacteria and spread throughout your intestinal tract. This has been linked to intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.

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It’s easy to source probiotics from food or supplements. Probiotics are naturally present in foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and various pickled products. For convenience, you can also take probiotics in pill form.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics, on the other hand, means “before life” – because they are the food for your good bacteria!

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that humans can’t digest. They actually belong to a group of dietary fiber called oligosaccharides. This group of compounds is in many foods and includes a variety of different non-digestible forms such as fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin and polysaccharides.[2]

What this means is that prebiotics pass through your small intestine undigested and end up in the large colon, where they are fermented. This fermentation process is carried out the bacteria in your colon, which is why this prebiotic fiber is considered to be ‘food’ for these bacteria.

Essentially, prebiotics give your healthy bacteria the nourishment they need to thrive. This fermentation process is an excellent way to support the microbiome that exists in your digestive system.

In fact, it’s only in recent years that prebiotics were classified as ‘fiber’ – mainly because they behave in a similar way to other types of fiber. Researchers have found that prebiotic carbohydrates comprise mainly of fructans and galactans. Both of these are broken down (fermented) by the anaerobic bacteria in your large intestine.

Prebiotic fiber is easy to include in your diet. It’s available in many everyday foods such as garlic, onions, bananas, Jerusalem artichoke, the skin of apples (also known as pectin), chicory root, beans, psyllium husk and legumes.[3]

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Eating these prebiotic-rich foods as often as possible is a great way to keep your intestinal tract healthy. Think of them as a kind of natural fertilizer for your good gut bacteria.

How Do Probiotics And Prebiotics Improve Your Gut Health?

Benefits of Probiotics

Simply put, probiotics are the ‘good’ bacteria living in your gut. They support your health in a variety of ways:

  • Breaking down and digesting food
  • Supporting overall gut health
  • Maintaining the health of your immune system

Probiotics also play a role in how you think and feel. Gut bacteria have an influence on the production and regulation of hormones, such as insulin and leptin. They’ve also been found to produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which are responsible for your mood.[4]

Probiotics support digestion, promote healthy bowel transit time, and help to reduce diarrhea. They can also help improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease (an autoimmune disease), urinary tract infections, and other chronic health conditions.

Boosting the immune system is another major benefit of probiotics. A healthy gut microbiome helps to protect you from bad bacteria, particularly Candida yeast, fungi, and viruses. Research has found that the strains Streptococcus thermophilus[5] and Lactobacillus acidophilus protected against infection with E. coli.[6]

Other research has shown that women taking Lactobacillus have a lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

As for boosting mental health, it’s been found that gut bacteria is directly connected to your brain. This is why the gut is sometimes referred to the ‘second brain’ and probiotics are now being used to improve mental health disorders.

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Certain strains of Probiotics are shown to help reduce anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even memory issues.[7] Some of the most effective strains for mental health include Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus helveticus, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.[8]

Probiotics can also reduce the severity and duration of infectious diarrhea, and diarrhea associated with antibiotic use. Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii were found to be most effective.[9]

Here are 12 probiotic-rich foods that you might want to add to your diet:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Kvass
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • Sourdough Bread

Benefits of Prebiotics

Although taking probiotic supplements and eating fermented foods is very important for your gut health, prebiotics are just as valuable.

Prebiotics can boost the health benefits of probiotics by allowing them to flourish. Combining prebiotics with your probiotic intake can help to improve your gut health in many ways.

As prebiotics move through your gastrointestinal tract, they aren’t broken down by your gastric acids or digestive enzymes like other foods. They instead become sources of fuel and nutrients for the beneficial bacteria living in your gut.

Research shows that prebiotics play an important part in maintaining the overall balance and diversity of your intestinal bacteria. In particular, they help to increase numbers of ‘friendly’ bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.

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Adding more prebiotic fiber to your diet has been found to provide a range of benefits. Because your microbiome is able to use the prebiotic fibers to survive and produce short-chain fatty acids, your body can then use some of these fatty acids to repair improve the lining of the gut. This can reduce the risk of leaky gut syndrome, Candida overgrowth, IBS and other gut problems.[10]

Here are some prebiotic-rich foods that you might want to add to your diet:

  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Chicory
  • Garlic
  • Dandelion greens
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Kiwifruit
  • Legumes (chickpeas, beans)
  • Leeks
  • Onions

Conclusion

You should now understand the prebiotic vs. probiotic issue.

Just remember that your body is full of bacteria: good and bad. The good kind include probiotics, while the harmful kind can include pathogens and various yeasts. Good health comes from keeping the two in balance: that is, more good than bad.

This is best done by including plenty of live probiotics in your diet – either through food or supplements – and by feeding those probiotics with the nutrients they need to survive: prebiotics.

Together, prebiotics and probiotics can help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improve cholesterol levels. Your digestion will be enhanced due to the efficiency of bacteria in breaking down food you eat, which in turn can reduce symptoms such as bloating and gas.

You’ll also be obtaining more nutrients from your diet, which can go a long way in supporting energy levels and vitality.

The health of your gut is closely linked to many other bodily functions. By consuming both prebiotics and probiotics together, you can maintain optimal health – inside and out!

Featured photo credit: Brenda Godinez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Lisa Richards

Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of TheCandidaDiet.com

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Published on June 29, 2020

8 Best Air Purifiers for a Healthy Home

8 Best Air Purifiers for a Healthy Home

Whether you suffer from allergies, have pet friends, or live in a climate where bacteria thrive, the best air purifier will make sure that your home’s air is clean and fresh at all times. We all clean our houses regularly, but it is easy to look over the most important element in our homes, apart from the surfaces, and that’s air. Thanks to the best air purifier, the air in your home will be more breathable and cleaner.

Why You Should Trust Us

If you are looking for which best air purifier is for you, we here at Lifehack have put in the time and effort to find it. There are so many to pick and choose from, so we sifted through dozens to find purifiers suitable for many people.

For these air purifier reviews, we will be suggesting home filters based on three criteria:

  • CADR: The rating that’s used to determine an air purifier’s effectiveness.
  • Room Size: The area that an air purifier takes up in a room.
  • Noise: How loud and distracting it can get.

With these in mind, here are the suggestions for the best air purifiers you can get.

1. Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier

    If you’re looking for an ozone air purifier, this is a solid option. The HEPA filter is capable of capturing up to 99.97% of airborne pollutants, dust mites, and more. The filters provided are able to be washed, and the air purifier has a CADR of 360 square feet. It’s suitable for kitchens and medium to large bedrooms or living spaces.

    That said, the air purifier does have some issues with the sensor, particularly in the auto mode. You’re also stuck with the color of this air purifier as is: black.

    Buy this Air Purifier!

    2. Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier

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      When considering an alternative, we suggest Blueair’s air purifier. It’s an air purifier that addresses allergies and is safe for pets. It’s able to capture 99% of airborne pollutants and is capable of filtering odors from smoking, pets, cooking, and wildfires. Even the sound it makes isn’t loud. The lowest setting is a sound equivalent to a whisper, and the highest is a sound equivalent to rainfall.

      One downside is the fact this filter is relatively small and is meant to be stationed on the floor. It’s about as tall as a small child, so it’s easy for children to stick their fingers or other objects into the air cleaner. Also, considering the size, it’s not built to handle larger rooms unless you get multiple. Even then, customers noted that the sound could be irritating when using multiple filters in a room.

      Buy this Air Purifier!

      3. Hathaspace Smart True HEPA Air Purifier

        For the best air purifier for your money, the Hathaspace air purifier is a good option. It allows you to adjust settings manually and works well as an air purification system capable of capturing 99.97% of air pollutants, gas, and more. It also comes with a 2-year warranty, so it’s not as risky as other brands that may only have a month or three-month warranty.

        That said, many customers noted that it’s not good at keeping back odors as much. The air purifier has a tendency to shut off when the air quality is good, regardless of if the room smells bad.

        Buy this Air Purifier!

        4. GENIANI Home Air Purifier

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          The air purifier from Geniani is another solid option for those looking to fight off allergies and want efficiency in their air purifier. The air cleanser comes with a 2-year warranty and is known for its power while still remaining quiet. You can choose between three speeds, and it even has a nightlight option, too.

          All in all, it’s a great product, though people struggled a little bit with the nightlight option. The light is a little too bright when it’s in the dark, making it disruptive if you’re the type of person who prefers completely dark rooms when sleeping.

          Buy this Air Purifier!

          5. Honeywell HFD-120-Q QuietClean Oscillating Air Purifier

            Another consideration for air purifier home use is Honeywell’s air purifier. One of the big perks from this air cleanser is that the three filters are able to be washed and used permanently, saving you the struggle of buying additional filters. The company also provides replacement filters should the filters perform poorly or get worn down. Beyond that, it’s capable of capturing 99% of air pollutants and is energy efficient, too.

            The air purifier itself is quiet, however, and if you allow it to swivel, the parts themselves could make a loud squeaking sound after a while. It’s also not as strong as other air purifiers around, with customers noting that a ceiling fan may be better.

            Buy this Air Purifier!

            6. PARTU Air Purifier

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              Another cheap option is the PARTU air purifier. Some of the main selling points is that it has an ultra-silent sleep mode, a 4-step filtration process, and serves as a night light thanks to the color ring on it.

              Similar to other small filters, this filter isn’t going to be very strong. Furthermore, many customers noted that the filter emitted a sweet scent from it after a while.

              Buy this Air Purifier!

              7. LEVOIT Air Purifier

                The LEVOIT air purifier is a compact air cleaner that actually is actually quite strong for its size. Its CADR is high enough it can cover a 219 square foot space. And although it’s strong, it’s designed to make minimal noise. Pair that up with it being ozone-free and energy-efficient, and you have a solid air cleaner.

                However, like most other air filters you’ll find, it is good at cleaning the air but isn’t as strong when dealing with odors in particular. Furthermore, despite its strength, it struggles to handle larger rooms, making it more suitable for small rooms.

                Buy this Air Purifier!

                8. Coway White HEPA Air Purifier

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                  The final filter that we have found is this one from Coway. It’s designed to handle room sizes of up to 361 square feet, offers a 4-stage filtration system, and also has an eco-mode to conserve energy when it’s done filtering.

                  One of the largest criticisms for this air purifier is that the fan settings range widely from the noise pollution. Some customers compared the settings between 2 and 3 to a weaker version of the 1st setting (barely making a sound) to a jet engine starting up. Some people also noted that the air purifier tends to wobble and shake, too.

                  Buy this Air Purifier!

                  FAQ

                  Q: Do air purifiers really work?
                  A: In short, yes. An air purifier consists of one filter (or more) and a fan that pulls in and circulates the air. Exactly like water filters, the idea is that the home air purifiers will capture all of the pollutants and particles before pushing out the rest of the air.

                  As for the filters, depending on the brand, you’ll have different kinds of filters. Filters can be made of paper, fiberglass, or mesh.

                  So long as you are taking care of the air purifier by replacing the filters on occasion, an air purifier should work smoothly and without any major issues.

                  Q: Can HEPA Air Purifiers prevent Covid-19?
                  A: Unfortunately, there is no air purifier that can do anything to prevent or kill the coronavirus. As mentioned above, air purifiers focus on collecting particles and pollutants. 

                  As such, an air purifier, HEPA or any air cleaner, can capture the virus, but the virus will be able to live within the filter for a period of time.

                  Final Thoughts

                  The market is filled with all kinds of air purifiers, and overall, many of them are capable of handling air quality. That said, there may be slight issues depending on what you’re looking for. No matter the case, you are taking the risk of potentially getting a purifier that may run into issues with smells or making too much noise. It’s part of the territory it seems. However, any one of the above air purifiers will help clean up the air and leave your house at least a little fresher. 

                  More Tips on Improving Air Quality

                  Featured photo credit: Progressive Insurance via unsplash.com

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