If you’re wondering, “What are biotics?” they are, in a nutshell, the microbes that reside inside of us. Many of them are good for us, while others are pathogenic and can cause a wide range of health problems. Two specific types of biotics, prebiotics and probiotics, help make sure there’s an ample supply of good microbes in our “gut,” or gastrointestinal tract. Here’s some information on both of them:
When most people think about the answer to the question, “What are biotics?” they usually assume you’re talking about probiotics. After all, they get all the press. You can’t turn on your television or computer, it seems, without seeing an ad for a probiotics supplement. But prebiotics play an important role in our overall health as well.
Prebiotics basically serve as the fuel that helps probiotics thrive in the gut. Just like oil additives help your engine run at peak performance, prebiotics play the same role for probiotics. Prebiotics are fibers commonly found in foods such as legumes, fruits, and vegetables. The body can’t digest these fibers, but beneficial microbes can. In fact, they need prebiotics in order to do their jobs.
When you eat a food or take a supplement that contains prebiotics, beneficial microbes convert them into butyrate, a type of acid. Butyrate helps the body by reducing inflammation in the colon.1 If the colon becomes inflamed, that can lead to a host of problems, such as ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease.
Probiotics are designed to help provide reinforcements to the gut, boosting the number of beneficial microbes so that they can keep the bad ones in check. You can find them in certain foods, such as naturally fermented pickles, sauerkraut, and non-pasteurized yogurt. The term “non-pasteurized” is very important when it comes to probiotics. The reason is that while the process of pasteurization kills harmful bacteria, it also kills good ones.
Sauerkraut is unique in that it’s not only a good source of probiotics, but prebiotics as well. It contains beneficial microbes, as well as the fiber that good microbes use for food.
What Are Biotics Good For?
It extremely important that you have enough prebiotics and probiotics in your gut for many reasons. Probiotics help not only help reduce inflammation, they also help make the immune system stronger. Good bacteria can also help the body by producing vitamin K, which protects us by helping the blood clot. Probiotics have also been shown to aid in the production of fatty acids that strengthen the intestinal walls, keeping out viruses and pathogenic bacteria.2
You obviously know that eating fatty and sugary foods can result in weight gain, but you might not be aware of the fact that they can also help pathogenic bacteria thrive to the point to where they outnumber the good ones.3 Pesticides can also increase the number of harmful microbes in the gut.4
What Are Biotics Supplements?
While there are a lot of foods that contain probiotics as well as prebiotics, you’d have to eat an awful lot of them in order to ensure a proper balance between beneficial and harmful microbes in the gut. The pounds you’d pack on would outweigh any benefits you might receive.
That’s why a lot of people get their probiotics through supplements. They come in liquids, powders, and even gummies, but capsules are the most convenient and efficient method. They have a better chance at getting the microbes you need where you need them the most – the gut. The stomach is a very inhospitable place, filled with acid. This acid can destroy a lot of the good microbes found in powders and drinks before they get to the gut. Capsules have a better chance of making this difficult journey.
It’s very important, though, that you talk to your doctor before you either take a probiotic supplement or you change your diet to get more probiotics (as well as prebiotics) into your system. You might, for instance, have a food allergy to a certain product that you weren’t aware of. The last thing you’d want to do is to find that out the hard way. Just play it safe, and get some medical advice before you make any drastic changes.
So the next time you hear the question, “What are biotics?” you can say with confidence you know the answer. They can help your gut – as well as your overall health – in ways you might not have previously thought possible.