You hear a lot about probiotics these days, but what about prebiotics? In this article, we’ll cover the top 3 best prebiotic supplements on that market. You’ll also learn why you should consume both prebiotics and probiotics for optimal digestive health.
Updated June 2021.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics were first defined in 1995 as “non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria already resident in the colon.” (1)
That definition has been tweaked throughout the years and the latest update to the definition (decided on by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP)) is as follows: a prebiotic is “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” (2)
But let’s put this in plain English, shall we?
A prebiotic is anything that your healthy gut bacteria can “eat,” and as a result, benefits you and your body.
Prebiotics can be found in both foods (typically high-fiber foods) and supplements.
While “classic” prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS) still fit this new definition,
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) can be an incredibly frustrating condition to live with. Luckily, some of the best probiotics for BV can be found easily and may be very helpful in dealing with this issue. More often than not, bacterial vaginosis is something that women deal with for months or years, with little help from their doctors. In this article, I’ll go over exactly what bacterial vaginosis is, the typical BV treatment, how to address recurring BV, and how probiotics for bacterial vaginosis can help.
Updated June 2021.
In doing research for this post, I came across so many stories from women all over the Internet and it really broke my heart to read them. Women who experienced extreme pain during sex, said they were embarrassed to have any sexual contact, were constantly thinking about how “fishy” they smelled, or worried if they would ever find someone who could love them. There were many women who told their stories of living with BV for years, and could not find a solution.
So this article is dedicated to you – I hope using some of the best probiotics for BV allows you to find relief.
You have probably heard about the many benefits associated with probiotics. But can you also trust probiotics for acid reflux relief?
In this article I will describe acid reflux, how it relates to gut health, and how taking probiotics for acid reflux may help.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Reflux happens when acidic stomach contents flow backward into the esophagus. While this happens a bit naturally, an increase in the frequency and severity of these episodes may start to cause symptoms like heartburn, tissue damage or other complications. Then it’s known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. (1)
There are two types of GERD:
Non-erosive reflux disease (NERD)
This is when symptoms of GERD happen without visible damage to the cells lining the esophagus. (2)
In other words, you might be experiencing symptoms of reflux but your endoscopy comes back normal. About 70% of those suffering from GERD have this NERD subtype. (3)
Erosive esophagitis (EE)/Reflux esophagitis
This is a different type of GERD in which reflux episodes lead to physical damage to the mucosa or other complications. (2)
Acid Reflux Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Standard Treatment
Symptoms of GERD can overlap with other conditions,
Chronic constipation is very common. It has been estimated that up to 24% of the population struggles with chronic constipation (1). Fortunately, there are many natural constipation remedies that can help you overcome this condition.
In this article, I’ll go over exactly what chronic constipation is, what causes it, and my best tips to help you deal with it.
What is Chronic Constipation?
Despite the prevalence of chronic constipation, it has no exact definition because it affects everyone differently. Chronic constipation is characterized by typical constipation symptoms (like difficulty passing stool, infrequent bowel movements, etc) that have persisted for at least 6 months (2).
Constipation definition: “a disorder in the gastrointestinal tract, which can result in the infrequent stools and/or difficult stool passage with pain and stiffness.” (3)
There are two different types of chronic constipation:
Primary chronic constipation: Chronic idiopathic constipation that has no clear cause.
Secondary chronic constipation: Constipation that results as a side effect or comorbidity of medications, systemic, or neurological disease. (4).
Chronic constipation treatments vary depending on the type and root cause.
Sunfiber (partially hydrolyzed guar gum or PHGG) is one of the most well-tolerated prebiotics on the market and is especially useful for those dealing with symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Learn more about how Sunfiber might be helpful for you in this article.
As someone who works almost exclusively with clients with digestive problems, I get really excited about prebiotics (a substance that feeds healthy gut bacteria) that are well-tolerated even by those with issues like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
I’m a huge fan of pretty much all prebiotics as they can all be useful for those with imbalanced gut bacteria — much like probiotics being strain-specific in their effects, each prebiotic has a slightly different effect on the beneficial bacteria colonies that live in your gut.
But the problem with many prebiotics is that they’re not particularly well-tolerated by those with digestive problems…and as you can imagine, these are often the people that need them most!
Some prebiotics cause digestive problems, especially when taken in high doses right away. The most common digestive side effect when taking prebiotics is bloating.
The Well-Tolerated Prebiotic Fiber
Sunfiber is very unique in that sense;
Looking for a functional medicine degree? Here are some great options. While I’m not really considering a functional medicine degree beyond my Master’s degree any longer, I figure this post is still really helpful for those considering a functional medicine degree! If you know of any other reputable degree options out there, please feel free to send them to me and I can update this post further.
Lately I’ve been looking for Ph.D or DCN (doctor of clinical nutrition) programs, because…well, I guess I am a glutton for punishment. I haven’t applied to any yet, and I’m still very much in the consideration phase of planning, but in my search I found a few functional medicine degree programs that look very promising so I wanted to share!
I get emails pretty much daily asking how to pursue integrative and functional medicine especially from a nutrition perspective, and many ask about my experience at the University of Western States Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine program. I’ve talked about it a bit on The Ancestral RDs podcast in Episode 7, so if you haven’t listened to that, I highly recommend doing so.
I’ll add some information here about my experience as well,
Despite sounding very similar, prebiotics and probiotics are quite different and play different roles in the gut microbiome. So what is a prebiotic vs probiotic?
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotic definition: “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” (1)
This essentially means that the definition of a prebiotic fiber is anything that bacteria living in your gut (or elsewhere) can use to thrive. When these beneficial bacteria thrive, they help you, their host, thrive as well. Thus, prebiotics, by way of helping your good gut bacteria thrive, “confer a health benefit” to you.
Prebiotics provide health benefits by helping your healthy gut bacteria do what they’re supposed to do — produce beneficial compounds like short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), strengthen your gut integrity, and push out bad bacteria.
Prebiotics are most often non-digestible fibers, but more recent research shows that prebiotics can also be things like polyphenols (a type of antioxidant).
Types of Prebiotic Supplements
The most common prebiotic supplements you’ll find include:
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
- Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG)
Did you know that the strain of a probiotic determines its effect? In order to find the best probiotic for you, it’s important to understand why probiotic strain matters.
Updated July 2021.
What is a Probiotic?
No doubt you’ve heard all the hype about probiotics.
“Probiotics will heal your gut!”
“Probiotics will prevent food sensitivities!”
“Probiotics treat IBS!”
There’s a million claims out there and a million more probiotic supplements to buy. So how do you know what the best probiotics are?
Before we jump into that, let’s quickly define probiotics:
Probiotics, at their most basic definition, are “live microorganisms which when consumed in adequate amounts as part of food confer a health benefit on the host” (according to the World Health Organization).
Plainly, that means that probiotics are live organisms that benefit your health in some way.
What is a Probiotic Strain?
Probiotic strains are where things get a bit more complicated.
You see, most of us are used to seeing probiotic names listed on supplement labels with two parts to the name.
One of the best things you can do for better gut health is to eat a diverse diet full of high polyphenol foods.
If you’re a pretty healthy eater and consume lots of plant matter, you might be surprised to learn that you’re already eating quite a bit of high polyphenol foods. Even so, you can always strategically increase your polyphenol intake for even more health benefits.
In this article, we’ll discuss the high polyphenol diet: what it is, how to implement it, and the massive benefits you can expect once you implement this easy, delicious diet.
Let’s jump in!
What are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, are naturally-occurring compounds found in plants that benefit the human body in a myriad of ways. (1) Polyphenols include things like the flavanols in chocolate, anthocyanins elderberry and currants, stillbenes in wine, and lignans in flaxseed.
Polyphenols may improve microbial balance in the gut microbiome, regulate blood sugar, and improve your heart health, among other benefits.
You’ve probably heard the term “antioxidant” before, but perhaps not “polyphenol.” While polyphenols are an important sub-category of antioxidants, they haven’t received the attention that antioxidants have gotten in the last few years in the health sphere.
I’ve talked before about the importance of optimizing your gut health before getting pregnant in order to promote a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby.
But what about getting pregnant in the first place… Can your gut bacteria play a role in your estrogen production and fertility?
The science suggests that it very well might!
To understand why let’s take a closer look at infertility and one of its common causes: estrogen dominance.
What is Infertility?
When you hear the term “infertility,” you likely think of a person or a couple that cannot and will never be able to have children. In the medical world, however, infertility does not refer to a permanent state at all.
A diagnosis of infertility simply means that you have not been able to get pregnant after a year of normal, unprotected sex (1).
It’s actually a diagnosis that is far more common than you might realize. According to recent statistics, between 7% and 15.5% of American women experience infertility in any given year, and the majority of women (51.8%) meet the criteria for infertility at least once during their menstruating years (2).