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Do you often suffer from diarrhoea, constipation, or flatulence? Are you interested in naturally caring for your intestinal health? Then probiotics and prebiotics should abound in your diet. These nutraceuticals balance the intestinal flora while strengthening the immune system, lowering blood cholesterol, and preventing osteoporosis.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that colonize and have a positive effect on the microbiota in the colon. At the same time, prebiotics are indigestible compounds that serve as food for the good bacteria in the gut. Are you ready to learn everything there is to know about probiotics and prebiotics?
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Our Selection: The Best Probiotics & Prebiotics Supplements on the UK Market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Probiotics & Prebiotics
- 3.1 What are probiotics and prebiotics exactly?
- 3.2 What are the characteristics of probiotics and prebiotics?
- 3.3 What are the most commonly used probiotics in supplements?
- 3.4 What are the most beneficial types of prebiotics?
- 3.5 How do humans benefit from probiotics?
- 3.6 What are the advantages of prebiotics?
- 3.7 When are probiotics and prebiotics recommended?
- 3.8 What types of probiotic and prebiotic supplements are there?
- 3.9 What are the food sources of probiotics and prebiotics?
- 3.10 What are the side effects and contraindications of these supplements?
- 4 Buyer’s Guide
- 5 Summary
- Probiotics are microorganisms – mainly bacteria – that have a positive influence on the bacterial flora of the colon. Prebiotics are indigestible plant substances that stimulate the growth of bacteria that form part of the healthy intestinal flora.
- The benefits of probiotics and prebiotics go well beyond the gut. They improve the functioning of the immune system, reduce blood cholesterol, increase calcium absorption, promote lactose digestion, and mitigate diarrhoea from antibiotics and rotavirus.
- Probiotics and prebiotics can be obtained from conventional foods or supplements. There are various criteria that you should take into account when purchasing the latter, which include their dosage and your dietary restrictions, among others.
Our Selection: The Best Probiotics & Prebiotics Supplements on the UK Market
Experts have been vocal about the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics for years now, which is why the production of these supplements has grown significantly. Unfortunately, not all products meet the quality and concentration of active ingredients required to improve health. In the section below, you will find our selection of the best probiotics and prebiotics currently available out there:
- Best Symbiotic Supplement for Vegans
- Best Organic Prebiotic Fibre Supplement for Women
- Best Bio Cultures Complex Supplement
- Best Bio Culture Complex Supplement
- Best Prebiotic Powder in Sachets
Best Symbiotic Supplement for Vegans
These vegan easy to swallow capsules are filled with the highest quality viable bacteria. With 40 billion CFU per serving (2 capsules), and with a 15 strain complex you can rest assured that you are purchasing one of the best products on offer. Furthermore, this product is completely vegan friendly. And it contains no artificial colours or flavours. This product provides contaminant-free, pure ingredients. Free from gluten, lactose and nuts.
This brand was established in the UK in 2014. Since then they have become a recognised and trusted vitamins and supplements brand by customers across the world. Their products are high quality and everything they make is certified in the UK.
Best Organic Prebiotic Fibre Supplement for Women
Being a modern-day woman can be tough, with busy lifestyles often leaving little time for self-care. The very first victim is your health. Did you know that an overwhelming majority of women in UK don’t meet their daily nutrient and fibre requirements! This leads to a number of avoidable health issues like indigestion, low energy and immunity, hormonal imbalance etc.
Therefore this brand has created a blend of synergistic wholefood ingredients, that is hassle free to use and super healthy. Each serving provides a potent dose of gut healing dietary fibre and a huge range of vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamin A, B, C, E, zinc, iron, chloride, calcium, manganese and vegan omega 3.
Best Bio Cultures Complex Supplement
With 16 strains for the best results. Unlike many brands that only include few strains, this product provides a broad spectrum of bacterial cultures. It contains ‘prebiotics’ that act as food for bacterial cultures, which helps them stay alive longer. The bacterial cultures will stay alive until the end of shelf life, and you don’t need to store them in the refrigerator.
For your peace of mind, this product is certified vegan, and so is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. This is a dairy-free product. It is also free from corn, gluten and soy, and is non-GMO. You can break open the capsules and pour the contents over food or mix it in milk. Made in the UK
Best Bio Culture Complex Supplement
If you are looking to combine the power of prebiotics and probiotics in a single supplement, this product by N2 is an excellent option. This bottle will give you a month of supply with two capsules per serving. These non-GMO supplements provide 4 billion UFC of probiotics, with added prebiotics to boost their efficacy. This is the ultimate blend for healthy digestion.
This probiotics and prebiotics supplement comes in vegetable chlorophyll capsules instead of tablets to provide maximum concentration and purity, minimizing the use of agglomerates. It also helps with the absorption of active ingredients for reducing intestinal irritation.
Best Prebiotic Powder in Sachets
This unique galactooligosaccharide (GOS) works by selectively increasing the level of bifidobacteria and other health-promoting gut bacteria in just 7 days. Maintaining a balance of gut bacteria is good for our digestive health. It dissolves easily in your favourite hot or cold drink. You can also sprinkle it over food.
More so this product is suitable for adults and children over 4 years old to take every day. It is also gluten free and suitable for vegetarians. Its lactose content is safe for most lactose intolerant people.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Probiotics & Prebiotics
Probiotics and prebiotics are generally safe for health and have very few contraindications. However, knowing what they are used for and how to manage your intake is essential. In the section below, we will delve into their benefits and characteristics, while answering the most frequently asked questions regarding these supplements.
What are probiotics and prebiotics exactly?
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are basically the substrate for beneficial bacteria in the gut and stimulate the growth of these microorganisms. These compounds come from plants, are indigestible, and can be fermented by the bacteria that form the normal intestinal flora. Inulin is the most common prebiotic in supplements (2, 3).
What are the characteristics of probiotics and prebiotics?
Criteria for probiotics
- Lack of virulence; in other words, they shouldn’t cause disease in an immunocompetent person.
- They should resist gastric juices and stomach acids to reach the colon intact.
- They must form part of the normal human bacterial flora.
- Once added to a food (such as yogurt) or a supplement, they must remain viable.
Criteria for prebiotics
- They must be natural compounds of vegetal origin.
- The enzymes of the foregut (in the mouth, stomach, or duodenum) shouldn’t digest them.
- They must reach the colon almost intact.
- Bacteria in the colon should be able to ferment them.
What are the most commonly used probiotics in supplements?
What are the most beneficial types of prebiotics?
How do humans benefit from probiotics?
- They balance the intestinal flora. Both harmless and pathogenic bacteria inhabit the colon; the latter proliferate and cause disease when an imbalance occurs. Probiotics compete with pathogenic microorganisms for nutrients and other resources while inhibiting their proliferation. They also promote the growth of good bacteria (1, 6).
- They help treat and prevent diarrhoea caused by antibiotics. Long-term consumption of antibiotics destroys healthy intestinal flora, causes imbalances, and leads to diarrhoea. In these cases, probiotics prevent acute diarrhoea or shorten its duration. They are also useful in treating traveller’s diarrhoea and rotavirus (7).
- They regulate the intestinal transit. Just like they can treat or prevent some instances of diarrhoea, probiotics normalize the rhythm of bowel movement and help avoid constipation (8).
- They improve lactose digestion. The probiotic Streptococcus thermophilus helps digest lactose and mitigates flatulence, diarrhoea, and bloating in intolerant individuals (1).
- They protect the integrity of the intestinal barrier. Probiotics prevent pathogens from adhering to the epithelium, proliferating, and causing disease. By keeping the intestinal mucosa healthy, they also stop harmful microorganisms from entering the blood (1).
- They strengthen the immune system in general. Probiotics not only keep your intestine healthy, but they also stimulate immunity in your entire body. These microorganisms are also used in cancer prevention and the reduction of allergy symptoms and contribute to the treatment to eradicate Helicobacter pylori (6).
- They reduce inflammation and may help treat ulcerative colitis. This is directly linked to the maintenance and restoration of the integrity of the intestinal mucosa. While these results are promising, the effectiveness of probiotics in improving the quality of life of patients with ulcerative colitis still needs to be further studied (1, 9).
What are the advantages of prebiotics?
- They stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine (especially bifidobacteria) (4).
- They serve as a substrate for the colonocytes, which are cells of the intestinal mucosa. This also contributes to the maintenance of the integrity of the mucosa of the colon (4).
- They reduce blood cholesterol levels by favouring its elimination by faecal matter (8, 10).
- Oligrofructose improves insulin sensitivity and prevents blood glucose peaks (11).
- They boost the absorption of calcium and magnesium at the intestinal level, which contributes to bone health (4, 8).
- They can treat and prevent constipation by increasing stool weight (4).
When are probiotics and prebiotics recommended?
- Acute diarrhoea caused by antibiotics;
- Traveller’s diarrhoea;
- Rotavirus diarrhoea;
- Irritable bowel syndrome (irritable colon);
- Lactose intolerance;
- Ulcerative colitis;
- Hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol);
What types of probiotic and prebiotic supplements are there?
- Pure probiotics: Generally consisting of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, they are marketed in the form of capsules, tablets, and gummies. Pure probiotics provide 30 to 40 billion CFUs (Colony-Forming Units) per serving. This value indicates the number of bacteria present in a given dose.
- Pure prebiotics: Inulin is the primary component, with oat fibre and soybean oligosaccharides also common. They come in tablets or powder form. Inulin has a sweet and mild taste. You are usually advised to take 10 to 12 grams of prebiotics per day.
- Synbiotics: These supplements are the best option as they combine probiotics and prebiotics. Therefore, the same product provides the beneficial microorganisms and the substrate needed by these bacteria and/or yeasts to multiply and exert their positive effect in the gut. They are sold as capsules or tablets (5).
What are the food sources of probiotics and prebiotics?
|Sources of probiotics||Sources of prebiotics|
Fermented soybean: miso, tempeh, natto (vegan)
Pickles in brine (vegan)
What are the side effects and contraindications of these supplements?
While probiotics and prebiotics belong to the group of supplements called “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), you have to factor in various aspects before opting for a specific product (12). In the following section, we will delve into the primary shopping criteria that can help you make a successful purchase:
Type of Probiotic & Prebiotic
As we explained, inulin is the most widely used prebiotic in supplements; it is generally obtained from chicory root. Fructooligosaccharides (from the degradation of inulin), oat fibre, and soy oligosaccharides are also widely used in food supplements and are highly effective.
Choosing the right type of probiotic is essential to reaching your supplementation goals. If you want to balance the intestinal flora and increase your defences, you can opt for a blend of different strains. If you aim to improve lactose digestion or treat diarrhoea, you will want to choose a specific probiotic (6, 12):
|To prevent or shorten the duration of acute diarrhoea caused by antibiotics:||Blend of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii (yeast)|
|To improve lactose digestion:||Streptococcus thermophilus|
|To mitigate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (irritable colon):||Bifidobacterium lactis HN019|
|To relieve the symptoms of cow’s milk protein allergy:||Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12|
|To reduce the duration of rotavirus diarrhoea in children:||Lactobacillus reuteri SD2112, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Lactobacillus casei Shirota|
It is essential that you take the appropriate doses of probiotics and prebiotics for them to have a positive impact on your health. For prebiotics, you can take doses of 10-12 grams per day. Each serving of probiotics, on the other hand, should give you between 100 million and 1 billion CFUs (Colony-Forming Units) (1, 12).
These supplements generally come in the form of capsules and tablets. Symbiotics are your best option since these products combine both probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are available in fruit-flavoured gummies too, making it easier for specific population groups to ingest. The prebiotic inulin can be consumed as a powder, dissolved in water or juice.
Suitability for Vegans
Probiotic and prebiotic food supplements are often suitable for vegans, as their ingredients are of plant or synthetic origin. You will rarely find animal-based compounds in them. If you opt for capsules, don’t forget to check the nutrition label to make sure that the capsule material is hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (plant cellulose).
The label of any probiotic, prebiotic, or symbiotic supplement should provide more information than simply the ingredients and recommended dosage. In the case of probiotics, the genus, species, and strain should also be specified. In addition, you should find the number of CFUs per serving, the shelf life of the product, as well as storage recommendations (12).
Probiotics and prebiotics are substances that are found in conventional foods and that can significantly contribute to intestinal and general health if taken daily and in the right doses. They help shorten episodes of acute diarrhoea, lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation in the gut, and increase calcium absorption.
Probiotics are bacteria and yeasts that promote the balance of the flora in the colon, while prebiotics provide the substrate for these microorganisms to develop. Blends of probiotics and prebiotics are called symbiotics. They are marketed in the form of tablets or capsules; these products are considered to be safe for health.
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