You’ve probably heard something about “probiotics” in the news or at the grocery store. Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria. They help your digestive system work efficiently — both to digest and absorb nutrients and to remove toxins. Probiotic supplements can literally contain billions of friendly bacteria in a single dose.
Two of the most popular strains of friendly bacteria are “Lactobacillus acidophilus” and “Lactobacillus bifidus.”
Some supplements mix together a variety of different strains of these good bacteria.
So why would someone want to take a billion friendly bacteria with his or her morning breakfast? Well, there are about 150 types of yeast that live naturally in your body. Some are beneficial to you, while others are harmful. Having a lot of beneficial yeast in your body means that you are less likely to get infections. Your overall health will be better, too — including your energy levels. But when the bad yeast in your body multiplies and becomes greater in number than the good yeast, you could experience all kinds of nasty symptoms.
That’s where probiotics can supposedly come to the rescue.
When you have an overgrowth of bad yeast, you are more prone to infections, immune-system diseases, weight gain, weight loss, brain fog, digestive problems and fatigue — to name just a few!
There’s one type of yeast in particular that’s likely to cause you problems. It is called “Candida albicans.” Candida thrives on the surface of moist mucous membranes, such as those in your intestinal tract. Candida is basically the reason that the probiotic industry has become a hugely successful one.
Unfortunately, most of the refined foods found in a typical Western diet feed Candida. Sugar, white bread, soft drinks, condiments, corn syrup and leavened bread are a few of the foods that nourish the growth of Candida. And since most of us can admit to having some of these foods in our diets, most of us do, indeed, have a Candida problem to some extent.
So where do prebiotics come in to the equation? If probiotics can rescue us from Candida overgrowth, why do we need to worry about prebiotics? Well, according to the newest research, prebiotics have one advantage over probiotics: they’re the ones that feed and nourish the growth of probiotics, so they’re actually first in the line of defense against harmful bacteria.
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that make their way through your intestines. By feeding probiotics, prebiotics help strengthen the good guys in your intestinal bacteria.
The Japanese have been using prebiotics for years. Because prebiotics are relatively stable and can withstand food processing, a commercially prepared prebiotic has been added to infant formulas, as well as many adult foods.
It might not be necessary, after all, to ingest billions and billions of friendly bacteria in the form of probiotic supplements. You may simply need to boost the growth of the good bacteria already in your gut by making sure that you’ve added a dose of prebiotics to your diet. And when you nourish this growth, that could mean better health for you.
Prebiotics could be your first line of defense against the overgrowth of Candida. Not only do refined foods and sugar feed Candida, but antibiotics do, too. In fact, many people who take these drugs are suffering from the symptoms of Candida overgrowth without even knowing it.
Candida can make it very difficult to feel healthy and stay immune to infection. In one clinical trial, 109 patients with bacterial infections were studied for a five-year period. It was discovered that 52% of these infections were caused by Candida albicans. Once treated for Candida overgrowth, these patients showed a significant reduction in death rates. Treating the Candida overgrowth helped them survive serious infections that required hospitalization. Prebiotics can go a long way to getting the bacteria in your body balanced out again and may, in fact, be more effective than probiotics at treating Candida.
To help out any prebiotic treatments, make sure that you eat a diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and unprocessed oils like olive or canola. Avoid hydrogenated oils.
You can also add some yogurt to your diet every day. Yogurt naturally contains friendly bacteria that can help prevent the growth of Candida. You can also get yogurt that contains lots of acidophilus, bifidus and other added probiotics. And remember to buy unsweetened yogurt — there’s no point in feeding Candida more sugar. You can always add a bit of fresh fruit at home to sweeten plain yogurt.
Alternatively, if you’re not crazy about yogurt, give horseradish a try. It also contains a lot of the friendly bacteria that you need to keep Candida in check. You can buy prebiotics at your local health-food store. They can be found either with a probiotic product or separately. The two most common prebiotics are inulin and “fructooligosaccharides” (FOS). Both FOS and inulin are food for the probiotics.
Sometimes, these two prebiotics can be purchased separately, in which case you can take them together.
If you have an overgrowth of Candida or a lot of bad bacteria, you may not want to take both prebiotics and probiotics together. Talk to your health-care provider or nutritionist to get help with deciding what will work best for you. Taking prebiotic or probiotic supplements could aggravate your symptoms at first, so you want to make sure that you’re up for the challenge and that you’ve got some support while you go through the initial detox period.
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