Prebiotics versus Probiotics: Are they good for bowel health?

Are they good for bowel health?

Although they sound very similar, they are actually different.

These are compounds that are digested by fermentation by bacteria in the gut. In sensitive individuals, they can cause bloating and pain. In people with no issues with their bowel, prebiotics are actually good for bowel health. Unfortunately, products containing these substances often claim to be “good for bowel health”. This statement is true, but can aggravate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (e.g. diarrhoea, bloating and pain) in susceptible individuals. In fact, I recently had a client who was prescribed a prebiotic and they developed bowel incontinence from them. Certain foods, e.g. Legumes and lentils (amongst many others) are naturally high in prebiotics.

These are bacteria, which are introduced to change the micro flora living in the gut. Different probiotics will have different strains of bacteria. At a gastroenterology workshop I attended in Melbourne last year, they presented some of the recent research findings. Research has shown that some individuals with bowel issues may benefit from probiotics, but the benefit only lasts as long as they are taking them. i.e. there is no build-up effect.

The majority of the clients I see benefit significantly from dietary changes alone and so don’t need to spend money on probiotics. This is in line with research, which shows that diet plays a role in 75% of people with irritable bowel syndrome.

To discuss further, please contact me to book an appointment.

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