In writing about the “gut microbiota” which is made up of trillions of bacteria and other microbes, I will be using several words repeatedly. These are familiar words which relate to how our intake of food or pharmaceuticals can impact the diversity and function of out personal biome. Though familiar, they may not be well understood. So without further delay I will define probiotic, prebiotic and symbiotic.
Probiotic – “Living microorganisms which when ingested in certain numbers exert health benefits beyond basic nutrition” (WHO definition). So probiotics are mostly bacteria but also include nonpathogenic yeasts which we ingest with food or in pharmaceutical form and are beneficial to our health. Probiotics are the same or similar to organisms which occur naturally in the human body. For this reason, ingesting a probiotic is different from introducing an alien drug into your body.
Prebiotic – Non-digestible substances that stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial gut microbes. Prebiotics are non-absorbable carbs, fructo- and oligosaccharides, which are otherwise known as soluble fiber. They are found in foods like onion, chicory root, bananas, oats, apples and strawberries.
Symbiotic – A combination of probiotics and prebiotics in one food or pharmaceutical.
More on this fascinating topic next week.