The stomach is the reservoir that collects the food and liquid we eat and drink. It grinds up the food and ejects it in little amounts into the small bowel. The small bowel is over 20 feet long and receives digestive juices and enzymes from the liver and pancreas. The food is digested in the small bowel. This means that the calories, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, amino acids and fats are absorbed into the blood stream and carried throughout the body.
The residue from the small bowel flows into the colon which is about five feet long. This is where fiber enters the picture. Fiber comes from plant material. It is mostly unused by the small bowel and is not digested. It enters the colon pretty much as it left the stomach. In the past, we knew the colon was packed with bacteria but did not understand it very well. The colon was viewed simply as a waste depot, as this last residue moved to the rectum and was evacuated.
But now we know that the colon is populated by legions of bacteria - trillions of them: more than all the other cells in your body! The good bacteria bring manifold health benefits - they assist with absorption of nutrients, emit short-chain-fatty-acids that help build the colon wall and drive out bad bacteria. They help prevent allergies and asthma. They help reduce triglycerides for better heart health.
The good bacteria are a wondrous thing! We also have some less desirable bacteria that can live in our colon. Salmonella, E. Coli, C Diff. are some you may have heard of. Others live in the colon, digest any sulfur you eat, and emit a nasty corrosive poisonous gas called Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S). This not only stinks (it's what gives your flatus that rotten egg smell) but emerging research also shows a strong relationship between H2S and Ulcerative Colitis!
Almost everyone has that unusual feeling in their stomach and intestinal area that all is not quite right. Symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal woes, as well as yeast infections. These disorders can be caused by a number of life situations from taking antibiotic medication (kills all bacteria) to stress and anxiety. What you may not be aware of is that we have a plethora of bacteria and microorganisms in our bodies. Probiotics are the good bacteria that keep everything in balance. Prebiotics are the soluble fibers that keep the probiotics alive and multiplying. Both are needed to have a healthy digestive system. How do probiotics and prebiotics affect our daily lives and gastrointestinal health?
The health benefits of probiotics can help combat illnesses in several ways: They make the intestines less habitable for harmful bacteria by changing the chemistry of the gut; they produce antimicrobial compounds that destroy pathogenic microbes; and they beat the bad bacteria by competing with them for nutrients. According to Mary Ellen Sanders, executive director of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, “they also appear to enhance our own immune function. They do this, in part, by stimulating the production of infection-fighting white blood cells.” Probiotics and antibiotics are enemies. Antibiotics remove all bacteria, good and bad.
Probiotics need nourishment. Prebiotics are indigestible ingredients you eat that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria by serving as food for them. This is their best benefit to gastrointestinal health. The most common prebiotics are inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)-available in ActiLife, types of soluble fiber similar to oat bran, psyllium, and pectin in apples. Prebiotics differ from these soluble fibers, however, in that they specifically encourage the growth of probiotics, especially bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, in the gut. Inulin and FOS also confer some of the same health benefits associated with other types of soluble fiber, such as providing bulk to move waste through the intestines and helping to sweep out potential carcinogens.
Prebiotics encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria and work closely with probiotics to reduce risks of several diseases:
Prebiotics increase fecal bulk, shorten transit time in the intestines, and relieve constipation. They also help treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases by reducing inflammation and encouraging the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Research suggests that prebiotics enhance the cholesterol-lowering actions of probiotics, and help reduce cholesterol and blood lipids in their own right.
Prebiotics may help reduce harmful microbes that can cause inflammation or are producing carcinogens. Also, by binding up carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulating peristalsis and elimination, prebiotics may further help prevent and treat colorectal cancer.
According to Glenn Gibson, Ph.D., professor of food microbiology and head of the Food Biosciences Department at the University of Reading, England, some preliminary studies suggest that prebiotics can improve resistance against infection. They accomplish this by providing food for probiotics, which make the immune system function more efficiently by “training” it to mount a speedy response to pathogens, clear them from the body, and then “calm down” again. Probiotics and prebiotics involve a nice balance of both when it comes to gastrointestinal health.
Another health benefit of probiotics is bone health. Inulin in particular appears to enhance the uptake of calcium, probably both by increasing water in the bowel and boosting the volume of fluid in which calcium can dissolve and by acidifying the colon and, thus, raising the concentration of calcium.
So what are the sources of prebiotics and probiotics?
You can get prebiotics naturally: The fiber in oats, oat bran, barley, rice bran, apples, berries, and legumes acts as food for probiotic bacteria. However, microbes vary and so does their diet. Probiotics tend to like soluble fiber, while harmful bacteria don't.
Dietary phenols support friendly flora by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. They’re found in legumes, tea, red wine, fruits, berries, and dark chocolate.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Some animal studies suggest that polyunsaturated fatty acids may function as prebiotics to a small degree, by inhibiting the growth of pathogens. Examples of food sources include nuts, seeds, several vegetable oils (such as soy, safflower, corn, and sunflower), and fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and herring.
The best sources of probiotics are naturally fermented items such as yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, sour cream and whey.
Supplements as a probiotic product
Studies have yet to show any significant benefit from supplement probiotics. The medical community admits that continued studies and research need to be pursued.
The reason for confusion is pretty obvious. Not only do the words differ by only one
letter, but they target similar benefits: improving overall health by improving digestive health through nourishing a healthy colon.
We'll summarize the similarities and differences between prebiotics and probiotics here, then we'll discuss each item in a bit more detail:
Prebiotics are a very special form of dietary fiber.
Probiotics are living bacteria intended to benefit colon health.
Prebiotic Fiber is not affected by heat, cold, acid or time.
Probiotics must be kept alive to create health benefits. They can be killed by heat, acid or simply the passage of time.
Prebiotics nourish the thousands of good bacterial species already living in the colon.
Probiotics contain from one to a few species of bacteria which are added to the colon when they are ingested (eaten).
living in the colon.
added to the colon when they are ingested (eaten).
Prebiotic Fiber is a naturally-occurring substance, found in thousands of plant species (though mostly in very small amounts).
Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods like yogurt or sauerkraut. Some companies have also engineered "proprietary" bacteria which they have patented and promote.
Prebiotics foster an environment in the colon which is hostile to bad bacteria.
Probiotics may impact bad bacteria by crowding them out.
The benefits of prebiotics are supported by extensive research
The benefits of probiotics are supported by extensive research
Both Prebiotics and Probiotics must be ingested in sufficient quantity to have an impact, and dietarily speaking both should not carry an excessive "load" of sugar, calories, carbs, etc. out of proportion to their benefit.
ActiLife is fortified with Prebiotic ActiFibres. Having ActiLife twice a day will gives you about 5 g of prebiotic fibres which is about 20% of the daily fibre requirement with the added advantage associated with the fact that its prebiotic.