Gut Flora: Prebiotics & Probiotics

by in Dietary Supplements, Health Tips February 7, 2020

Wikipedia: ‘A prebiotic is a non-digestible ingredient that has beneficial health effects by selectively stimulating the growth or activity of a specific bacterium (or a small bacterial population) of the intestine.

According to the WHO / FAO, a probiotic “is a living microorganism that, when ingested in sufficient quantity, produces beneficial effects on the health of the person who consumes it”.

A prebiotic is a ‘food’ (non-digestible substrates) for these microorganisms.

Background information

  • We host about 1 kg of intestinal flora biomass in our intestine, which represents a number of microorganisms about 10 times greater than the number of cells in our body (100,000 billion), distributed among several hundred different types.
  • This flora has a considerable influence on two vital functions: digestive and immune, and it is its composition that will mainly determine its effectiveness.
  • The composition of the intestinal flora is relatively stable in the adult, but varies widely from one individual to another, particularly according to diet. Diseases, antibiotic treatments, diets low in fruits and vegetables and fermented products (yogurt, kefir, etc), and age have a negative influence on the performance of the intestinal flora.
  • The principle of probiotics is to provide a selection of ‘useful’ bacteria that will multiply in the intestine and improve the effectiveness of the flora in its main functions.
  • Vegetarian diets are normally rich in prebiotics (insoluble fiber), which generally suffices to ensure a good balance of the flora.  However, when experiencing intestinal discomfort during a health condition, consuming prebiotics and probiotics may be relevant . It is even more so for seniors and people with low consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Conditions beneficial for probiotic use

  • Arrive alive (or “lyophilized” – freeze dried) and in sufficient number in the intestine and resist gastric acidity and bile.
  • They should therefore not be degraded as a result of their passage in the stomach and must be able to withstand gastric acidity and pancreatic juices.
  • Composed of gut-friendly bacteria strains. These are typically from the genus Lactobacillus and Bifidum.
  • Consumed for at least 10 days per month.


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