Should You be Taking a Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplement as Part of Your Daily Routine?

Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker
Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker

| 3 min read

Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker, MD, is a quality medical director for utilization management at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She is an internal medicine physician with experience in utilization management, care management and disease management, and is a volunteer faculty member at Wayne State University Medical School. She is married with two children, and enjoys gardening, reading, crafts, music, community service and travel.

Woman works in the kitchen with fresh prebiotic and probiotic foods
In recent years, gut health has entered the spotlight. Your gut health is connected to prebiotics and probiotics which live in your body naturally. In fact, they are key to maintaining a healthy microbiome by balancing the thousands of bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics and probiotics help maintain this balance. Prebiotics help the microbes in your gut to grow, and probiotics add living microbes directly to your system. There’s a lot of information out there about prebiotics and probiotics. Remember, it’s important that you always talk to your health care provider before starting any kind of supplement.

What is a prebiotic?

Prebiotics act as fertilizers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. They are essential to a healthy microbiome. Prebiotics function as a food source for your gut’s microorganisms. They influence the makeup and function of gut bacteria, promoting the growth of beneficial microbes. Prebiotics are found in foods that contain complex carbohydrates. These carbs aren’t digestible by your body, so they pass through the digestive system and become food for the bacteria and other microbes in your body. Prebiotics can be found in some foods including:
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Chia Seeds
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
Prebiotics have a lot of benefits such as: 
  • Help regulate bowel movements.
  • Produce neurotransmitters that go back and forth between your gut and your brain to trigger mood changes and other processes.
  • Stimulate your body to make hormones that aid in appetite, appetite suppression and more.
  • Help your bones mineralize and absorb calcium and phosphorus, which can improve bone density.
  • Improve how well your immune system functions.
  • Enhance your body’s anti-inflammatory response.

What is a probiotic?

Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body. You have two kinds of bacteria in your body — good and bad. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that help keep your body healthy. In fact, probiotics help fight off bad bacteria. Probiotics are found pretty much everywhere: gut, mouth, skin etc. There main job is to maintain a healthy balance in your body. There are also certain foods in your daily diet that contain probiotics. Fermented or cultured dairy products are a major source of probiotics. Incorporating food that contains probiotics can be beneficial for your health and odds are some of these foods are already a part of your diet. Foods that are sources of probiotics include:
  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Tempeh
  • Soy beverages
  • Miso
Probiotics help the body in many different ways: 
  • Help your body digest food.
  • Keep bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
  • Create vitamins.
  • Help support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.
  • Breakdown and absorb medications.
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