Be Kind To Your GI tract: Understanding Prebiotics VS. Probiotics

You’ve seen them at the drugstore. Boxes and boxes of probiotics that make claims about helping all manner of the stomach, gastrointestinal issues from supporting digestive immunity to straightening out digestive issues. It’s all a bit confusing, but this discussion offers a primer on both:

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics naturally live in some foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, Kimchi, pickles and other dairy products, but they can also be prescribed or purchased in a pill form. People are often advised to take them to combat the gastrointestinal side effects of some medications such antibiotics. Some people also opt to take them as a daily supplement to replace the good bacteria in their digestive tracts that can disappear for a variety of reasons. Studies have shown that probiotics have the ability to combat some gastrointestinal disorders but must not forget about prebiotics, which also is very important.

What is a Prebiotic?

A prebiotic is classified as a specialized plant fiber that encourages the nourishment of good bacteria that is already in the digestive tract. While probiotics produce good bacteria back into the digestive system, probiotics are in a sense a fertilizer for the good bacteria that already resides there. Studies show that by using prebiotics to increase the good to bad ratio of bacteria has a positive effect on well-being including digestive function, brain function and more.

In short, here is a comparison of the two:

Probiotics:

  •      Control the growth of harmful strains of bacteria in the GI tract.
  •      Hundreds of available brands.
  •      Live in yogurt, fermented foods, and pills.
  •      Can be killed by stomach acid, heat, or time.
  •      Have been shown to induce remission of Ulcerative Colitis US when refractory to medication
  •      Reduce the frequency of diarrhea in patients with stable, active Crohn’s Disease (CD) however postoperative CD has not benefited

Prebiotics:

  •      A special form of non-digestible dietary fiber that helps grow the good bacteria in your GI tract.
  •      Comes in powder form or in some foods like bananas, oatmeal, asparagus, bran, psyllium husk, and more.
  •      Chicory Root has the highest density of prebiotics.
  •      Nourishes the good bacteria in the gut.
  •      Have been shown to be effective for some chronic GI disorders such as ulcerative colitis.

Can I use either one to replace medications for stomach disorders?

No, you should never stop taking any medication without consulting your doctor. Studies on both prebiotics and probiotics are very preliminary, but they may help alleviate some symptoms.

Can I take both probiotics and prebiotics?

Yes, it’s safe to take both at the same time, but it’s still advisable to speak to your doctor first before doing this.

Do things like soy and almond milk contain probiotics?

No, most of them do not contain probiotics.

When should I take prebiotics or probiotics?

Any time is a good time to try taking them to see if they make a difference to the functioning of your digestive system and support your general health.  Again, studies are still in the early stages, and our knowledge of the GI microflora is still in its infancy.  That being said, there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence from patients that say they do help tremendously, and anticipation of clinical data is eagerly anticipated.

Who should not take probiotics?

Immunocompromised or critically people should, for the most part, avoid probiotics. Please check with your doctor as each case is unique.


To learn more about how Houston Concierge Medicine & Wellness Center can develop personalized diagnostic and treatment plans using integrative medical care, call 713-333-6464 or schedule an appointment online.

Finding Care in Medical Deserts: How Dallas, TX Struggles to Offer Adequate Help

The quality of healthcare in Dallas, Texas, has been portrayed as a gulf for certain sections of the population, like racial and ethnic minority groups with respect to the quality of practical care services rendered, and hands-on care that can be expected. In a groundbreaking report by the Institute of Medicine Crossing the quality chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century the institute threw a gauntlet at all healthcare organizations to induce encompassing six prominent goals: safety, timeliness, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, and patient-centeredness. The essence of the proposal was to ensure equal administration of high quality care to all races and ethnicities, irrespective of any discretely private motive a patient might have for seeking medical attention.

Over time, studies of inequalities in admittance, usage, and consequences of health care in Dallas has looked for and continue to critically scrutinize situations that raise questions about moral, ethical, and economic concerns. These often translate to gross injustice that must be addressed if the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine can come to fruition. Based on significant variations in care according to age, gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, aberrations have been noted in the Dallas system that decries expectations of “best care” for all and sundry. An important aspect to eliminating health care injustices, appropriately directed at tackling equity issues, by highlighting specific objectives targeted at eliminating identified injustices that seek to arrive at a culturally astute health care system, must establish a communally advantageous relationship between healthcare providers and the community. Essential mechanisms for arriving at such a relationship must comprise a strengthening of the patient, primary care provider relationships that mitigate kinks within the healthcare system and enhance patient accessibility to care. This will also assist the development of relationships with pertinent local community leaders/lay health advisors, advocates, and organizations.

In a study conducted by Dallas News at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Memorial Hospital, two iconic medical care providers of Dallas metropolis. The paper discovered at Parkland, decades of elusive entanglements that resulted in serious, and endless harm to an average of two patients per day; according to the hospital’s own admission statement. Records and testimonials from both hospitals, following referral to Federal inquiries, revealed instances of malpractices among loosely supervised residents, as well as, Medicare billing fraud supportive of the Dallas News findings. The paper has posted its archived findings, along with other investigative writings at its blog “DMN Investigates”. Which is accessible at www.dallasnews.com/medinvestigation. The findings are truly informative, exposing a whole lot of shortcomings, particularly, as applies to the Dallas Medical Care system. Procurement of the true information that went into the compilation of the reports proved very challenging as the hospitals refused to share the data on patient outcomes. However, the News channel resolved to ingenious reporting strategies backed by the implementation of the “open record law” and the like, to procure the data for the compilation of the studies.

The reporting uncovered several malpractices with the Medical Care industry and drew the attention of the Department of Healthcare and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General. The investigative story exposed that generally, the Medical Care industry do not like to have open discussions, despite the notable grandness of their practice on human toll, grounded on their intense commitment to preserving what is described as “the privilege of self-regulation”, a concentrated defense against the exposition of shortcomings within the industry. Continuous studies by the newspaper, show that although no one takes delight in needless harm to patients, everything depends on the provision of an indiscriminate patient-centered care. Which will require in part, abandoning a reliance on cheap labor provided by residents, believed to offer new doctors the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Measures to add resident supervision is being emphasized. A replacement of several key officials within the medical system is being implemented. Despite great achievements made because of studies of elusive behavior and malpractices, there is so much at stake with several valuable lives to protect. There is, therefore, still plenty of room for improvement within the Dallas Medical Care system. There exists some evidence that community health workers who play multiple roles in the healthcare system, and act as links between patients and providers, as well as, contributing to the management of patient aftercare can impact the quality of care and help reduce the cost of healthcare. Promotion of sustainable healthcare, disease prevention together with a quality healthcare is only attainable through a delicate balance of “compeers” that eradicates injustices in the healthcare system.