Understanding the difference between probiotics and prebiotics
In my many years as a fertility doctor I have continued to see the importance of both probiotics and prebiotics as they relate to general health for individuals. Prebiotics are derived from the foods that we eat and naturally feed and stimulate healthy bacteria in the gut. They’re found in chewy, crunchy, fibrous fruits and vegetables like celery, carrot, apples, pears, kale, broccoli and cabbage. What is notable among Americans and Westerners in general, is that we don't have very much in the way of diversity of our gut microbiome (the 4 lbs. of bacteria that do our digestion for us). In other cultures, we see many kinds of gut bacteria, whereas we have just a few. This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in foods like Greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut or in supplements to add to, and build up, a more diverse gut microbiome.
The benefits of a healthy gut
When we talk about the benefits of gut health there are many. In fact, it’s a foundation of general health and a key to longevity. When pre and probiotics work together to create a healthy and diverse microbiome we see the following in individuals:
- Decrease in Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia
- Decrease in high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack
- Decrease in Parkinson’s Disease
- Reduction in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis
Again, the key is a mix of both prebiotics and thoughtfully adding the probiotics because we simply don’t get what we need from our modern diet.
Does gut health connect to fertility?
At my practice I recommend a holistic approach towards fertility. So, I advise both partners to utilize every tool available to help them achieve their fertility goals. This means at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily, a high protein, low simple carb and high fiber diet, elimination of smoking, reduction of alcohol, and a focus on gut health. I’ve seen this level of attention to overall health and lifestyle as the best way to prepare their bodies for conception. A healthy and diverse gut microbiome certainly plays a role in this, and preliminary studies suggest that imbalance of the gut microbiome can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes, PCOS, and endometriosis; however, research on the mechanism is limited. Many physicians therefore see pre- and probiotics as helpful in maintenance of general fertility health.
What to look for in pre and probiotics
When it comes to adding prebiotics to your body through fruits and vegetables, the key is whole foods—raw is generally better. Due to lower amounts of herbicides and pesticides, organic produce is preferable, and you can make your quest for a diverse gut an adventure by adding fruits and vegetables you’ve never tried before, try shopping at an Asian market to expand your variety. When adding a probiotic supplement, the same principles apply. Look for formulas with ingredients that are ethically harvested and for indicators of both quality and purity. Do a little bit of research, the probiotics at your local grocery chain may not pass the test.
My recommended supplement for gut health
Global leaders in Reproductive Medicine are looking at holistic fertility solutions. Experts at Inception have partnered with NutraBloom to develop a highly effective Prebiotic and Probiotic Blend that I recommend for most of the women and men I see at my practice. It’s a supplement that is designed to work with any lifestyle. It’s simple and straightforward with a priority on ingredients that are produced ethically and are of extremely high quality and purity. It’s formulated to restore and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. It’s a high potency, non-dairy supplement that combines both probiotics and prebiotics. The blend has been created to survive stomach acids and contains living microorganisms that help maintain proper digestion. If someone tells me they want to start improving their gut health, this is where I suggest they start.