Is it better to take prebiotics alone?
Prebiotics (the food source for probiotics) are thought to be beneficial to the human host, thanks to the ‘bifidogenic’ effect that they have on the body: they are thought to increase the levels of friendly bacteria in the intestines. Prebiotics have received a lot of great press in recent years meaning customers are tending to ask more about them, especially when they have been been linked to anti-ageing and weight loss. When recommending, bear in mind that everyone has a different bacterial make-up, and therefore different types of prebiotics and probiotics (or combinations of both) will work for different people. Whilst one patient or customer may feel better on prebiotics and find they help to relieve bloating, another may find discomfort, and believe them to cause bloating.
Although prebiotics are thought to have a very positive effect on Bifidobacteria, there is less research to evidence their feeding other types of good bacteria such as Lactobacilli strains, and therefore it may be beneficial to top up one's levels of beneficial bacteria as well as taking prebiotics.
NB: High doses of prebiotics may cause temporary side-effects such as bloating or flatulence. This should cease within a few days; if it does not, consider recommending a reduced dose of prebiotics and gradually building it up with time.
If you are still unsure of the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, and whether you should be recommending one or the other, or both, read our article Probiotics & Prebiotics.
This FAQ has been answered by Joanna Scott-Lutyens, BA (hons), DipION, Nutritional Therapist.