Prebiotics and Porbiotics
These are compounds, contained in foods, herbs and supplements, that encourage the survival of the normal bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria are essential for the supply of vitamins and short chain fatty acids produced in the large intestine as the final stage of digestion of food.
Treatment to repopulate the large intestine, after antibiotic therapy and in the treatment of malabsorption syndromes (see Research Pro and prebiotics) and irritable bowel disease, is much more effective when both pre and probiotics are used.
These are dietary supplements containing potentially beneficial bacteria and yeast. Biodynamic yoghurts, specially formulated powders, supplement pills or probiotic drinks should contain one or more strains of these bacteria. The most effective formulations include both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium stains.
Examples are BioMedica powders, Lactobac products from Nutrition Care (practitioner only products) or Nourishing Flora from Totally Natural Products (TNP), available from health food shops.
Unfortunately, only 5-15% of ingested probiotics survive passage through the stomach and small intestine to reach the large intestine, and this varies from person to person, so enough bacteria need to be eaten to allow gut repopulation. Prebiotics are needed to maintain a healthy gut environment for maximum probiotic effects.
Which foods and herbs provide prebiotics?
Prebiotics are contained in foods rich in dietary fibre, such as leafy greens, soy beans, leeks, asparagus, onions, wheat bran, garlic, chicory root, banana and artichokes. These carbohydrates are not broken down significantly by the digestive processes in the stomach and small intestine and are only processed by the bacteria in the large intestine.
Examples of Prebiotic herbs
Bacto-C and GI from Mediherb
This combination of herbs is designed to support healthy intestinal function and for immune support.It is used for conditions requiring healthy intestinal function, including fructose intolerance. See the Research pages ( Prebiotics: examples )for the chemisrty and actions of each of these
Each capsule contains (pictured from left to right above):
•Phellodendron amurense (Phellodendron) extract
•Andrographis paniculata (Andrographis) extract
•Pimpinella anisum (Anise) fruit essential oil
•Origanum vulgare (Oregano) leaf essential oil
Iberogast Oral Liquid
Contains nine herbs with a wide range of effects on digestive complaints. Iberogast (STW5) has been used in Europe for over 40 years as treatment for gastrointestinal disorders, treating an estimated 20 million patients. Four controlled trials, 12 open trials and 3 retrospective studies have provided substantial clinical evidence supporting it’s efficacy (see Research pages Prebiotics: examples).
Iberogast herbs: a) Candy tuft, b) Celendine, c) St Mary’s thistle, d) Lemon balm, e) Caraway, f) Licorice, g) Angelica, h) Chamomile. i) Peppermint.
Iberogast Oral Liquid is available in Australia from practitioners, supplied by Flordis
Other herbs that have prebiotic effects include those that aid healing of the gut mucosa. These include Aloe vera gel and Slippery elm. Herbs high in dietary fibre, such as wheat bran and psyllium husks, are also often included in prebiotic formulations as they provide bulk and prevent constipation.