You may have heard of the terms such as ‘Pre-biotics’ and ‘Pro-biotics’ being mentioned in association with digestive health, but what are Pre-biotics as opposed to ‘Pro-biotics’ ? While they may sound similar, they are very different and play different roles in our digestive system / gut or in the flora of our skin.
Pre-Biotics v Pro-Biotics
Prebiotics are classified as non-digestible food ingredients that can be utilised by Probiotics in the gut. They are soluble, fermentable fibers that we are unable to digest in our stomachs, which allows them to progress through to our intestines, where they are fermented by Probiotics and turned into short-chain fatty acids that increase healthy bacteria in the gut.
FOS and Inulin
Research has shown that FOS and Inulin are some of the most beneficial types of Prebiotics for feeding our gut bacteria. They come from the same family of fructo-polysaccharides and although they both carry out a very similar job in terms of promoting the size and diversity of our gut bacteria, some research has also indicated that FOS may wield a broader restorative benefit than Inulin. FOS is extracted from sources such as the blue Agave plant which has been found to have the highest concentrations of ‘FOS’ of all cultured plants.
Probiotics on the other hand are live beneficial bacteria, that are found in fermented food products such as yogurt, traditional buttermilk, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha. Many types of probiotics are similar to the bacteria naturally residing in our guts. We have 100 trillion bacteria living in our stomach and intestines, but poor diet, antibiotics, hormones, stress or too much alcohol can upset this natural balance.
It is very important to have a large number of microbes in your digestive system, but it is equally as important to have a wide diversity, which creates a more robust bacterial ecosystem where good bacteria grow and thrive. Natural sources of Probiotics have been found to have a greater variety of good bacteria.
Bacteria & Health ?
Scientists are still discovering how and why exactly gut bacteria plays such a vital role in our health. What is known, however, is that the gut’s bacterial makeup affects us far more than previously assumed. Along with improved digestion, having abundant and varied colonies of good gut bacteria has been linked to better health, such as lower cholesterol levels, improved blood sugar regulation and improved mood.
Prebiotics and Probiotics are both essential to your health, that much is clear, but how should we go about consuming both Probiotics and Prebiotics?
Probiotics and Prebiotics can both be consumed through food. Foods such as chicory root, onion, garlic, jerusalem artichokes and beans are all good sources thanks to their high soluble fiber content, as are sources of resistant starch. A fiber that gets its name because it “resists” digestion in the stomach. Resistant starch can also be found in oats, unripe or green bananas and peas.
Are Humans Bacteria?
We now understand that humans are 90% microbial but only 10% human and that the average human has over 100 trillion microbes in and on their body.
Yet we have spent the previous decades focusing on trying to kill all bacteria, e.g anti-bacterial handwash. In other words, we have spent decades and millions of pounds trying to kill or attack ‘90%’ of our own biological makeup.
The latest research is now challenging previously held beliefs about good and bad bacteria. We are now witnessing the shift away from everything being ‘ant-ibacterial’ to a new understanding of the complex bacterial system in our bodies and in the world around us.
We are a symbiotic organism that relies heavily on our relationship with bacteria both inside and out. In recent years, due to new research, we have become more aware of the importance of the microbial ecosystem or the microbiome and our wellbeing, both internal and external, e.g. our skin.
Microflora of the Skin ?
We actually have more bacteria on our skin than we do in our body.
Just like your gut, your skin has a delicate balance of bacteria called a Flora or Microbiome. The skin microbiome protects us from invasive virus-causing pathogens and maintains the pH function of the skin.
Consider this, your Skin is the human body’s largest organ. Our skin is made up of three layers:
- epidermis: the outermost layer
- dermis: the cells in the epidermis are continually replaced with cells produced in this inner or bottom layer. It also contains nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and blood vessels.
- hypodermis: our deeper subcutaneous tissue that is made of fat and connective tissue.
Together these layers provide us with protection and are vital for our survival. The skin is a protective covering and our first barrier to fight illness and disease, whilst also protecting the body against extremes of temperature, damaging sunlight and it also manufactures vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones.
Considering just some of the functions that this wonderful organ does for us, and the fact that our skin works so well during most of our lifetime, we tend to take it for granted. It is only when something goes wrong that we start to sit-up and take notice.
Probiotics are already sold worldwide as a solution for gut problems, but the benefits of Prebiotics are only now starting to be recognised in the skincare industry for the health benefits they offer the skin microbiome and your overall natural wellbeing.
Educating the Immune System
The skin flora also commonly referred to as skin microbiota refers to the diverse milieu of microorganisms which reside on the skin, many of which are beneficial to their host (that means us Humans). One of the many wonderful processes preformed by the skin flora or microbiota is that it also educates the immune system, as it changes and adapts to the environment in which we find ourselves by modulating and adapting the skin flora.
To further our understanding of the health of the skin and the diverse ecosystem that our microbiota is composed of, microbiologists, immunologists and dermatologists are working alongside genomic scientists to develop a more complete picture of the skin microbiota and how it interacts with us, it’s hosts. This work has and will advance our understanding of the delicate balance between host and microorganism. To put it simply, the symbiotic relationship between us and the skin we live in.
This amazing research is completely altering how we look at beauty products, skin health and changes the focus from removing all bacteria from the skin.
For decades we have seen all bacteria as ‘bad bacteria’. This attitude to bacteria and in particular skin bacteria, is changing with better insight and understanding of our Skin Flora or Microbiome and how it works for and not against us.
Pre-Biotic or Microbiome Skin Care
For this reason, which is now over three years ago, PAIRFUM London decided to bring to the market a range of prebiotic or, as they are sometimes described, microbiome skin care products.
This skin care range uses ‘prebiotics’ to feed the skin’s Flora or Microbiome and will help to rebuild the skin barrier. They are designed to provide the perfect environment for the skin and its ‘Good Bacteria’ to re-balance and thrive.
Let’s embrace our bacteria to lead healthier lives!