Prebiotics and Probiotics
What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
- Prebiotic fibre is a non-digestible part of foods like bananas, the skin of apples, asparagus, cabbage, beans, and many others. Prebiotic fibre goes through the small intestine undigested and is fermented when it reaches the large colon.
This fermentation process feeds beneficial bacteria colonies (including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in our digestive systems that are associated with better health and reduced disease risk. A diet high in sugars or too high in probiotics can also feed the harmful gut bacteria so it is important to feed just the right amount.
- Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation in certain foods, or by the addition of probiotics to the diet.
Garlic, onions and leeks are all excellent prebiotics for us, but as we know, they can be harmful to our pets and should NOT be fed. For this reason, our recipes encourage the addition of boiled cauliflower, cabbage, celery, kale and asparagus to the homemade food as these vegetables are important prebiotics and are beneficial to our dog’s gut health.
Probiotics play such an important role in gut health and the overall health of not only ourselves, but our pets too. The study of the gut microbiome is a fascinating one as actually our bodies (and the bodies of our pets) are made up of more bacteria tiny cells than human cells!
Probiotics are very sensitive and they are rendered inactive if subjected to heat so are ineffective if cooked. Please be aware of this with commercial dog food biscuits that claim to contain the essential probiotics – they will be cooked at very high temperatures to have a long shelf life! Another reason not to heat up the supplements that are added to homemade food, or the probiotics in the supplement will be killed.
Benefits of probiotics for dogs
Just like us, your dog’s gut affects almost every other function in their body. Ensuring it is running smoothly has a far-reaching impact on their physical and even mental health. Yes, there are studies underway that show the mental health benefits of a healthy gut biome!
Digestion aid: Probiotics aid your dog’s digestion and can help those pets who suffer from food sensitivities with associated vomitting, gas and bloating. Staffies are particularly prone to very sensitive skins and guts and can certainly benefit from probiotics.
Stool quality: For dogs who suffer from diarrhoea or loose stools, probiotics can help treat the symptoms and improve stool quality. When starting on a plant-based diet, very loose stools are to be expected. Probiotics at least help to let your dog’s gut adapt quicker to a changing plant-based diet.
Immune Boosting: Probiotics provide an essential role in keeping your dog’s immune system healthy with 70% of your dog’s immune system (and ours) being in the gut. They are particularly helpful if your dog needs to go on a course of antibiotics to rebalance their gut.
Improve skin and coat: It’s thought that probiotics can help improve skin and coat condition through synthesising and absorbing essential vitamins better such as B vitamins and biotin when the gut is balanced.
Environmental factors like stress can also impact stool quality and these can be tricky to avoid even with probiotics. Some dogs are very prone to symptoms of IBS just like we would get when we are stressed as there is a very strong mind-gut connection.
Give the probiotics a try – for your pets and for your own health too – they will be added to the supplement we are working on for your dog!
A helpful metaphor to understand the difference between a prebiotic and a probiotic may be a garden. You can add seeds—the probiotic bacteria—while the prebiotic fibre is the water and fertiliser that helps the seeds to grow and flourish.
Dr Frank W. Jackson