What we eat not only affects our physical condition, but also our mood and mental health.
What is a probiotic? And a prebiotic? What are the differences between prebiotics and probiotics?
What is their function?
- Prebiotics feed the bacteria that already inhabit the intestine, stimulating their development selectively and, therefore, intervening in the bacterial ecosystem.
- Probiotics add new strains of beneficial bacteria.
The use of food to modify the microbiota has a long record in our history. Fermented milk was one of the first foods used to treat gastrointestinal problems in 76 BC. C
Prebiotics also support the immune system
The immune tissues of the gastroenteric tract make up the largest and most complex fraction of the human immune system. The intestinal mucosa is a surface that lines the intestine and it is exposed to pathogenic (disease-causing) and non-pathogenic (which stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies) environmental antigens.
The fermentation of prebiotics by the intestinal microbiota creates favorable environmental conditions for the growth of hostile substances for the development of pathogens.
Consequently, there is a decrease in the enemy flora and its toxic metabolites (ammonia, biogenic amines, nitrosamines, etc.) which, in high concentrations, favour the mucosa inflammation and alter its permeability, negatively impacting on the organism health.
Prebiotics promote the health of the microbiota, a set of symbiotic microorganisms present in the intestine, essential for healthy digestion and proper functionality of the immune system.
Oligosaccharides and polysaccharides: the most studied prebiotics
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is an edible white fleshed fungus that stands out for its high protein content and important minerals that are often scarce in the everyday diet, such as selenium, germanium and zinc. In addition, it is considered a medicinal species for its content in beta-glucans, hericenones, erinacines, ergothioneine and lovastatin, amongst others.
Its composition also includes chitin and insoluble fibers that, as we have seen previously, help to balance the intestinal microbiota.
Erinacines and hericenones are relevant in the gut-brain connection since studies have found that they are precursors of nerve growth factor (NGF) that stimulates the regeneration of nervous and digestive tissues.
As a summary…
In order to keep a healthy microbiota, it is useful to include prebiotics, substances capable of selectively stimulating the growth and / or activity of one or a limited number of beneficial bacteria present in the colon.
A decrease in the enemy flora and its toxic metabolites (ammonia, biogenic amines, nitrosamines, etc.) is obtained, which in large concentrations favour the inflammation of the mucosa and alter permeability.
A large number of viruses, which enter our body through food, are implanted a priori in the intestine, therefore, an imbalance of the bacterial flora with the consequent drop of defenses of the immune system, facilitates the appearance of diseases. Increasingly, scientific studies show the importance of the digestive system to enjoy a good health.
- Eva Gimeno Creaus (2004) Alimentos prebióticos y probióticos. Revista Offarm Vol. 23. Núm. 5. páginas 90-98
- Shang X et al. (2013) In vitro anti-Helicobacter pylori effects of medicinal mushroom extracts, with special emphasis on the Lion’s Mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (higher Basidiomycetes). Int J Med Mushrooms
- Wong JY et al. (2013) Gastroprotective Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.:Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extract against Ethanol-Induced Ulcer in Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.