There are so many bacterial cells in the human body, they outnumber our own cells 10 to one.¹
Some of that bacteria is friendly and some of it is, well, not-so-friendly. So what we try to do, as humans, is avoid the bad bacteria by, say, washing our hands, and get more of the good bacteria by eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics in them.
But humans are not unique in this respect—like us, our pets are also hosts to an incredible abundance of bacteria.²
So how do we promote healthy microbiota—the collective term for all bacteria in the body—in an animal that will lick its own feet or occasionally eat a piece of garbage off the street?
Why you should be pro-probiotics
The microbiota of people and pets play a number of pivotal roles in maintaining good health, including improved immunity, reducing the risk of infections, and ensuring healthy digestion.³
During periods of stress or sickness, when we take medication (especially antibiotics), and even as we age, our microbiota change, and in many cases some of the healthy bacteria we carry are replaced by more nasty ones.
There have been thousands of scientific studies linking an unhealthy microbiota with disease states as varied as cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, allergies, and more.⁴
Probiotics are “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on to the host,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Consuming probiotics help promote good health in any animal, including humans, cats and dogs.”
In plain language, this means that consuming probiotics—which are also known as friendly bacteria—help promote good health in any animal host, including humans, cats and dogs.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are not living organisms at all; rather, prebiotics are simply a type of dietary fiber.
Thought about in this way, prebiotics sound pretty boring, especially in comparison to the superhero power of probiotics.
But prebiotics aren’t just any old fiber; they’re a special kind of fiber that selectively nourishes the growth of healthy bacteria.
In essence, prebiotics are food for certain probiotics.
Ample scientific research has demonstrated the positive health effects of prebiotic fibers, which include their beneficial role in weight management and immune health, as well as their association with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.⁵
Choosing the right probiotic
When it comes to probiotics, there are loads of supplements to choose from, both for ourselves and for our animals.
But not all probiotic supplements are equally beneficial, nor have all species of healthy bacteria received the same level of scientific scrutiny.
When choosing a probiotic, some of the things that you should consider are:
What are the proven health benefits of the probiotic?
How much research exists to validate the purported health claims of the probiotic?
Has the probiotic received GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status from the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration)?
When the team at Because Animals decided it was time that a Superfood Supplement be developed specifically for cats and dogs, ensuring that we included the most beneficial probiotic and the best sources of prebiotics was a priority for us.
To do this, we turned to science and looked at what the research had to say.
We found that of all the probiotics currently available, the strain Ganeden BC³⁰ (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) is among the most widely studied with over 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting its many health benefits.
Some of the notable findings from research conducted on Ganeden BC³⁰ are that the strain:
Supports digestive health
Supports immune health
Supports protein utilization
Is safe and has received FDA GRAS status
But, as mentioned, it’s not enough to replenish our gut with probiotics—we must also provide appropriate food sources for our healthy bacteria.
Prebiotics are naturally made by many different plants, with inulin being among the most widely studied prebiotic as it relates to health benefits.⁶
In addition to Because Animals adding organic inulin to our Superfood Supplement for cats and dogs, we’d also like to point out that seaweed—the main ingredient in our supplement—is naturally abundant in prebiotics.⁷
Although we humans might consider the importance of probiotics and prebiotics for ourselves, most of us don’t often consider that a healthy microbiota is just as important for our cats and dogs as it is for people.
¹ Ley, R.E. et al. (2006) Ecological and evolutionary forces shaping microbial diversity in the human intestine. Cell 124: 837.
² Suchodolski, J.S. (2011) Intestinal microbiota of dogs and cats: a bigger world than we thought. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 41: 261.
³ Deng, P. and Swanson, K.S. (2015) Gut microbiota of humans, dogs and cats: current knowledge and future opportunities and challenges. Br J Nutr 113: S6.
⁴ Selber-Hnatiw, S. et al. (2017) Human gut microbiota: toward an ecology of disease. Front Microbiol 8: 1265.
⁵ Verspreet, J. et al. (2016) A critical look at prebiotics within the dietary fiber concept. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol 7: 167.
⁶ Slavin, J. (2013) Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients 5:1417.
⁷ O’Sullivan, L. et al. (2010) Prebiotics from marine macroalgae for human and animal health applications. Mar Drugs 8:2038.