By now you already know you’re full of it, right? You know – bacteria. If you didn’t, check out my last post.
You’ve probably heard of probiotics, but have you heard of prebiotics? And do you know what they are and what they do?
Let’s start with probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that have health benefits specifically for the digestive system. And, because they’re like bacteria found naturally in the gut, are considered to be “good bacteria”.
One of the gut’s jobs is to keep harmful substances out of our body and cultivate useful bacteria. You might not think of bacteria as being useful but healthy bacteria in the gut helps it function properly. When the gut is invaded with unhealthy bacteria, symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea and inflammation are common consequences. Probiotics can help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. This may help boost immunity and overall health.
Probiotics may help overall health in a variety of ways:
- Replaces “good” bacteria which may have been lost (like when you take antibiotics)
- Restores “good” versus “bad” bacteria balance
- Decreases ‘bad” bacteria in your gut that can cause inflammation or infection
- Stabilizes the gut’s barriers against “bad” bacteria
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible plant fibers that help promote the growth of healthy bacteria, aka probiotics, in the gut. The undigested prebiotics pass right through the digestive system to become “food” for bacteria and other microbes. In other words, they are “food” for probiotics.
Research suggests probiotics may benefit health in the following ways:
- Support the growth of probiotics to potentially enhance digestion and metabolism
- Improve calcium absorption
- Weight loss due to fullness
- Provide protective benefits against colon cancer
- Lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease
What are good sources of probiotics & prebiotics?
Probiotics occur in fermented foods. Common probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, miso, tempeh, pickles, and aged cheeses. They are also available as a dietary supplement.
Prebiotics are present in fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Common prebiotic foods include onion, leeks, garlic, asparagus, wheat, oats, beans, banana and apples.
It’s important to note – some individuals cannot tolerate prebiotics. This is due to rapid fermentation in the gut which can cause digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Hence, this can worsen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and SIBO.
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