Yogurt is one of the top products that are known to contain live bacteria known as probiotics. The microbiome is a mix of bacteria, it begins to develop at birth and it keeps growing as you age. You have probably heard a lot of chit chat about probiotics, and possibly prebiotics too, but no one really told you what they are and what their function is for the human body. This article will provide background information to help shed some light on this topic.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the good bacteria, or you can refer to them as live cultures. They are found in the gastrointestinal tract, AKA gut. Probiotics assist in changing or repopulating the bacteria in your intestine in order to stabilize gut flora. They are very delicate as they can be killed by heat or acid in the stomach even before you digest them – which ultimately renders them useless. As much as probiotics are the good bacteria, it is not known which one of them is actually beneficial for one’s unique body so taking them is quite a gamble.
Probiotics provide our bodies with benefits such as providing immune defense, they help our bodies filter nutrients from the food we eat, they assist in digestion, and many other functions. We get probiotics from dairy foods such as yogurt and milk, also from aged cheeses, tempeh etc. Doctors also prescribe pill supplements for probiotics. For them to survive, probiotics need a boost- which brings us to our next point, prebiotics.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are food for probiotics. They are the fiber that our body cannot digest but we cannot discard them just like that because they are nutrition for probiotics. Prebiotics assists in the production of butyric acid – which is what supports cells found in the lining of the colon and promotes an acidic environment that makes it even harder for bad bacteria to thrive. Prebiotics are resistant to heat, unlike probiotics, and they are indigestible so once ingested they feed the probiotics with no interruptions.
We get prebiotics from our diet, and raw foods contain more prebiotic fiber as opposed to cooked foods. Inulin is a dietary fiber that contains the most common type of prebiotic. Examples of the plants that contain inulin are onions, garlic, spinach, kale, etc. Whole grains and bananas also contain a lot of prebiotics. Benefits of prebiotics include their ability to control cravings and weight; the improvement of bowel movement; decreasing the harmful bacteria in the gut; and so on. So can you mix probiotics with prebiotics? Yes, certainly.
The Dynamic Duo for Your Gut
The gut is the dwelling place for probiotics as it contains ~100 trillion bacteria, no wonder it is the largest microbial community! The epithelium, the inner lining of the gut, is the most important part of the gut as it prevents food substances in our stomachs from leaking into other parts of the body.
When dysbiosis i.e. unhealthy changes occur in the microbiome; the epithelium can breakdown- leading to a leaking gut. This is not good for the body as a “leaky gut” leads to inflammation of not only the gut but other parts of your body. The surface area of the epithelium is bigger than a tennis court if stretched out so it is easy for the inflammation to travel to vital organs such as the heart and arteries, leading to serious illnesses like strokes, heart attacks, and even death!
Dysbiosis can be caused by different factors including drugs, toxins, diet, and pathogens. There is a direct link between disease states and the gut microbe. Functional constipation (FC) is a disorder that the gut may be involved in. This is common in children and its prevalence ranges from 0.7 – 29.6 %. Prebiotics may be helpful to children who have FC because they help increase the water content and thus soften the stool; influence gut microbes which affect motility; and so on. Probiotics also offer benefits in dealing with FC as they may influence the secretion of water; the contractions of the muscle cells get smoother; etc.
Tips on keeping a healthy gut
There are 4 Rs that you can follow in order to maintain a healthy gut. They are:
Remove: You need to identify the foods that negatively impact your gut health and remove them from your diet in order to start over building a healthy one.
Repair: Now that you have removed the toxins from your diet, your body needs to start the healing process. This is achieved by eating foods that are unprocessed, which have healing powers for your gut such as zinc, omega-3 fats, L-glutamine, etc.
Restore: You can now repopulate your gut with the good bacteria it needs so stock up on those probiotics.
Replace: You now need to take supplements that will help promote and maintain a healthy digestive system. Take organic salt and digestive enzymes supplements for this.
The human body is complex. There are things that we overlook which turn out to be just the answer to our different health problems. Yes, your body can take care of itself, to a certain extent though, so you need to step in here and there and make sure you get it all the help it needs. Probiotics and prebiotics are the dynamic duos for not just your gut but your whole body because we have discovered that an unhealthy gut may actually lead to serious health problems like heart attacks and even death.