PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS HELP KEEP YOUR GUT IN GOOD SHAPE
You may have heard the terms “micobiome,” “gut health” or “probiotic.” Here’s a recap: The microbiome is an internal ecosystem comprised of microbes — good and bad bacteria — that affect the health of your overall gut — your entire digestive system. Both of these things are greatly affected by probiotics, as well as prebiotics and postbiotics.
Roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of our entire immune system is located in the gut. Our gut, which some refer to as our “second brain,” is also responsible for creating 95 percent of our serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for sleep, mood, and memory.
“Prebiotics are substances that are fermented by the beneficial bacteria in the gut and used as a source of fuel to help enhance gut flora health,” according to leading health contributor Dr. Josh Axe. “Probiotics, on the other hand, are live microorganisms that can confer health benefits to the host ranging from improved immunity to better brain function. Postbiotics, meanwhile, are the byproducts of bacterial fermentation in the colon.”
In simpler terms, “prebiotics ‘feed’ the probiotics, or beneficial bacteria in your gut, and end up producing a byproduct called postbiotics,” he said. “All three boast an extensive array of health benefits and work together to boost both digestive and overall health.”
These benefits include:
- Lower risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Healthier cholesterol levels.
- Improved gut health and digestion.
- Lower stress response.
- Better hormonal balance and immune function.
- Lower risk for obesity and weight gain.
- Lower inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
- Help manage ADD, ADHD and autism symptoms.
A great way to enrich your body with prebiotics and probiotics is through food.
Where can you find prebiotics? Try these ideas:
- Raw dandelion greens: Mince and mix in with your salad or on top off your vegetable soup or side dish.
- Raw jicama: This tangy treat can be thinly sliced and added to salads.
- Under-ripe bananas: Though not as sweet as yellow bananas, green bananas can be added to your smoothie and still give it a creamy texture.
- Raw chicory root: An alternative to coffee, you can find this at health food stores and start your day with a prebiotic kick.
- Raw garlic: Add to homemade salad dressings, dips, salsas or hummus.
- Raw or cooked onions: From breakfast to dinner, onions can be added to just about every savory dish. Sauté them with coconut oil or ghee and add them to your omelet, try them as a topper for proteins like grilled salmon or chicken, or add them to Lowcountry boil.
- Raw asparagus: Did you know you can ferment asparagus? Dissolve three tablespoons of sea salt in one quart of water, cut one bunch of asparagus spears to fit in a jar, and then add the brine, cover and leave at room temperature until they reach your desired flavor. Store in the refrigerator.
What about probiotics? They can be found in:
- Dairy or coconut kefir: Available now in most grocery stores, it is great in smoothies.
- Kimchi: this traditional Asian delicacy is also great when added to sandwiches and side dishes.
- Kombucha: Bottled kombucha is also available at most grocery stores, as well as local businesses like DelisheeYo and Smooth. Try a shot before each meal or as a “faux wine.”
- Supplements: You can find high-quality options at Whole Foods and Stephens Compounding Pharmacy. But be sure to consult with your doctor or health care professional about your dosage.
- Yogurt: Not all yogurts are created equal. Since sugar destroys good gut bacteria, avoid sweetened yogurts. Instead, opt for plain Greek, coconut milk, almond milk or pea protein yogurts.
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).