Happy Healthy Gut

Happy Healthy Gut

Our guts have 100 trillion bacteria, most of them  “good” bacteria. Unfortunately, those good bacteria are starving due to antibiotic use; wide spread pesticide use, antimicrobial cleaners; and our reliance on fast-food, simple carbohydrates and saturated fats, instead of adequate plant-based fibre.

As more and more scientific studies are being released daily, we  are beginning to understand the role the gut plays in overall health, and probiotics have become an important tool in the fight against chronic disease. But we have also learnt  that prebiotics may be just as essential to maintaining a healthy microbiome.

Prebiotics shouldn’t be confused with probiotics (good bacteria for your gut). While probiotics help you maintain a healthy digestive tract and prevent gut diseases, prebiotics are nondigestible compounds that help probiotics grow and thrive, so they can continue to keep your gut healthy.

While PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS sound similar, there rolls are very different  in the digestive system (or gut).

  • PREBIOTIC FIBRE is a non-digestible part of foods like bananas, onions and garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, the skin of apples, chicory root, beans, and many others. Prebiotic fibre goes through the small intestine undigested and is fermented when it reaches the large colon.

This fermentation process feeds beneficial bacteria colonies (including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in our digestive systems (also called the gut) that are associated with better health and reduced disease risk.

  • PROBIOTICS are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi, and others.
Kefir, a milk drink that has been fermented using kefir grains, is an especially potent source of probiotics. It contains lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in high doses, and also helps diversity too – more than 50 different types of bacteria can be found in kefir. When you drink kefir (it has the consistency of a drinking yoghurt), these bacteria travel through the digestive tract to colonise the colon.”

While many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics, most come from two groups:

  • Lactobacillus – the most common probiotic found in yogurt and other fermented foods.
  • Bifidobacterium – also found in some dairy products. May ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and related conditions. Naturally present in the large intestine, bifidobacteria fight harmful bacteria in the intestines, prevent constipation and give the immune system a boost. Furthermore, evidence indicates that bifidobacteria help reduce intestinal concentrations of certain carcinogenic enzymes.

A helpful metaphor to understand the difference between a prebiotic and a probiotic may be a garden. You can add seeds—the probiotic bacteria—while the prebiotic fibre is the water and fertilizer that helps the seeds to grow and flourish. 

Benefits of Probiotics

The beneficial effects of probiotics have been widely demonstrated. [Toscana 2016]  Health professionals often recommend probiotics in supplement form to patients on antibiotics in an attempt to repopulate the colon with desirable bacteria after the course of antibiotics has wiped out both beneficial and undesirable bacteria. [Hyman 2016]

Some find taking probiotics can combat gastrointestinal side effects of the medication and reduce the bacterial growth leading to yeast infections.

“The biggest influence you can have on the state of your gut lining, and a healthy microbiome, is your diet—which you control.”  — Jeannette Hyde, Nutritional Therapist BSc., a leading nutritional therapist, author and regular BBC commentator.

Benefits of Prebiotics

Researchers have found that prebiotics are helpful in increasing the helpful bacteria already in the gut that reduce disease risk and improve general well being. [Florowska 2016] Prebiotic fibre is not as fragile as probiotic bacteria because it is not affected by heat, stomach acid, or time.  Nor does the fermentation process differ depending on the individual.

Scientific literature indicates that increasing prebiotic fibre intake supports immunity, digestive health, bone density, regularity, weight management, and brain health.

Which foods help me to boost Prebiotics and Probiotics in my diet?

As mentioned earlier, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and coconut live yogurt are rich sources of probiotic bacteria that go directly to populate the colon.

By boosting your total daily fibre consumption, you will also boost the prebiotic fiber you ingest to feed probiotic and other desirable strains of bacteria in the gut for improved health and well being. [Pandey 2015]

Many high fibre foods are also high in prebiotic fibre. The following chart includes a sample of foods high in total fibre—and prebiotic fibre.

Foods Rich in Prebiotic Fibre:

Chicory Root
About 65% of the chicory root is fibre by weight and is an extraordinarily rich source of prebiotic fibre.
Onions and Garlic

2 grams of fibre per ½ cup – about 17% is prebiotic fibre.
Oatmeal
2 grams of fiber per ½ cup—very high in prebiotic fibre content.

Leeks
Leeks come from the same family as onions and garlic, and offer similar health benefits. Leeks contain up to 16% inulin fibre
Asparagus

2-3 grams of prebiotic fibre per 100 gram serving (about ½ cup)
Dandelion Greens

4 grams of fibre per 100 gram serving (about ½ cup) – most of this fibre is prebiotic
Jerusalem artichoke
2 grams of fiber per 100 gram serving (about ½ cup)
Barley

3-8 grams of prebiotic fibre per 100 gram serving (about ½ cup)
Bananas Bananas are very popular. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Bananas contain small amounts of inulin. Unripe (green) bananas are also high in resistant starch, which has prebiotic effects.

 

Flaxseeds Flaxseeds are incredibly healthy. They’re also a great source of prebiotics.

The fibre content of flaxseeds is 20–40% soluble fibre from mucilage gums and 60–80% insoluble fibre from cellulose and lignin.

Apple with skin

2 grams of fibre per ½ apple (mainly in the skin)  Pectin, which has prebiotic benefits, makes up about 50% of the total fibre in the apple. Cooking or steaming release even more!

Images from http://www.freeimages.co.uk

Why take supplements when we can eat fiber-rich and fermented foods?

It is clearly vital to nourish a healthy bacterial mix in the colon. We can start with a foundation of healthy eating, focusing on fresh, organic vegetables and fruits, while avoiding processed food products and sugary foods and drinks.

However, it is sometimes difficult with a typical modern diet that includes processed foods and high amounts of sugar and synthetic ingredients to eat enough fermented foods and foods high in fiber.  Therefore, adding supplements may be a healthy addition to one’s diet. [Verspreet 2016][Kechagia 2013]

 

The following chart compares prebiotics and probiotics.

PREBIOTIC VS PROBIOTIC

PREBIOTICS

PROBIOTICS

PREBIOTICS are a special form of dietary fibre that acts as a fertilizer for the good bacteria in your gut. PROBIOTICS are live bacteria that can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods. There are hundreds of probiotic species available. Which of these species are best for the average healthy person is still unknown.
PREBIOTIC powders are not affected by heat, cold, acid, or time. PROBIOTIC bacteria must be kept alive to be active. They may be killed by heat, stomach acid, or simply die with time.
PREBIOTICS nourish the good bacteria that everyone already has in their gut. PROBIOTICS must compete with the over 1000 bacteria species already in the gut.
Research has determined PREBIOTIC fibre can be helpful with a wide range of conditions and disorders, including digestive disorders, obesity, and bone loss. Certain PROBIOTIC species have been shown to be helpful for childhood diarrhea, irritable bowel disease, and for recurrence of certain bowel infections such as C. difficile.

 

Blog partly based on article from prebiotin.com