Two Elements You Need for a Healthy, Happy Gut: Probiotics and Prebiotics

 
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By Hannah Woit

The past few years have seen a shift from an emphasis on harsh antibacterial soaps, sterile environments, and antibiotics to an appreciation of bacteria in protecting our health.

This is due to research on the microbiome--the colony of bacteria in bodies. Researchers have found that the mix of bacteria is important in promoting health, especially in our gut. Our gut microbiota help our bodies process indigestible substances and the medicines and pollution from our world that we ingest.

The development of our microbiome begins even before birth and continues throughout our lifetime. And, despite the relatively higher access to technology and advanced healthcare in general in cities, those who live in more rural areas tend to have a better mix in their microbiome. Other factors determining our gut health include our diet, genetics, culture, age, lifestyle, and history of medication usage.

In addition to a healthy microbiome helping our digestion in general, research reported in Nature demonstrated that gut microbes in obese versus lean individuals differ. Researchers reported finding that when the obese people lost weight, their microbial profile started to look more closely to that of the leaner people, which may be due to the fact that high-fiber diets tend to contain less fat and calories, while also helping people feel more full and lose weight.

So, what to do?

One way to promote our gut health is to focus on incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into our diet. Probiotics and prebiotics both alter our microbiome composition and help keep our digestion revving efficiently.

Here are the basics:

Probiotics:

Probiotics are health-promoting bacteria. They help maintain a healthy digestion, which means they can reduce the frequency of constipation, cramping, and other digestive annoyances. They also help your body combat inflammation associated with inflammatory disease and tackle infections like the common cold and flu and other illnesses.

In terms of nutrition, if you’re already making an effort to eat healthy, you can help maximize the health benefits of the nutritious food you’re eating by working on your gut health. Probiotics help your body use the nutrients in your food more effectively.

Where to get them: 

As we’ve previously mentioned on the blog, we have probiotics stocked for you at Primary, including Revive kombucha or Maple Hill yogurt. Other sources of probiotics include tempeh and cultured non-dairy yogurt.

 

Prebiotics:

Prebiotics are probiotics’ best friend. Probiotics have gained more attention in recent years, but prebiotics help probiotics survive and thrive.

Prebiotics are most commonly fibers found in the ingredients in our food that our body can’t digest. However, the probiotics we want in our gut thrive off of prebiotics.

Where to get them:

Get your prebiotic fix by incorporating onions, asparagus, artichokes, or soybeans into your diet, or stash bananas or whole-wheat snacks at the office.