By now, you've probably heard that gut health has everything to do with your overall health. The lining of the gut is covered with numerous microorganisms that make up an ecosystem known as the "microbiome". Keeping your microbiome healthy plays a vital role in many of your health conditions, with some studies even linking gut health to mental health, autoimmune conditions, skin conditions and more. So how can we keep these microbes in balance? If you think of these microbes as tiny organisms, they're just like us, and what you feed them affects how healthy they are, and that's where probiotics and prebiotics come into play.
What are prebiotics? Prebiotics are a type of carbohydrate that can’t be processed by the human body that comes from fibre that can be derived from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (though not all fibre is necessarily a prebiotic). These fibres serve as a sort of food or fertilizer that helps stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria. What is this healthy gut bacteria? Probiotics.
Your gut is home to a mass of living organisms, which we call gut flora, but not all of them are healthy. Probiotics are a type of healthy bacteria that can be added to your current population of gut flora and prebiotics are what these organisms eat. Probiotics can be attained through supplementation or foods like yogurt, and other fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, tempeh and more.
Most foods and supplements come with a specific strain of bacteria, the most common is lactobacillus but even within that strain, there are more than 120 species. Certain strains may help support your health better than others so it is worth asking your doctor about what types would be best for you.
Why You Need Pre and Probiotics
The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ really comes into play in terms of pre and probiotics. The food that you consume is the same food that organisms in your microbiome consume too. A poor or unbalanced diet affects a variety of health areas, including your microbiome, and studies have begun to link gut health to certain diseases and conditions.
●If you eat a diet that is high in fat and sugars, you have an increased risk for insulin resistance.
●A poor diet may feed bad bacteria, promoting their growth and outpacing healthy bacteria. This can lead to various health problems and physical discomfort
●Harmful gut bacteria or those with a less healthy gut microbiome are more prone to obesity.
●Sometimes the cell walls of gut flora will contain endotoxins, which cause an immune response from your body leading to inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a wide variety of health issues and diseases. Diet choices have been connected to how many of these endotoxins will populate within your gut flora, as healthier diets tend to produce cells with lower endotoxins.
How Pre and Probiotic Supplementation Can Help
So how can probiotics help? In combination with a healthy diet, further studies indicate the following benefits to probiotic supplementation and foods:
●A study found that a healthy gut with a variety of bacteria can help with weight and mood problems.
● Taking prebiotics while on antibiotics can help reduce discomfort and has been found in some studies to reduce antibiotic-related diarrhoea by 60%.
●Probiotics can help control symptoms in patients with chronic gastrointestinal distress.
●While prebiotics are fairly new to the supplementation market and studies, there have been some positive results from some early research.
●Prebiotics may increase calcium absorption.
Prebiotics and probiotics work together as a team to keep your guts in good working order and while we may not see or notice this tiny world living within our guts, its importance to our health is huge. Talk to your doctor or dietician about what probiotics, supplements, and diet would be best for you to achieve optimal gut health and wellbeing.