By Ellie Kempton
It’s easy in our busy day-to-day lives to normalize daily bloat, brain fog, or immune suppression.
We brush it off saying “tomorrow I’m sure I’ll feel better.” And before you know it, a lingering cold, and irritated belly prevail. More often than not, these symptoms are “nudges” that we need to take a closer look at the bacteria residing in our gut.
Periods of poor nutrition, rounds of antibiotics and a stressful lifestyle all take their toll on our delicate ecosystem of bacteria and because our digestive tracts are home to 80% of our immune system, it’s critical to support this balance of bacteria far before we start treating symptoms.
One of the easiest ways to do so is simply by adding both pro and pre- biotics to our daily routine.
What is the difference between pro- and pre biotics?
Probiotics are easy to recognize as they are typically listed by their strain genome with long names like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, and natto. These superstar strains along with thousands of other strains of beneficial bacteria take up residence in the gut and help the body absorb nutrients, break down food, and ward off infection. Believe it or not, there are more bacteria in the gut than there are cells in your body.
When everything is functioning properly, the good bacteria in your gut predominates creating enzymes that destroy bad bacteria, yeast and other enzymes.
Before modern agriculture, antibiotics and chlorinated water, our bodies had no trouble producing the bacteria we needed, however now our digestive tracts could use a little help, which is why it’s important to intentionally add probiotics to your routine, preferably through probiotic-rich foods or a high quality supplement.
If we’re feeding ourselves all that good bacteria... who is feeding the bacteria? Like any living organism, probiotics must eat to stay healthy and strong. Which of course is where pre-biotics come into play.
Prebiotics are a special type of fiber, called oligosaccharides, found in certain fruits and vegetables. Oligosaccharides can’t be broken down by digestive enzymes or gastric acid instead, they make their way to the gut where they’re feasted upon by probiotics which increases the probiotic numbers and effectiveness. As the probiotics replicate themselves they are supercharged to optimize nutrient absorption, bolster overall health and cognition.
Prebiotics are found predominately in vegetables but are especially robust in the following:
What are the main benefits of consuming both probiotics and prebiotics?
Because 80% of the immune system is located in the gut and has the power to influence all systems in the body, probiotics can help improve overall wellbeing and some very specific symptoms. The first thing you may notice after beginning a new probiotic regimen [as long as you aren’t dealing with SIBO or histamine intolerance] is decreased bloating. Probiotics help break down and process the food we eat, aiding intestinal motility (elimination) and gastric acid production, which decreases gas while improving digestion overall.
Adding more probiotic-rich fermented foods or supplements to your diet may also help clear up acne and other skin issues such as eczema while improving immunity across the board- these conditions are often tied to immune response and probiotics boost immune function.
You may feel more awake and energetic, since probiotics help produce the vitamins B12 and K2, and help kill off candida overgrowth, which can cause low energy, bad breath, and yeast overgrowth.
Expedited Nutrient Delivery
Adding prebiotic foods to your diet will help the good bacteria in your system function at optimal levels while delivering a hearty dose of added vitamins, minerals and nutrients to your system. And because the good bacteria will be working so efficiently, they’ll deliver these nutrients faster right where they’re needed.
And how often do I have to consume probiotics + prebiotics to reap these benefits?
Start by adding probiotic rich FOODS to your daily routine. A bite here, a sip there is all you need to reap the benefits of the robust biodiversity of cultured foods. Go for “sour” foods such as unfiltered apple cider vinegar, plain kefir [water, coconut or traditional organic dairy], plain yogurt [look for “live and active cultures” over “active cultures”] kombucha, and kimchi.
Avoid fermented foods that contain large amounts of added sugar, like sugary yogurts. Candida and yeast feed off these added sugars, exacerbating the problem. Some naturally-occurring sugars, like those present in yogurt and kombucha are okay. If need be, add some fruit or nuts for a little extra flavor.
If the thought of eating cultured foods makes you squirm, simply seek out a high quality probiotic brand that contains at least 80 billion CFUs (colony forming units) and at least 10 different strains of bacteria — you want the bacteria to make it past the gastric acid in your stomach and be able to diversify once they reach your gut. If you have specific health concerns, do some research beforehand to find out which strains are especially helpful in treating those specific needs.
Prebiotic foods are the easiest part. Opt for fiber-rich vegetables, such as jicama, kale, leeks, onions, dandelion greens, underripe bananas, asparagus, garlic, broccoli, Jerusalem artichoke, and go raw whenever possible.
Now off you go... beat that bloat, brain fog and immune suppression with nothing more than food bursting with good bacteria and fiber.
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