The “Pre” and “Pro” of the Gut Microbiome

September 15, 2020

If you have an interest in nutrition and health, you’ve likely heard the terms “probiotics” and “prebiotics”, but do you truly know what they are and how they affect your gut health?  In a nutshell, probiotics are the good bacteria our bodies need and prebiotics are the food for this bacteria.  The two work together to make sure that we have balanced and healthy gut flora.

Probiotics are a group of live, active microorganisms (mostly bacteria), that are found in certain foods and supplements. Different probiotics have different potential benefits, but all work to promote the health of the gastrointestinal tract and block unhealthy microorganisms. This promotion of a strong gut barrier also helps to reduce inflammation and potentially reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

Probiotics are often the same or similar to the healthy bacteria found naturally in our bodies. We are born with gut microbes and then, throughout life, the types and amounts of these microbes fluctuate based on our choices of food and drink, our overall health, antibiotic use, and stress levels.

If you’re looking for ways to boost your probiotic intake, here are a few great choices:

  • Fermented dairy foods – cheese, kefir, yogurt (make sure the yogurt and kefir labels list “live and active cultures”)
  • Kombucha
  • Pickled vegetables (kimchi)
  • Unpasteurized sauerkraut
  • Some soybean products (miso, natto, tempeh)

Prebiotics are the types of fiber that feed the good bacteria in the digestive system. Found in vegetables, fruits, and legumes, these good bacteria promoters pass through the digestive system without being digested, instead becoming food for probiotic bacteria in the gut. Good sources of prebiotics include:

  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Chicory root
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
  • Bananas
  • Beans and peas
  • Flaxseed
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Wheat bran
  • Whole wheat

The bottom line is this: keeping your gut bacteria balanced is important for so many aspects of your health and eating a diet rich in wholesome, prebiotic and probiotic foods may be the key.  Be sure to consult with a dietitian or other healthcare provider to see if probiotics can help address your health needs and also to be sure that you’re consuming the right amounts. 

One Comment on “The “Pre” and “Pro” of the Gut Microbiome

  1. Pingback: The “Pre” and “Pro” of the Gut Microbiome: Nutrition Counseling, Coaching & Education | News on Natural Remedies, Good Sleep and Good Health

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