No doubt you've heard about the importance of taking a quality probiotic for maintaining a healthy gut, but many of us know little about prebiotics and the important role they play in our gut and digestive health.
So let me begin by explaining the actual difference between a 'pre' and 'pro' biotic. To put it simply, probiotics are strains of “good" bacteria, found in fermented foods and quality probiotic supplements, required by your gut to maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria within your gut's microbiome.
Just as lawn seed requires fertiliser added to the soil, to enable the seeds to implant and grow into a thriving, healthy lawn, the good bacteria strains living within your gut also require a helping hand to grow, from substances known as 'prebiotics'. Think of prebiotics as food for the good bugs within your digestive tract - helping to maintain a healthy balance of gut flora!
If you don't have the right balance of 'good' vs 'bad' bacteria living within your gut, then you'll experience what's referred to as a state of 'dysbiosis'. When dysbiosis occurs, the effects are felt systemically throughout your body, impacting the health and function of every body system, organ and cell - including your brain. This is why the ancient greek physician, Hipporactes, said "All diseases begin in the gut".
The hundreds of strains of good bacteria within your gut's microbiome, play an essential role in maintaining your immune system - from fending off invaders, to controlling inflammation. Good bacteria strains also assist with digestion and the production of vitamins and minerals. Your good gut bugs even influence your mood and cognitive function, as well as your propensity for weight gain AND ability to lose it! Yep the real secret to reaching and maintaining your ideal weight - lies in your gut! You can read more about how your gut influences your weight in a previous blog post I wrote here.
Just like you, the good bugs living within your gut need to eat, and if they don't have the enough of the right type of food to consume, then just like you - they can become sick and die off and the 'bad' bugs can take over - essentially causing a state of anarchy within your immune system - commonly referred to as - chronic low grade inflammation. Chronic, or persistent low grade inflammation has direct links to every lifestyle disease, and the common conditions that precede them, including diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases and autism, just to name a few.
The Powerful Role of Prebiotics
Aside from prebiotics preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria within your gut - helping you to lose weight and reducing your risk of obesity and serious metabolic disorders, prebiotics also produce an important nutrient known as “short-chain fatty acids.”
SCFA's perform many critical roles for your health, including providing energy for your cells, reducing inflammation and boosting your immunity, enhancing detoxification and preventing leaky gut (excessive permembaility of your intestinal wall), by strengthening the tight junctions that keep partially digested food within your intestines, and keep out harmful substances, like viruses and bad bacteria.
SCFA's also enhance mineral absorption, and have even been proven to kill colon cancer cells, whilst fuelling healthy cells within the large intestine. They also reduce blood glucose levels and the risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
As prebiotics are not able to be digested in your small intestine, they travel to your large intestine, where they’re fermented by your gut bacteria. This fermentation process is critical for producing short-chain fatty acids.
Food Sources Of Prebiotics
Prebiotics are derived from certain kinds of fibre, commonly found in many foods, so it makes sense that the easiest way to get prebiotics into your diet, is to consume a variety of these natural prebiotic food sources below.
Cacao - I'm talking about the raw, unprocessed cacao powder, not Mr Cadburdy
Coconut - the flesh of the coconut, not processed coconut water
Asparagus - serve as a side with your animal protein, or finely chop & toss through a salad
Dandelion greens - add to salads
Legumes (beans and lentils) - add to a salad or caserole
Flaxseeds - add to your morning smoothie or grain free granola at breakfast
Remeber, if you fuel your good gut bacteria with prebiotics on a daily basis, you'll ensure your gut health is thriving and that's the best way to ensure your overall health and wellbieng thrives - inside and out, upstairs and down stairs.
For a complete guide on how to restore your gut function and overcome digestive problems, grab a copy of my book, Love Your Gut, available online for mail order
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