There are trillions of good and bad bacteria living within your gut, making up part of your gut microbiome, that are involved in critical functions that maintain your health and wellbeing. Good bacteria aid in the digestion of food, nutrient absorption and boosts your immunity to a variety of diseases. When balance of your good and bad bacteria is impacted by age, stress, poor diet, overall quality of health or environmental factors, it can lead to gastrointestinal issues. To keep your gut microbiome balanced and healthy, you may choose to add probiotics and prebiotics to your diet.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms, usually specific strains of bacteria, that help to maintain or improve the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria found in your gut. The most common probiotics consumed are strains from the lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups. Having the right amount of good bacteria in your gut has been linked to weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, healthier skin and a reduced risk of various diseases.
Which foods contain Probiotics?
There are many probiotic foods that naturally contain the helpful bacteria your gut needs. The best source of natural probiotics comes from fermented foods and yogurt. Be sure to choose foods that are unpasteurized as the pasteurization process kills good bacteria. If you would like to add more natural probiotics into your diet, try any of the following foods:
- Pickled vegetables
What are Prebiotics?
Unlike probiotics, prebiotics contain dietary fibers, not bacteria. Your body cannot digest these fibers but can use them as fuel for probiotics, the healthy bacteria, in your gut. Incorporating prebiotics into your daily diet may not only help improve your overall gut and digestive health, but it can also help boost your immune system and support bone health. Prebiotics have the greatest effect on your health when used in conjunction with a probiotic.
Which foods contain Prebiotics?
Prebiotics can be found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain complex carbohydrates such as fiber and resistant starch. Studies suggest that eating three to five grams of prebiotics a day helps benefit the healthy bacteria in your gut. Following are some of the best prebiotic food choices you can eat:
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Sweet potato
What are Probiotic and Prebiotic Supplements?
You can also consume probiotics and prebiotics in supplement form as an alternative to sourcing them from your food.
Probiotic supplements contain live microorganisms that can include a single strain of a microbe or a blend of multiple different microbes. Different strains can impact specific conditions and it is recommended you research your condition or talk to your healthcare provider to select the supplement that is right for you.
Prebiotic supplements are comprised of a combination of various fibers, which are those that you cannot typically get from eating every day, easily accessible foods.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that commercial probiotic and prebiotic supplement use is generally safe for healthy people. But keep in mind that these supplements are not regulated according to prescription drug standards by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that some of the live bacteria being used in probiotics has not been evaluated according to the FDA’s strict safety measures.
Keeping your gut bacteria balanced is very important to help maintain and improve your overall health. Through regular use of both prebiotics and probiotics, you can ensure that the good bacteria outnumber the bad bacteria in your gut. To learn more about improving the health of your digestive system with prebiotics and probiotics or to discuss any digestive concerns or symptoms, you can schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists online or by calling 630−717−2600.