Probiotics, Prebiotics – a spelling mistake?
Many people are confused about these terms and may even think there has just been a spelling error. Far from it, as both are important components in our diet in terms of nutrition and gut health.
We often hear of how important and powerful probiotics are for our health, particularly our gut, and their importance with the use of antibiotics. So how does prebiotics relate to probiotics and what are they? Let us explore.
These consist of different strains of beneficial bacteria or a yeast that is similarly found in our gut and supports our health and digestion. When taken they act like the policemen of the gut and its inhabitants, restoring order and peace. These various strains can reorganise the diversity, quantity, and function of the gut microbiome. Specific strains have particular functions and is the reason broad spectrum probiotic supplements are not effective for everyone.
Depending on the strain and dosage used, probiotics have various health benefits and may:
- Reduce inflammation in the gut
- Repair and improve gut lining
- Help rebuild disrupted microbiota, keeping disease promoting organisms at minimal levels, particularly after the use of antibiotics or some medications
- Assists in regulation of immune system and may be useful in dampening immune hypersensitivity in conditions such as eczema, hay fever, and allergies, as well as autoimmune conditions.
- Speed up or slow down the time it takes our food to travel through the digestive system e.g., constipation or diarrhoea
Diet is important
Probiotics need feeding to proliferate and carry out their functions. Much like the garden it needs regular fertilising and watering to grow. The gut microbiota is overly sensitive to our diet and we can either feed the ‘friendly’ bugs or ‘unfriendly’ ones depending on what we consume. Prebiotics are the fuel for our beneficial bacteria.
Introducing the star of this show! – Prebiotics!
Prebiotics are a special type of fibre that passes through our digestive system relatively unchanged until it reaches our large intestine. Once there the prebiotic is fermented and a number of valuable substances are produced providing fuel for the beneficial bacteria, lowering intestinal pH and inflammation, improving bowel condition, supporting immune health, and ensuring proper waste elimination.
Adequate intake of prebiotics is associated with:
- Reduced bowel cancer risk
- Enhanced mineral absorption
- Improved blood glucose and insulin composition
- Reduced risk of constipation or diarrhoea
- Lowered risk of inflammatory bowel disease
- Improved immune function
Where do I get it?
Prebiotic foods include:
- Spring onion
- Fennel bulb
- Savoy cabbage
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Snow peas
- Green peas
- Apples (especially with the skin)
- Custard apples
- White peaches
- Dried fruit (eg. dates, figs, prunes)
- Red kidney beans
Nuts and seeds
- Linseeds (flaxseeds)
Hungry for more?
Try these recipes:
By cooking and cooling potatoes, sweet potatoes (particularly the purple skinned) or rice, the resistant starch that is formed is a great prebiotic. So during these summer days enjoy a potato salad. For example:
A word of caution
If you do not commonly eat these foods it is best to gradually increase these high fibre staples over 7 days to avoid bloating, gas, or digestive upset.
For those with dietary concerns or IBS it is best to see a health practitioner for advice. If you would like to increase your knowledge and the tools you will need to help balance your gut and improve the integrity of your digestive system, book an appointment with Davina, or telephone 0416016388. I will show you how to make lasting and sustainable changes to enhance your health