Probiotics and Prebiotics: Supporting Gut Health
Updated: May 3
When I was in Denver a few years ago I came across an establishment that only served kombucha. It was a kombucha bar that offered a few dozen flavors of kombucha on tap! I was in heaven.
If you’re not familiar, kombucha is a fermented fizzy drink made from bacteria, yeast, sugar, and tea that’s been consumed for thousands of years for its purported health benefits, including probiotics.
Whether you're a fan of kombucha or not, you've probably heard of probiotics and might be taking a probiotic supplement.
What exactly are probiotics and what do they do for us?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that maintain and improve digestive health. They strengthen the good, beneficial bacteria found in your gut. They play a central role in health and disease because they’re involved in digestion, which directly impacts immune function.
But probiotics can’t work alone.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics need prebiotics to flourish.
If you frequently experience diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or gas, and that’s just a start, these are indications your gut bacteria is imbalanced. One way of bringing it back into balance is with probiotics and prebiotics. They work together synergistically to enhance your digestion and improve your overall health.
70-80% of your immune system is housed in your gut and when your gut health is imbalanced, it can lead to digestive issues, skin conditions, candida, sugar cravings, food allergies and sensitivities, suppressed immunity, autoimmune conditions, anxiety, and depression.
One way to help boost good gut bacteria is by eating a variety of wholesome foods and probiotic-specific foods.
Probiotic foods include:
Yogurt (organic, grass-fed varieties made from goat’s or sheep’s milk)
Fermented beverages like kombucha, kefir and kvass
Raw fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kimchi
Raw apple cider vinegar
Cheese (raw and unpasteurized)
What about prebiotics?
Prebiotics serve as fertilizer for your gut's friendly bacteria. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that your body is unable to digest. As a result, they ferment in your lower digestive tract where they act as a food source to grow healthy bacteria.
Prebiotic foods include:
Onions, garlic, leeks
Tigernuts (a vegetable tuber)
Chicory root (used in coffee substitutes)
Note: these foods eaten raw have more prebiotic fibers than when cooked.
Should you be taking supplements?
For most healthy people who eat a diverse diet full of wholesome foods, it’s not always necessary to take supplements. However, those with weakened immune systems, have taken a lot of antibiotics, have food allergies, or have underlying chronic health issues, you can benefit from a high-quality probiotic supplement.
However, I always recommend diet and lifestyle changes first.
You can easily increase your intake of probiotic and prebiotic foods by making swaps in your diet:
Drink kombucha or kefir instead of soda, juice, or alcohol
Swap regular yogurt for probiotic yogurt
Add dandelion greens to your salad
Substitute raw, unpasteurized milk or cheese in place of regular dairy products
Add jicama or sunchokes to your list of crunchy veggies to eat with guacamole, hummus, or in salads
In sum, probiotics are your beneficial gut bacteria and prebiotics are the fertilizer. You need both to thrive and bloom!
If you need guidance on improving your nutrition, gut health and overall health, let's chat. Email me to set up your free exploratory coaching call.
Love, Your Wellness Coach,
December 8, 2020