Pre and Pro? Nope, it's not a typo. As you embrace a healthier lifestyle, it's equally important to incorporate both prebiotics and probiotics into your diet. In fact, without prebiotics, it's possible that your other efforts to fix your gut may be in vain. Here's why.
First, What Are Prebiotics?
“Prebiotic” was originally defined as a “non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health." Scientists researching the value of prebiotics in treating disease conditions have more recently described a prebiotic as a selectively fermented ingredient that, when fermented (ie digested) by gut microbiota, allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the microbiome that confers benefits upon the host’s well-being and health. More simply: prebiotics are fiber.
To be prebiotic, the food ingredient must:
1. Resist digestion processes in the stomach and intestine
2. Be digestible (fermentable) by the GI microbiota
3. Stimulate the growth or activity of the intestinal microbiota
4. Confer a health benefit to the host
Prebiotics lay the foundation for maximizing the benefits of probiotics included in the diet by providing the best possible food material to nourish and support the life cycles of beneficial gut bacteria. They maintain and balance diversity of intestinal bacteria. Prebiotics and probiotics functioning together create a digestive environment with optimizes good health in the body.
So How Do I Get More Prebiotic Foods Into My Daily Diet?
1. First, eat more plants, which have a beneficial prebiotic effect. Nutritionists have spoken of the need for fiber in a healthy diet for years. Dietary fiber is defined as, "a carbohydrate that does not contribute much in the way of food energy (calories), even though it is often included in the calculation of total food energy just as though it were a sugar." Further contemporary research shows that although fiber may not translate directly into calories through our own digestion processes, fiber provides a nutrient base for our gut flora to grow and thrive.
2. Look for high-fiber opportunities within your existing daily habits. If you start your day with a power smoothie, make sure its fiber rich (add some spinach leaves, half an avocado or a scoop of fiber supplement). If you juice, by all means, save that fiber to incorporate into soups which can be blended into a delicious veggie bisque to enjoy for lunch, alongside sauerkraut.
3. To take your gut health to the next level, know about the prebiotic superfoods. These include chicory root, onions and garlic, oatmeal, asparagus, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, barley and apples (organic) with skins.
By now it's clear: it's not just about the probiotics. It's prebiotic FIBER that's at the foundation of great gut health. To read more about this subject, check out Why You Should Eat For Your Microbiome (And How To Do It Easily) is another great read to continue your journey towards better health.