Two of todays health buzz words are Probiotics and Prebiotics – but what are they? Why do you need them? And in what way do they differ?
The digestive system is basically the work horse of the body. Everybody knows that it is responsible for removing waste, but what most people don’t know, is that is is also responsible for breaking down foods into glucose and nutrients the body needs for energy and nourishment.
The digestive system also constitutes 70 percent of the body’s immune system, meaning, that it performs a important role in defending the body against harmful bacteria and viruses.
Basically a healthy digestive system is paramount for general health and wellbeing. Poor digestion with affect every part of the body – the brain, nervous system, hormonal balance, reproductive system and the liver’s ability to properly detoxify.
Probiotics are live microorganisms, and when taken in large doses can help improve and maintain the health of your gastrointestinal tract. This friendly bacteria is essential for maintaining good health and vitality in the digestive system.
There are 10 times more bacteria in the digestive system than there are cells in the body. Known as microflora, this internal ecosystem weighs up to two kilograms and makes up most of the dry weight of faeces. Before you reach for the antiseptic, it is important to know that many of these bacteria are beneficial to health. These good guys are known to as probiotics. They breed in the bowel, but can also be found in specific foods or taken as a supplement. Every person’s assembly of microflora is unique to them, like fingerprints and DNA.
These good bugs defend their turf from pathogenic intruders, besides keeping us healthy, they play a important part in the treatment of diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, eczema and asthma. Studies have shown certain probiotics help prevent bowel (colorectal) cancer.
Probiotics support vitamin B12 and vitamin K production, and have been shown to also support mental health. They are also responsible for strengthening the bowel wall, stopping leaky gut syndrome, and improving mineral absorption.
Probiotics are delicate , heat and stomach acids can kill them rendering them ineffective before they’ve even been digested. Another problem is, we don’t know which “good” bacteria our unique individual body will benefit from. For some people, a certain good bacterial strain is helpful, but for others, it may not. When we consume probiotics, we’re taking a guess at which bacteria might be helpful and hoping for the best. I personally like a different brand of probiotic than my daughter does – we both respond differently to different strains.
Once we have taken our probiotic, we hope that it will make it past the heat and acid of our stomach to actually go on to provide some health benefits to our system.
Prebiotics, unlike probiotics, are not destroyed in the body. They are not affected by heat or bacteria.
Prebiotics are specialised plant fibres that nourish the good bacteria already in the large bowel or colon. While probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gut, prebiotics act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that’s already there, as well as the new arrivals. They help your good bacteria grow, improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio.
The body itself can not digest these plant fibres, so they are able to provide many other digestive and general health benefits.
Recent studies have also shown prebiotics and good bacterial gut balance play a direct role in mental health. Individuals who consume prebiotics on a daily basis have fewer issues with anxiety, depression and stress. In fact, when their saliva was tested, it contained lower levels of cortisol. High levels of this hormone have been linked directly to mental health disorders.
The truth is – to maintain perfect gut health, you need to ensure that you have a good balanced intake of prebiotics and probiotics.
So how to I up my Probiotic intake and Prebiotic intake?
Probiotics are found in organic sugar free yoghurt, the best being pot set yogurt. Other sources are miso, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, natto, tempeh and kimchi.
If you have health issues such as;
mental health issues,
ongoing colds and flu,
burping after you eat,
unexplained weight gain or
I recommend you make a trip to your health food store or naturopath for a quality probiotic, and increase your prebiotic intake (below). If you abuse your system and consume large quantities of sugar, fatty foods and alcohol – get yourself to that store now!
If your skin keeps on breaking out I would recommend besides increasing your water and chlorophyll intake, a good probiotic will help clear it up quickly as well, as many skin issues are gut related.
Prebiotics are found in bananas, soy beans, Jerusalem artichokes, organic whole oats, organic wheat (which contains the wheat germ) organic barley, garlic, flaxseeds, beans and lentils, tomatoes and green vegetables.
A easy and fast way to increase your prebiotic intake is to make up a green smoothie in the morning containing barley grass, wheat grass, kale, a banana, flaxseeds (linseeds) sunflower seeds and almond seeds. Add a extra boost by adding beetroot, or a red vegetable powder mix which contains tomato, beetroot, acai berry and other red fruits and vegetables. Add a Kyolic capule (or swallow it). Kyolic is a aged garlic – extra potent – no reflux or smell!
Up your fibre intake with every meal. If you love your sandwiches, choose breads high in seeds such a sunflower and linseeds, quinoa and chia seeds, add extra salad to every sandwich. Make sure your evening meals are mainly green and red vegetables, then add protein, followed by starches.
The upside to eating like this – is you will be pleasantly surprised, by a slow and steady weight loss!
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