Prebiotics or Probiotics…
Which is Best for Gut Health?
Is it just me, or does it seem like you can get just about anything fermented these days? Fermented protein powder, fermented cashew cheese–you name it. It all comes down to our hunt for more ways to consume probiotic-rich foods. Research on probiotics is ever-growing as we continue to learn about the gut-brain connection and the role of probiotics on gut health. But, a new "biotic" word has popped into mainstream lingo, and it is "prebiotics", a contender that seems to be taking over the spotlight in gut health trends. So, should we be incorporating more prebiotics into our diets, too?
As you may already know, probiotics are an important part of our gut health. We have 10 times the amount of bacteria in our bodies as we do human cells, and the majority exists in the large intestine. This beneficial bacteria plays a large role in our immune system, digestion, nutrient absorption, oral health, skin health, genital health and elimination. Gut bacteria makes B-vitamins, vitamin K and neurotransmitters, like GABA. Unfortunately, our probiotics can get destroyed by antibiotics, environmental toxins, infections, aging, stress, sugar, alcohol, drugs, and allergens. Fortunately, we have ways to replenish our gut bacteria through food and supplementation. Fermented foods are one of the best sources of probiotics, and supplementation is another popular choice. But, how do probiotics thrive? That’s where prebiotics come in!
Prebiotics are the indigestible plant fibres that we get from food that cannot be broken down by our digestive enzymes. In fact, our gut bacteria eat these fibres! Prebiotics can be found in raw root vegetables like raw jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, dandelion greens, onions, green bananas, and leeks. If you are not a fan of the raw versions of these vegetables, check out your local farmer’s market and grocery stores for fermented versions which give you both. You can also shred the vegetables and put them in a salad. Alternatively, you can find prebiotics added to probiotic supplement formulas to boost their efficacy.
If you’re wondering whether you should incorporate probiotics and prebiotics into your regime, I would definitely recommend it, with a caveat. Before adding any new foods or supplements for functional purposes, it’s important to step back and look at your health from a holistically. You can eat all of the prebiotics and probiotics and supplements you like, but if your foundation doesn’t allow for the probiotics and prebiotics to thrive and flourish, then you’re not necessarily benefiting your gut health as best you can. Review the bacteria destroyers above and reflect on what you can do to improve your constitution without adding something new into the mix. Contact a healthcare practitioner for more information.
Megan Horsley is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who helps her clients discover a holistic approach to their wellbeing with delicious food and, enriching lifestyle choices.