Just as you're getting comfortable with the fact that probiotics are good for you and you should pay attention to them, now you're hearing that there are things called prebiotics.
Shouldn't you have heard about them first?! As in, pregame?
Is this new-to-you concept some sort of hype that the supplement industry created because they saw $$ in selling probiotics?
Nope! Not at all! We'll clear the smoke and clouds and help you understand exactly what they are and how they go to work for you (and your probiotics).
The Beneficial Bug Review
Just in case you forgot: There are bacteria and yeast that populate your body, especially in your gut. Some are bad and, if go unchecked, can contribute to problems like digestive issues and inflammation. Some are good (probiotics) and keep the bad population in check, battle inflammation, assist in building the body's immune response, and many other things. Collectively, they're all called microflora.
These probiotics help you by:
- Breaking down and digesting food
- Supporting overall gut health
- Ensure the immune system works well
- Playing a role in how you think and feel
- Improving the production and regulation of hormones like insulin and leptin, and producing neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA
A regular intake of new beneficial bugs is important to maintaining that healthy balance because we're usually not very good at taking care of ourselves. We eat poor diets, we are exposed to environmental toxins, we suffer added stress on a regular basis, we smoke and drink. All of those things can contribute to damage to our immune system, our overall health, and even our skin.
By eating foods rich in probiotics, we're able to help replace good yeast and bacteria as they die off. Foods like yogurt, Kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi are chock-full of many different kinds of beneficial bugs and ingesting them is the healthiest way to get them into our system.
Sadly, not everyone is able to bring themselves to eat healthy . . . . at least not on a regular basis, so they take OTC probiotic supplements.
The Trouble With Probiotic Supplements
Taking probiotic supplements may not be all they're cracked up to be. From 2016 to 2017, the Food and Drug Administration inspected more than 650 facilities that produce dietary supplements, and determined that more than 50% of them had violations. These included issues with the purity, strength and even the identity of the promised product. Probiotic supplements have also been found to be contaminated with organisms that were not supposed to be there.
There are many different strains of bacteria that benefit the gut, each one with specific and different properties. Probiotic supplements usually only offer a few of the different strains, and they may not be the ones that would help you with your specific problem. For instance, B. bifidum can help with constipation and digestive issues, but it's L. acidophilus that has been shown to reduce the toxic effects of mold and yeast growth.
We're not even going to get into the fact that many of the supplements on the shelves aren't even viable, or the bacteria never survive the trip through the stomach and into the gut where they're needed.
You're much better off getting your probiotics from foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, natto, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and pickled vegetables.
Just taking a supplement also lacks a very important part of the equation: prebiotics.
Probiotics + Prebiotics = overall microbiome health and happiness
Prebiotics are the foods that nourish the beneficial bugs. They work together with the probiotics to support your microbiome all over your body, including your skin. Without their fuel, the probiotics would starve. That's because they stimulate the growth and activity of the body's beneficial bugs.
Aside from being good nutrition for probiotics, supporting your gut health, they have additional benefits as well, like:
- Enhancing mineral absorption, potential anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory, and other immune assisting effects
- Encouraging normal blood sugar levels
- Aiding in weight loss
- Boosting bone health
- Relieving stress
Prebiotics can get through the stomach and small intestine undigested, and are fermented once they reach the large colon.
Where Can You Find Prebiotics?
Prebiotics come from the non-digestible fiber in certain plant-based foods.
All prebiotics are fiber, but not all fiber is prebiotic.
So they're specific forms of dietary fiber, but where can you find them? We'll show you some of the best foods to eat for prebiotic benefit.
Also known as a Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip.
One of the best prebiotic food sources because it's 65% fiber (when consumed raw).
Acacia fiber can be stirred into water to drink or taken as a supplement. It contains even more fiber than chicory root at 86%!
Eat them raw, cooked, or in powder form. Shred them on top of a salad, into a smoothie or dip.
Consume it raw as an ingredient in foods like hummus or salsa.
Onions, Leeks, Shallots, Chives and Scallions
These can be eaten either raw or cooked to reap their benefits.
Eat them raw in salads or sautee them in cooked dishes.
Eat a variety, but make sure spinach is a staple.
You get the most benefits when you consume it raw. If the texture is too tough, lightly steam it or ferment it.
You have your choice of legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
Under-ripe ones are best. They can also naturally soothe the gut and reduce bloating.
What Does That Mean For You?
Consider that annoying redness and irritation on your face that you just can't seem to get rid of, no matter how many different facial cleansers and creams you try. Have you stopped to consider that your overall health - your gut health - can be affecting your skin?
Inflammation like that usually starts from within, exacerbated by the poor diet we choose. By ensuring that you have a healthy, happy microbiome in your gut, your body will be able to battle inflammation at the source, which has long-reaching effects, all the way to your skin!
Doesn't a banana sound good right now?