Probiotics and Prebiotics – I’ve had quite a few questions come up in clinical practice this past week or two about this subject, so here’s my version of what they are and how they can help you restore and keep healthy gut bacteria and microbiome.
It is a complex area – please ask me if you’d like some scientific articles sent through, but what I thought would be helpful in this newsletter is give some practical tips on what you can do about improving your gut health.
Probiotics work by balancing the levels of microorganisms in the intestines. They drive down the numbers of harmful bacteria. They also seem to boost the body’s immune system. Probiotics are great to take in situations where you have a sore tum and want to give it a helping hand.
If you buy probiotics supplements I ALWAYS recommend people to buy a probiotic from the health food shop (Commonsense Organics are superb for products and advice): Probiotic tablets are essential for: 1. if you have to go on antibiotics – this helps in decreasing the damage the antibiotics do to your gut lining. 2. If you are travelling to a country with a very different diet to yours. Don’t buy supermarket probiotics – the value for money is in the more expensive variety where you only have to take one probiotic per day and have many more thousand of live organisms. Also, be aware there are different probiotics to help different ailments so make sure you ask if you are taking the right ones for you – another reason to purchase from a health shop with resident naturopaths.
Probiotic foods include: Live-cultured yoghurt, Miso soup, Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kombucha, algae, gherkins, kimchi, non-cultured buttermilk, some types of cheese (look on food label for live and active cultures in the ingredients).
Prebiotics on the other hand can help keep your gut in balance and therefore reduce the need for probiotics. Prebiotics are plant fibers that can’t be digested by the upper gut and so get through undigested into the colon and end up fermenting away making lovely gut microflora. So, the foods to eat here are: oats, bananas (slightly unripe is best), garlic, onions, artichokes, leeks, asparagus, barley, apples, seaweed . Harder to get but also good are chicory root and dandelion greens. Some of these can be eaten raw for more effect but they could cause an upset of wind in some people. Just a little of one of these each day is great.
Enjoy..your gut flora and immune system will love you for it 🙂