How your health is linked to your gut bacteria?
The biggest, complex, diverse and most important microbial habitat is our gut! It fights off infections, strengthens our immune system, signals cells, regulates our metabolism, how much energy we burn or how much fat we store. Some scientists even believe that diseases like colon cancer, diabetes and obesity are caused by the lack, or loss, of gut microbes. By ingesting good microbes, probiotics, could prevent and treat some diseases, and so could taking prebiotics, essentially food that good microbes love.
How prebiotics and probiotics work?
In short, prebiotics and probiotics both support the body in building and maintaining a healthy colony of bacteria and other microorganisms, that support the gut and aid digestion of food and its nutrients.
To further explain, probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods, mostly fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, some types of unpasteurized pickles and pickled vegetables. The process of being unpasteurized allows beneficial bacteria to strive and not be killed off. They are also a good source of dietary fibre. When probiotics are taken by the mouth, their efficacy depends on how well they can withstand the acidic environment of the stomach and stages of the gastrointestinal tract. The highest quality probiotics will pass through these stages still intact and move into the intestines where nutrients are thoroughly absorbed.
While prebiotics are naturally found in artichokes, asparagus, bananas, berries, chicory, garlic, green vegetables, legumes (like peas and beans), leeks, onions, tomatoes, oats, barley, wheat rice and potatoes. These vegetable, fruits and legumes are among the sources of naturally occurring prebiotic fiber. Humans cannot digest these types of fibers, but your good gut bacteria can digest them and turn them into short-chain fatty acids called butyrate, which leads to the colon producing more butyric acid, which prevents colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and insulin sensitivity.
Probiotics are microorganisms that are beneficial for our health, and prebiotics are what feeds probiotics. In summary, if you want to achieve health in your gut, you can achieve health in your life to prevent ailments and diseases.
Just be aware that if you are someone with severely suppressed immune systems (like critically ill, living with HIV/AIDS, received an organ transplant or underdoing chemotherapy), then please communicate with a nutritionist or dietary professional for recommendations on how you can safely acquire prebiotics and probiotics for your gut health.
Whitney, E, Rolfes, S, Crowe, T & A., W 2019, in Understanding nutrition, 4th edn, Cengage. ISBN: 9780170424431