The human gut contains a hundred trillion bacterial microbes that are fundamental to optimal health. Our metabolism, body weight, immune function, digestive system and other critical functions are influenced by the health of these microbes. Research also shows that a healthy gut has mental health benefits — i.e., we are less likely to have depression or anxiety when we nourish the microbes in our gut.
Our guts are extremely sensitive to the foods we eat. Highly processed diets full of simple refined carbohydrates and junk foods starve the microbes in our gut; on the other hand, eating certain healthy foods helps nourish the microbes and increase their biodiversity. Microbes particularly thrive on “prebiotic” foods.
If you have never heard this term, you may be wondering where you can find prebiotic foods and what their relationship is to “probiotics.” The team at Piedmont Colorectal Associates has you covered. Read on as we discuss prebiotic versus probiotic foods and what you should know about each.
All About Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods
You may already be familiar with probiotics, or living strains of bacteria that help colonize the digestive system with health-boosting microbes. Probiotics can be taken in supplement form or found in fermented foods or dairy products such as kefir, yogurt and kombucha. Other good sources of probiotics include buttermilk, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. Adding buttermilk to your pancakes or cooking with kimchi or miso is a great way to get probiotics into your gut.
Prebiotics are foods that help nourish the good bacteria; you can think of them as sort of like fertilizers. Eating prebiotic foods helps stimulate growth among the beneficial microbes in your gut. Prebiotics include complex carbohydrates and various types of plant fibers. You can find prebiotics in foods like apples, walnuts, onions and spinach. Another great source of prebiotics is dark chocolate (as long as it has a high percentage of cocoa).
How Many Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods Should You Eat?
Ideally you should regularly consume a balance of both prebiotic and probiotic foods, while minimizing high-sugar and high-fat foods, to help support the complex community of microbes in your gut. If you have gastrointestinal problems or have recently taken antibiotics, you should be particularly proactive about eating probiotic foods or taking a probiotic supplement. Antibiotics can kill good as well as bad bacteria, so it is helpful to repopulate the good bacteria after finishing treatment through probiotic foods.
For more information about promoting good digestive health through diet and lifestyle, Piedmont Colorectal Associates is here for you. Call or email us today to speak with a member of our team.