I know I need Probiotics, but what are Prebiotics?
Did you know that you’re more microbe than you are human? Yep. You’re outnumbered 10 to 1, in fact! There are 10 times more microbial cells (bacteria, fungi, viruses) than human cells living in and on the body! Don’t go rush for the soap and cleaners after hearing that. Our over-obsession with “cleanliness” is actually, very probably, how we’ve gotten into the mess of increased disease, allergies, and asthma. The large majority of these microbes are good, and without them, our bodies don’t function as well.
Maybe you’ve heard of probiotics before. You might even know them as the good bacteria that live in the gut. Potentially, you’re even taking probiotics as a supplement or trying to eat lots of fermented foods and drink kombucha to up your intake. If it feels like you’re not getting anywhere with your increased consumption of probiotics, you might be missing out on prebiotics.
Yep. In addition to probiotics, we also need to be consuming adequate amounts of prebiotics to “feed” our probiotics.
Let me explain.
Probiotics are your body’s first line of defense against the bad bacteria that enter the body and cause sickness. They’re the good warriors that live in the gut and protect you from disease. They also educate your immune cells on how to properly function, and some probiotics can even produce their own antibiotics! Maintaining proper levels of probiotics in the gut is extremely important for your physical health, as 80% of your immune system lies in your gut.
In addition to keeping you physically healthy, probiotics may also play a large role in mental health. They increase cognitive function, boost your mood, and may even alleviate some symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is because your gut and brain are connected through a partnership called the gut-brain axis. In fact, in science your gut is called the Enteric Nervous System, or in other words, your “second brain.” The expression “trust your gut” is starting to make more sense now, right? It’s super important to be consuming enough probiotics for your overall health, and here are some great food sources.
Foods that are high in probiotics: Fermented foods!
Pickles - in water and salt; vinegar hinders good bacteria!
Now, the mystery of Prebiotics.
Probiotics are the good, living, warriors of bacteria that reside in the gut. And these warriors need food in order to do their jobs. What do probiotics eat? Prebiotics!
Prebiotics are carbohydrate- and fiber-rich food sources that bypass digestion. This leads them to the colon where your microbiome ferments them. Or in layman's terms, where your probiotics eat them. It’s really important to feed your probiotics with an adequate amount of prebiotics so they can stay alive, flourish in the gut, and help protect the body from outside invaders (disease). If you’re not getting enough prebiotics, all of the probiotics you’re taking won’t last too long. Let’s take a look at some good sources of prebiotics - you’re probably already eating some!
Plant-based foods that are good sources of oligosaccharides are your best option here:
Prebiotics and probiotics work relentlessly together to keep you healthy. Keeping your gut healthy can help mitigate diarrhea, Crohn's Disease, ulcers, IBS, eczema in children, UTIs, IBS, and more. Other studies have also shown a strong correlation between gut health and type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. If you’ve recently taken antibiotics, have been feeling lots of stress, and/or have had a hard time sleeping, upping your intake of pre + probiotics can really help bring balance back into your gut, which in turn, can alleviate your physical health issues and help you regain your mental calm and clarity.
Here are some examples of food choices that supply a great balance of probiotics and prebiotics:
Buckwheat noodles with artichokes or asparagus
Yogurt (coconut, almond, organic & humane dairy) and fruit bowls
Quinoa and black beans, with sautéed garlic and veggies
Veggie soup featuring onions or leeks, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and quinoa
DIY tempeh tacos
A tempeh reuben with sauerkraut on sourdough bread.
Mother Earth provides us with the nourishment we need to live our healthiest lives. As you start consistently eating these pre + probiotic-rich foods, you’re bound to start noticing an increase in physical health, energy, ability to sleep, and mental clarity. This will lead to the innate desire to want to continue taking care of your body, and also you’ll start to intuitively know what your body [mind, and soul] need for your optimal health. Which leads me into my next series…
How to Listen to My Body and Eat Intuitively.
I really enjoyed writing this article, and thank you so much for taking the time to read it! I’m here if you have any questions or feedback, so drop a comment below.