Probiotics and Prebiotics
These days, whether it be Jamie Lee Curtis touting the benefits of certain products or other commercials mentioning the health benefits of other digestion products, we’ve been hearing much more about probiotics and prebiotics. Now, perhaps we know that these are helpful nutrients and that they help support gastrointestinal health, but what are probiotics and why do we need them? What do they do specifically to support our health? These are great questions, but to start off we should discuss how our gastrointestinal systems can become, “out of whack”.
Our gastrointestinal systems maintain a sensitive microfloral balance in our bodies to help us function properly and make sure that we don’t notice the work that it does on a daily basis. For the most part, many of us go about our lives day to day without any notice of imbalance or issues until BOOM! Upset stomach, trips to bathroom and a handful of other not so pleasant symptoms of G.I. imbalance. Now, you may be asking how these imbalances occur, and the answer is that there are a variety of reasons; these are just a few:
- Modern day people do not consume anywhere near the amount of probiotics that we used to
- Many eat diets high in carbohydrates and sugars, which can boost the growth of “bad” bacteria
- Antibiotics and other medications can deplete the “good” bacteria
- Antacids can decrease acidity which makes for a less inviting environment for good bacteria
- High stress can also have an effect on friendly bacteria
So what are probiotics? It’s important to know that not all bacteria are bad; there are literally hundreds of bacteria that are good for humans. These friendly bacteria reside in all humans gastrointestinal tract have been found in foods such as yogurt and Kefir for centuries. Probiotics support digestive health by helping to keep “bad” bacteria in check thus reducing the toxic by-products that they produce which can cause digestive disturbances. Additionally probiotics have an important role in nutrient absorption as they help improve the bioavailability of various minerals and other nutrients. Additionally, probiotics have been associated with many other health benefits such as creation of nutrients and enzymes, supporting immune health, keeping yeast levels in balance and helping to prevent a variety of gastrointestinal disturbances including diarrhea and gas.
An excellent ingredient to couple with probiotics is prebiotics, which are probiotics favorite meal. Prebiotics are found naturally in many plant foods. Providing the foods that probiotics prefer helps them to be function more efficiently as well as helps them to maintain their numbers in the G.I. and keep “bad” bacteria in check. Prebiotics are generally fibers that are not broken down by enzymes and make it down the intestines where they are fermented by the “good” bacteria. Good sources of prebiotics are vegetable and fruits.
We very much hope that this information demonstrates the importance of maintaining these friendly microflora. Humans have a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria, meaning that we need them and they need us. By maintaining these bacteria in our body we are helping to ensure that we will not have to deal with the effects of G.I. disturbances and that we are supporting the optimal function of many other important biological activities: a healthy gastrointestinal system, means that we can lead happier, healthier lives!