One aspect of a healthier lifestyle that is starting to take hold is the focus on the health of our gut microbiome through diet. But first, what is a gut microbiome you may ask? This is the bacterial community that resides within our stomaches and small intestines that helps break down foods into nutrients that our bodies can use. Contrary to the popular conception that all bacteria is bad, our lives actually depend on bacteria!
As of late, we have become increasingly aware of the importance of our gut microbiota’s role in production of vitamins, immune function, and metabolic conditions. In fact, they are so important that we can carry tens of trillions of microbes amounting to over four pounds of micro-organisms in our gut!
Nutritional research has shown that prebiotics and probiotics can benefit our health by working in conjunction with our existing microbiota. Prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut and are comprised of natural, non-digestible food components. You can incorporate prebiotics in your diet by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains such as bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat foods.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that inhabit our gut naturally. By adding more, they can balance out your existing microbiota or repopulate it. Antibiotics can do a number on your digestive system by wiping out your gut flora, and probiotic supplements can restore what was lost. You can find live cultures of these in stores, but can also add them to your diet by eating fermented dairy products, like yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses.
They can also be found in kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh.
Together, prebiotics and probiotics work in conjunction to improve the gut microbiome. So, if you are looking for an additional means of promoting better GI health and immunity, try incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into your meals!