In part one of Our Guide to Good Gut Health, we learned about the gut’s function and digestive process, and how it plays an integral part of our overall health and wellbeing. We learned about common digestive disorders and the importance of not only probiotics, but prebiotics, too. Now, we will examine the best prebiotic and probiotic sources and how much to take. We’ll also look at supplements vs. natural food sources and which is ideal in attaining the needed amounts of pre and probiotics. You’ll also learn what to look for on probiotic supplements. Read on as we continue learning more about the importance of adding prebiotics and probiotics to your daily life.
Best Prebiotic Sources
As we learned, prebiotics are foods that feed probiotics. Most Americans do not consume enough prebiotics each day. Without proper prebiotics, people experience higher amounts of inflammation, digestive disorders, lowered immune function and an increase chance of weight gain. You must have both probiotics and prebiotics to have a healthy and balanced system.
Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible, high fiber oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are a group of carbohydrates found naturally in certain plants. Recently, there has been a lot more attention paid to these high-fiber-foods because of the way the body utilizes them, turning them in to prebiotics. They then travel through the digestive system, unbroken from digestive enzymes, and become nutrients for your microbiome, maintaining balance and diversity of your good gut bacteria.
So, what are the best prebiotic sources? Prebiotics are found in many vegetables and some whole grains. Here are the best sources of natural prebiotics:
• Raw or cooked onions
• Raw Jerusalem artichoke (sunchokes)
• Raw garlic
• Raw leeks
• Raw jicama
• Raw asparagus
• Under-ripe bananas
• Raw dandelion greens
• Raw chicory root
• Psyllium husk
• Whole wheat
It’s easy to add prebiotic foods to your meals. Add honey to some whole grain toast with slices of under-ripe bananas on top. Start adding onions and garlic to all your savory dishes. Chopped dandelion greens, jicama, leeks, and sunchokes can all be shredded or sliced thin and eaten as a part of a salad. There are many other ways to incorporate these top prebiotic foods into your daily life.
Best Probiotic Sources
As mentioned, prebiotics and probiotics work together, maintaining healthy bacteria in the digestive system, battling inflammation, and lowering disease risks. Probiotics stimulate natural enzymes that keep our digestive system running optimally. For our gut bacteria to stay healthy, balanced, and thriving, we must consume probiotics daily. There are many probiotic-rich foods, including:
• Live cultured yogurt
• Goat milk yogurt
• Dark Chocolate
• Algae (Spirulina, chlorella, blue-green algae)
Probiotic foods are also easy to add to your everyday diet. Yogurt can be found in stores everywhere, but make sure to read your labels when purchasing them. Not all yogurts are created equal. Look for the phrase contains live active cultures and lists which ones it has. A small amount of kimchi, pickles, or sauerkraut can be eaten prior to, or with each meal. Miso soup is a quick, probiotic-rich soup made from fermented rye, rice, or barley and is packed with lactobacilli, bifidus bacteria, and other nutrients. Spirulina, or other algae can be added to fruit shakes. Dark chocolate doesn’t contain probiotics, but instead, works as a carrier for probiotics helping them survive.
How Much Do You Need?
Many of you are wondering, how much should I be eating every day to reap benefits? As for probiotics, the answer isn’t quite clear. Because we have so many different probiotic organisms in our bodies, there really is no set dosage. It is, of course, recommended to consult your health care provider for advice. Studies conducted by the International Associate for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) have found probiotic benefits when taking ranges between 100 million and 10+ billion cfu/dose.
While you do need some probiotics every day, remember that that balance is the ultimate goal and you need to find balance. If you consume a lot of probiotics and not enough prebiotics, you might end up with gas, bloating, and diarrhea. If this occurs, cut back on probiotics, or add them in every other day until your issues resolve.
Likewise, there is no definitive verdict on how many prebiotics to consume. However, research by the International Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) suggests eating 25-38 grams/day of dietary fiber and 10-20 grams/day or prebiotic fibers.
Supplements vs. Natural Food Sources
Prebiotics are attained through natural foods, but there are many probiotic supplements available on the market today. Remember, not all probiotics are the same. Just because a product claims to have probiotics, doesn’t mean it has an effective strain or enough to deliver adequate levels.
Natural food sources always win out, but many of you are wondering about how well probiotic supplements work. The answer is yes–as long as they come from a reputable company with evidence and proof of their product’s probiotic benefits. Studies reveal it is up to personal preference as to which is best for you. Probiotic foods like kefir, kimchi, and kombucha are easy to keep in the refrigerator, but supplements might be more convenient while delivering high doses. A combination of the two is suggested by the ISAPP.
When looking for a probiotic, more strains listed isn’t necessarily better. Keep the following in mind when looking at probiotic products and supplements:
• What probiotic microbe does the product contain? It should have the genus, species, and strain listed.
• How many microorganisms are in each serving or dose? These are typically listed as cfu’s. For example: 10 Billion cfu/dose.
• When the product expires. Probiotics do not last forever, and you want to take them when the dose is most effective.
• What the proper storage is for the product? Many probiotics need to be refrigerated or lose their potency.
• Corporate contact information. Who makes the product and where can you go to discuss any product-related problems if they occur?
One thing is for sure. Our bodies require prebiotics and probiotics for optimal digestive health. Without them, detrimental effects can occur. So go stock those fridges with high prebiotic and probiotic rich foods, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your meals! You might even feel inspired to learn about home fermentation and make your own kombucha, kimchi, or kefir! Start eating your onions, dark chocolate, asparagus, and kefir and get that gut balanced and healthy.
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