A feast for your gut – the power of prebioticsMonday, 24 June 2019
A healthy digestive system has a lot to do with bacteria. We all have our own unique medley of bacteria and other micro-organisms living in our gut (collectively referred to as ‘gut flora’ or ‘microflora’). Some are friendly and essential for health, some potentially damaging if not kept under control.
The balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can be influenced by the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, antibiotics and other medications, and even stress.
When the balance is upset we start experiencing digestive distress and sometimes far wider health problems. There is increasing awareness of the link between gut microflora and depression, anxiety, obesity and autoimmune diseases (when Hippocrates said disease starts in the gut he knew what he was talking about).
The key is taking care of the good bacteria so they can flourish and keep the bad bacteria in check.
If you regularly suffer from bloating, indigestion, bowel irregularity (at least one well-formed movement a day is the goal here!), your digestive system needs some attention.
To restore and maintain bacterial balance we need to focus on what we put into our digestive system:
- Reduce refined processed foods and alcohol as these promote the overgrowth of the bad bacteria
- Feed the good bacteria with prebiotics
Prebiotics are foods that the human body can’t digest but our gut bacteria can and are vital to support the growth of beneficial bacteria and maintain a healthy digestive tract.
Eating a wide variety of unrefined plant foods (vegetables, legumes, fruit) will provide plenty of good prebiotics and fibre. You may initially notice increased gas or other changes as your resident bacteria enjoy their feast and your body gets used to the increase in dietary fibre, so slowly introducing more of these foods into your diet is advisable. Some fermented foods such as Kefir yoghurt, Kimchi and Saur Kraut contain decent amounts of the good bacteria in them (probiotics), which may work well partnered with prebiotics.
Natural prebiotic supplements are also a gentle way to start introducing prebiotics to the digestive system, allowing you to slowly increase the dose according to your personal tolerance.