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Prebiotics or Probiotics – What Should You Take and Why Should You Care?

Over the years I’ve done my share of ghostwriting for physicians about digestive health. In those years I’ve learned an amazing amount of information about the importance of gut health to the immune system, digestive health and the impact it has on the foods you digest well and those that trigger migraines or acne.

But your gut doesn’t just impact part of your health – it impacts ALL of your health. And, as you’re a single mom, with likely few resources to call on if you get more than a cold, it’s important to pay close attention to the small things each day so you can be around for the big things.

My daughter has been the recipient of some knowledge I’ve acquired over the years, which has helped her to reduce the amount of migraines she suffers and the cystic acne she experiences. Much of the information is about what we eat – sugar, fiber, probiotics, prebiotics  – and how those factors affect the bacteria growing in your gut.

That may sound gross – bacteria growing in your gut . . . but the reality is that you have two types of bacteria residing in your intestinal tract that are responsible for much of your health and the strength of your immune system. Good bacteria, often advertised in commercial grade yogurt at the grocery store, supports your digestion and immune system. Bad bacteria does exactly the opposite. To-date, scientists believe your body has equal number of bacteria in your gut and the number of cells in your body.

By supporting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria you also support your ability to sleep well, reduce bloating, reduce your risk of colds and the flu, and reduce the potential for migraines and acne. Interestingly, a strong gut health will also improve your ability to maintain a healthy weight.

There are several different ways of accomplishing this task.

The first, and most effective, method of growing and feeding a thriving community of good bacteria in your intestines – or gut microbiome – is to eat foods that feed your gut. The first set are probiotic foods, or those that seed your gut with good bacteria. The second set are the types of foods these good bacteria use to grow and thrive.

If you’ve watched much television you’ve seen the yogurt ads claiming to feed your gut good bacteria and help you to be more “regular.” The problem with commercially prepared yogurt is the amount of sugar in the product. Unfortunately, sugar is the chemical that feeds your bad bacteria. So with each bite of yogurt you take, you add a little good bacteria and a whole lot of nutrients for the bad bacteria.

The better food to seed your gut is made in much the same way as yogurt. In other words, it’s fermented. Fermented foods like non-pasteurized pickles and sauerkraut are common types of foods you’ll find on your grocery store shelves that are fermented. However, you can make fermented vegetables at home too. This method is a bit less expensive, easy to accomplish and doesn’t contain the preservatives and chemicals that ride along with mass produced foods.

Dr. Mercola has some wonderful recipes for making fermented foods at home that help to seed your gut with good bacteria and cut back those grocery bills as well. This article also explains the benefits to your health in detail and gives you access to the GAPS protocol that may help you heal your gut.

The second step in feeding your gut microbiome is to use prebiotics. This is the food that the good bacteria in your gut uses to grow. While the bad bacteria thrive on sugar, the good bacteria develop into healthy communities with fiber. The fiber inulin found in chicory root, bananas and asparagus is used by your good bacteria to ward off the onslaught of bad bacterial growth in your gut.

Other high fiber foods include onions, garlic, artichokes, and jicama contain a type of fiber your gut can’t breakdown. It passes through your intestines and ferments, to be used by your good bacteria for nutrients.  More high fiber foods include some beans, peas, dandelion greens, leeks, oats and berries.

A high intake of prebiotic foods is linked with:

Low incidence of cardiovascular disease
Hormonal balance
Lower stress response
Improved digestion
Better gut health
Improved immune function
Lower risk for obesity|
Lower levels of inflammatory response
Lower blood glucose and better insulin response (lower risk of type-2 diabetes)

When you don’t have time to make your fermented foods or don’t get enough fiber in your daily diet you may be interested in using supplements. Although eating foods is the best and most effective method, it may not always work in your day.

Current US dietary guidelines are to consume between 20 -30 grams of fiber each day. However, nutritional experts who are more concerned with your gut health than the sugar industry, recommend 50 grams for every 1000 calories consumed each day. That last amount may be more than you can eat each day – and so supplementing may be your answer.

One of the better fiber supplements is organic, non-GMO psyllium husk powder as it’s easy on your stomach and easy to take in either powder or pill form. The important thing to remember is to purchase a product that is organic and non-GMO as you are taking relatively large quantities of the powder to reach your requirements and if it is laden with insecticide and herbicide you are exposing yourself to large amounts of toxic chemicals each day.

 

 

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