What the Heck are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a very different thing from probiotics. Prebiotics are fermentable fibers and resistant starches contained in certain fruits and vegetables that act as optimal food for the bacteria in your gut.
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What the Heck are Prebiotics?
Most of us have heard of probiotics. They are the beneficial bacteria that exist in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut. Of course, probiotics may also be taken in pill form. What you might not be aware of is that you have close to 100 trillion bacteria cells already stored in your gut. This is often referred to as your intestinal microflora or microbiome. The bacteria that make up this biomass consists of more than 1,000 different strains. It is very important to keep all of the different strains in balance. Unfortunately, when we take antibiotics or consume a less-than-ideal diet, this super organism can become unbalanced. When this happens, it can lead to a variety of different health issues. The health and well-being of your microbiome is directly associated with how well the rest of your body and mind function; it is a symbiotic relationship. To put it simply, the healthier your gut flora is, the healthier you are. This is why it is very important that you take care of it.
Indicators that your microbiome is not as healthy as it could be:
- Frequent colds or infections (a weakened immune system)
- Constipation, diarrhea, gas or bloating
- Sugar cravings
- Acne or other skin issues
- Food intolerances
Beyond consuming a probiotic or probiotic-rich food(s), one of the best ways you can ensure the health of your biome is to eat a variety of prebiotic-rich foods. Prebiotics are very different from probiotics. Prebiotics are fermentable fibers and resistant starches contained in certain fruits and vegetables that act as optimal food for the bacteria in your gut.
Foods that are prebiotic rich are:
- Jicama (yacon), Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root; all of these contain insulin, which is a form of prebiotic fiber
- Dandelion greens are leafy green vegetables that are made up of 25 percent prebiotic fiber
- Allium vegetables, such as garlic, onion, leeks, chives and scallions, are great choices; add them to food in their raw form for the best source of prebiotics
- Whole-grain and sprouted-grain bread
- Legumes (beans and lentils)
- Potato skins
- Apple cider vinegar (organic)
We should always do our best to consume a variety of foods that contain prebiotic fiber or starch on a regular basis. If for any reason you need to take an antibiotic, please consider taking a probiotic spaced in between the antibiotic doses. Never take them together. The positive effects of putting in place these suggestions to balance your microbiome should prove extremely beneficial to your overall health.
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