min read
September 24, 2022

Prebiotics + Probiotics - Support Your Gut Health The Right Way!

Gut health is a rather a new topic in research and we’re only just beginning to understand more about it.

What we are starting to realize is that gut health is involved in so many (if not all) other processes in our body

- blood sugar control, metabolism, immune system, mental health…

Because of that the hip new buzzword is ‘gut microbiome’. But what is that really?

Inside your colon lives said microbiome.

This bacterial ecosystem accounts for the majority of cells in your body, there are 10 bacteria cells to every 1 human cell. 

Disruptions in the microbiome are linked to cognitive disorders such as anxiety, depression and autism (3). If you want to read up on current studies check out the Human Microbiome Project to dive into numerous recent studies.

In order for you get a clearer picture how YOU can make sure YOUR microbiome is keeping you feeling and performing well, let’s take a closer look at how your food actually ends up there.

Understanding the Digestive Tract

  • Mouth: As you chew your food, your mouth releases the enzyme amylase. (enzymes are large molecules that are the catalyst for metabolic processes, simply, this is the chemical that starts the process of breaking down food) Amylase is the enzyme that breaks down carbs and starch.

  • Stomach: The stomach immediately releases proteases (these are protein-digesting enzymes such as pepsin) and hydrochloric acid, which kills or inhibits bacteria and provides the acidic pH of 2 for the proteases to work.

  • Pancreas: 90% of the time it makes digestive enzymes which help us to digest food. Enzymes are released from the pancreas into the stomach and small intestines. For example, pancreatic proteases (such as trypsin and chymotrypsin) – which help to digest proteins, pancreatic amylase – which helps to digest carbohydrates (sugars), pancreatic lipase – which helps to digest fat. The pancrease also makes hormones which regulate our metabolism.

  • Small Intestine: Consists of 20 feet of tube broken down into three parts, duodenum, jejunum and ileum. This is where most chemical digestion takes place. Enzymes enter the small intestine via the pancreatic duct, in response to the hormone cholecystokinin, which is produced in the small intestine in response to the presence of nutrients.

  • Proteins are degraded into small peptides and amino acids before absorption, this chemical breakdown begins in the stomach and continues in the small intestine.

  • Lipids (fats) are degraded into fatty acids and glycerol. Pancreatic lipase breaks down triglycerides into free fatty acids and monoglycerides. Pancreatic lipase works with the help of the salts from the bile secreted by the liver and the gall bladder.

  • Some carbohydrates are degraded into simple sugars, or monosaccharides (e.g., glucose).

  • Fiber: moves undigested to the large intestines to be digested by gut flora.

  • Large Intestine (aka Colon): its function is to absorb water from the remaining indigestible food matter, and then to pass useless waste material from the body, process usually takes 16 hours. The colon absorbs vitamins which are created by the colonic bacteria – such as vitamin K, vitamin B12, thiamine and riboflavin.

  • Gut Flora: consists of a complex of microorganism species that live in both your small and large intestines, this ecosystem of bacteria is the actual Microbiome and 60% of the dry weight of your feces is your gut flora bacteria.

Its Function: 

  • To breakdown and ferment undigested carbohydrates also known as insoluable Fiber which results in the subsequent absorption of short chain fatty acids.
  • To train the immune system, preventing growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria
  • To regulate the development of the gut producing vitamins for the host, such as biotin (healthy hair and nails) and vitamin K (blood coagulation and healing), and producing hormones to direct the host to store fats.

What can we do to support Digestion and our Microbiome? 

  • 1. Consume Probiotics

These are microorganisms introduced into gut flora, aka good bacteria. 

Many times these strains are just more of the bacteria already living in your gut. 

You can supplement with probiotics to keep your ecosystem flourishing, diverse, alive and well. BUT, if you do so, make sure your probiotics are of high quality, which means they need to be refrigerated, contain over 30 strains and 80 million live culture and support your large and small intestines with both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains.

However, you can also simply ensure you consume a good amount of probiotic foods, such as natural (not sweetened, not even with artificial sweeteners!) yoghurt, sauerkraut or kimchi (needs to be of the kind that has to be refrigerated, otherwise it won’t contain live cultures), kombucha (same is the case here), nato… 

  • 2. Consume Prebiotics

This is a nondigestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms. Feeding your healthy gut prebiotics reduces the ability of disease-causing microorganisms (or bad bacteria like Candida or Yeast, Albicans or Fungi) to populate the colon and feeds your good bacteria (so the probiotics you just consumed).

Types of prebiotics include:

  • Inulin and Oligofructose: They increase calcium and magnesium absorption, increase bifidobacterium, increase and butyric acid, which helps improve insulin sensitivity, prevents colon cancer and improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (1).

  • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), Galactooligosaccharides (GOS), Oligosaccharides and Pectin which all reduce fasting blood sugar.

Prebiotics really don’t need to be supplemented as this beneficial fiber exists in nature in abundance, for example (2):

  • Raw chicory root (64.6%) – 1/3 oz
  • Raw Jerusalem artichoke (31.5%) – 3/4 oz – not the green globe
  • Raw dandelion greens (24.3%) – 1 oz
  • Raw garlic (17.5%) – 1.2 oz
  • Raw leek (11.7%) – 1.8 oz
  • Raw onion (8.6%) – 2.5 oz
  • Cooked onion (5%) – 4 oz
  • Raw Asparagus: (5%) – 4 oz

How else can you improve your Gut Microbiome?

There are many other ways to improve your gut microbiome, including:

  • Mixing up your foods from time to time, particularly your vegetables (ideally seasonal).
  • Limiting your artificial sweetener intake, which may still increase blood sugar by stimulating the growth of unhealthy bacteria. 
  • Breastfeeding for at least 6 months where possible.
  • Eating some whole grains, rich in fiber and other beneficial carbs like beta-glucan, which are digested by gut bacteria to benefit weight, cancer risk, diabetes…
  • Eating foods rich in polyphenols, which are plant compounds that are broken down by the microbiome to stimulate healthy bacterial growth. 
  • Avoiding antibiotics where possible.

Then bottom line, your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes. The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders.

To help support the growth of healthy microbes in your gut, eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fermented foods.

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