Prebiotics and probiotics are major topics in the health industry today. Although they sound similar, they play distinct roles in having a healthy diet with organic eating and leading a healthy lifestyle. Even if you’ve heard these terms a million times, you may not understand the role each plays in maintaining a happy and healthy gut.
Keep reading to learn more about the function of each in your body!
What is Gut Health?
Gut health is the balance and function of bacteria in the multiple parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Organs like the intestines, stomach, and esophagus work together to eat and digest food without comfort or difficulty. However, there are approximately 70 million Americans that have digestive diseases, many of which are related to poor gut health.
Why Pay Attention to Gut Health?
All food is broken down in the gut into a simple form that can deliver nutrients throughout the body via the bloodstream. This distribution of nutrients is only possible through a healthy digestive system. A healthy gut is comprised of healthy immune cells and bacteria that ward off infectious entities including fungi, viruses, and bacteria. A healthy gut communicates with the brain via hormones and nerves, which help maintain health and well-being.
The main purpose of the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract is to protect your body from fungi and harmful bacteria. Studies show there is a variety of beneficial bacteria in our gut that helps address obesity, improves symptoms of depression, and assists immune system functions. Also, good bacteria form short-chain fatty acids and vitamin K. Short-chain fatty acids are the primary nutrient source for colon cell lining and promote a strong gut barrier that keeps bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances from attacking your body. The bacteria also reduce inflammation and could help reduce the risk of cancer.
Signs of Gut Health Issues
Every human on Earth has experienced some form of digestive issues ranging from vomiting, nausea, and heartburn, to abdominal pain, constipation, loose stools, and bloating. As symptoms persist, this could be a sign of a larger problem that requires medical attention. Jaundice, difficulty swallowing food, throat pain, severe stomach aches, fever, severe vomiting, black stool, blood in the stool, and weight loss without reason could indicate underlying gastrointestinal problems with major consequences.
An individual who has a diet high in added sugars and processed foods may experience a decrease in healthy bacteria, which creates a balance that could cause an increase in sugar cravings, thus further damaging your gut. High-fructose corn syrup and other high amounts of refined sugars are linked to increased body inflammation, which is often a precursor of many diseases and cancers.
Sleep disturbances or consistent fatigue are often the results of an unhealthy gut, which eventually results in chronic fatigue. Most of the body’s serotonin, which is a hormone impacting sleep and mood, is made in the gut. Therefore, gut damage impairs your ability to get a good night’s sleep. These sleep disruptions are also sometimes linked to fibromyalgia.
Finally, medical researchers are continuously uncovering new evidence of how the immune system is impacted by the gut. Research shows that an unhealthy gut could increase systemic inflammation thus alternating the function of the immune system. Over time, this consistent inflammation can lead to autoimmune diseases whereby the body attacks itself instead of harmful invading bacteria, viruses, and diseases.
Prebiotics are plant fibers that help healthy bacteria form in your gut, thus making your digestive system more balanced and efficient. They carbs your body can’t digest, but function as a source of food for healthy bacteria. This means prebiotics navigate to your lower digestive tract where you are food to help bacteria grow.
Benefits of Prebiotics
Prebiotic benefits are also linked to probiotic benefits since the two must work together in your gut to produce a healthy digestive system. Prebiotics support a healthy gut which results in fewer antibiotic-related health issues and better overall digestive health. While research is still in its infancy, experts also believe that prebiotics improves calcium absorption, support probiotic growth which enhances metabolism and digestion, and change how the body processes carbohydrates. Prebiotics naturally occurs in many organic foods and organic drinks, so organic eating is incredibly important.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and living yeasts that help with the balance of your digestive system. That means, consuming foods high in probiotics will add healthy bacteria strains to your digestive system.
Benefits of Probiotics
Although research on probiotics is inconclusive, it suggests there many beneficial areas of the body. First, multiple studies show that probiotics improve digestive help in many individuals. Second, a smaller number of research articles show that probiotics could improve mental health by alleviating the symptoms of depression. Researchers believe probiotics have an impact on mental health due to the known link between brain and gut health.
Third, several studies suggest that those with stomach and intestinal disorders could see improvements when consuming probiotics. In a systematic review of those with irritable bowel syndrome, researchers found that probiotics improve the symptoms. However, researchers could not determine how significant the benefit was or the most effective probiotic strain.
Fourth, the authors of several reviews uncovered that probiotics could decrease the requirement for antibiotics, eczema, vaginal infections, gestational diabetes, ventilator-assisted pneumonia, and school absences from colds.
Eating the Right Foods
Before you run out and purchase a variety of probiotic and prebiotic supplements and products, understand that these exist naturally. You simply need to make a change in your diet to organic eating and consume organic drinks. While many foods contain probiotics and prebiotics, some of the richest include:
- Dairy and non-dairy kefir
- Miso soup
- Pickled vegetables
- Apple skin
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichokes
Researchers have found that the human gut is much more complicated than previously thought and has a major impact on your whole-body health. A healthy gut contributes to effective digestion, healthy sleep, improved mood, brain health, heart health, and a strong immune system. There are many lifestyles changes you can make to positively impact your gut and overall health. For most healthy individuals, prebiotic or probiotic supplements are not required. Instead, a diet consisting of fermented foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables allows you to consume enough probiotics and prebiotics, which will help you feel great!