Imagine an ordinary day at work. However, you forgot to pack your lunch today! Odds are that your productivity level is likely to decrease because of hunger and lack of energy; the same is the case for the bacteria in our bodies. Our bodies consists of a balance between good and bad bacteria that respectively benefit or inhibit our ability to reach homeostasis. To function optimally, our bodies prefer a state of bacterial equilibrium or a surplus of these good bacteria, but how do we achieve our preferred level?
Probiotics! These are live bacteria found in many foods, drinks, and supplements that on-going research has supported to potentially provide benefits to our system. Many strains of probiotics are present in unpasteurized, fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Probiotics are essentially the workers in our body and bad bacteria are the villains; without a nurturing environment with plenty of nutrients, the probiotics would be overrun by the villains and chaos ensues. This is where prebiotics come into play.
Prebiotics Are Food for Bacteria
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that are able to increase the number and/or activity of good bacteria in the body; an easier way to think of prebiotics is as a lunchbox for our helpful worker bacteria! Prebiotics exist in foods such as asparagus, onions, garlic, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, and maple syrup. A widely-known prebiotic is dietary fiber. These prebiotic foods are considered functional foods that harmful bacteria cannot use as food supplements, thus the good bacteria are able to grow faster and work harder when these foods are available.
A combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods could be vastly beneficial to an individual’s gut microbiota, skin, and overall health. Although research is still on-going, benefits of introducing probiotics to your diet may include: improvement of intestinal health, enhancement of the immune response, improvement of lactose metabolism, prevention of diarrheal diseases, and protection against allergies.
It’s important to be wary of where you are receiving your probiotics. Supplementing your diet with a probiotic alongside a prebiotic may prove helpful, however, more research is necessary to be completely sure. With more research and evidence, we may see prebiotic and probiotic foods taking up much more shelf-space in your pantry in the near future.
Common prebiotic foods include: onions, asparagus, bananas, honey, artichoke, and garlic.