We’ve all heard the terms….prebiotics, probiotics, fermented foods….but what are these things and how do they help us?
Probiotics are live bacteria found in yogurt, other dairy products, and pills. While probiotics can be purchased over the counter, doctors will often prescribe them to patients on antibiotics in an attempt to combat gastrointestinal side effects of the medication. Probiotics can sometimes be rendered ineffective before they are digested due to heat and stomach acid. Those who don’t eat dairy may find probiotics difficult for their body to handle.
Probiotics are a specialized plant fiber that beneficially nourishes the good bacteria already in the large bowel or colon. While probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gut, prebiotics act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that’s already there. They help your good bacteria grow, improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio. This ratio has been shown to have a direct correlation to your health and overall wellbeing, from your stomach to your brain.
Recent studies have also shown prebiotics and good bacterial gut balance play a direct role in mental health. Individuals who consume prebiotics on a daily basis have fewer issues with anxiety, depression, and stress. In fact, when their saliva was tested, it contained lower levels of cortisol. High levels of this hormone have been linked directly to mental health disorders. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not destroyed in the body. They are not affected by heat or bacteria. Getting the full benefits of prebiotics is easy, especially when consumed in a full-spectrum supplement form.
It all starts in your gut, the system in your body responsible for digestion. Proper digestion is essential to your health and probiotics are essential to your gut. When bacteria are out of balance, it can cause problems such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and cramping.
If any of these sound familiar, it’s time to get your gut health back on track. Here are 5 tips to doing that:
- Take a quality probiotic
- Avoid overuse of antibiotics
- Add fermented foods to your diet (and try making your own homemade items)
yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, soy sauce (low sodium), tofu, tempeh, kombucha
- Cut back on refined sugar
- Lower your stress levels: meditation, aromatherapy, exercise, diet, consistently good sleep, laughter