Heard of Probiotics, but what are Prebiotics

Everyone talks about probiotics. We have been hearing this expression a lot over the last ten years, and even see it on food labels, but do we really know what they are and how they work? Do we really need them? Clients often ask me if they should take probiotics as a supplement simply because they have been hearing a lot about them.

Probiotics are live bacteria required for us to have good health, meaning good digestive health . . We tend to create them in our gut and we need them to be balanced to regulate our bodily functions including hormone regulation. There are many different companies out there marketing their own powerful brand of probiotic, but whether we need them remains questionable. There are many forms of probiotics found naturally in our food - a much wider variety than in supplement form. I feel this is a better way to get probiotics into our system than from supplements. Probiotics are called functional foods and their purpose is to boost our digestive system and our immune health. This is because 70-90 % of your immune system is in your gut biome. In humans , it is believed that we have between 30 and 400 trillion microorganisms ( bugs) in our gut. We are more microorganism than we are human! These microorganisms help the gut biome to function normally. We have good bugs and bad bugs. These bad bugs grow when we eat a diet filled with junk and processed foods. It is also a known fact that many of our genetically modified foods have been sprayed with glyphosate…a patented antibiotic, used to spray plants and ripen fruit. This is one of the reasons we are becoming so antibiotic resistant. It may not be because we are over doing antibiotics when we go to the doctor… it is because they are also in our water, soil, etc.. This is not a known fact unless you do the research.

Probiotics whether from food, or supplements have known to be beneficial, especially for those people that suffer with leaky gut or any other gut imbalances or disturbances. They are also beneficial if you have just been prescribed a round of antibiotics. So, the answer is what type of probiotics work best? Because there is so much controversy out there and so many different strains to choose from, I personally feel it is best to get advice from your personal health care practitioner. As for foods, read your ingredients carefully and stay away from foods that are advertised as probiotics (like yoghurts), but have too much added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

What about prebiotics? Prebiotics keep probiotics alive. We get most of our prebiotics from our foods that include garlic, flax seeds, honey, quinoa, berries, sweet potatoes. If you have been consuming too much animal protein and have a bad diet of processed foods, and not enough plant based, you will need to improve prebiotic function by eating real food.

Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber. Prebiotic compounds pass through the upper part of your GI tract and remain undigested. Once they pass through the small intestine, they reach the colon and that is where they ferment. This fermentation is created by the gut micro flora. The probiotics we consume work more effectively when we have an adequate number of prebiotics. It is the prebiotics that open the door for a heightened level of health. It makes the probiotic more effective . Think of prebiotics as the fuel that keeps the good bacteria alive. Probiotics and prebiotics work together to play a fundamental role in maintaining a good balance of the intestinal bacteria.

My preferred prebiotic is called psyllium husk in powder form. I like to combine this with some organic apple juice and aloe gel and have my clients drink it morning and night. I call it their intestinal broom or cleansing drink . I find that with our fast-paced lifestyle we do not take the time to always eat well. This drink helps the gut flora to be better balanced by helping to move waste (bad bugs) out.

The opinions shared in this article are those of the contributor and not Total Gym Direct.

Frances Michaelson

A pioneer in the fitness industry, Frances opened the first personal training center in the West Island of Montreal in 2001. In 2008 , Frances had the “gut feeling“ that there was more to learn about health and how our bodies function, which led to further her education in the field of Naturopathy and holistic nutrition. She has since authored two books. Her latest book, "Do you Have the Guts to be Healthy" was published in March 2021. As a trainer and naturopath, she truly loves seeing people transform themselves by trusting their bodies instead of getting caught up in the medical system. Practicing health is the only way to live the gift of life well!

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