Prebiotics? You’ve heard of probiotics, but what are prebiotics? And what’s the difference?
Probiotics are bacteria that you definitely want in your gut for the health benefits they offer. They are contained in foods like yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut (the refrigerated versions), olives, some cheeses and a number of exotic foods such as miso and kimchi, as well as food additives. These bacteria help the digestive system to function at its best, as well as treating problems like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome and supporting general colon health.
But probiotics need food to survive. The cells that line the colon (colonocytes) and the good bacteria work together to protect you from invasion of harmful germs into your body, thereby preventing disease. They depend on the nourishment gleaned from food that is not digested in the stomach and small intestine. That’s where prebiotics come in.
Those indigestible foods are the prebiotics, foods that serve as energy sources for the probiotics and good bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics contain indigestible starches and polysaccharides that ferment in the upper gut. The products of this fermentation are the food sources for the probiotics.
Onions – Both raw and cooked
Bananas – Try to get them slightly unripe
Asparagus – Tasty and good for you
Oats – Whole oats are available in cereals
Apples – They also reduce cholesterol
Wheat bran – Also available in cereals
Chicory root – Sometimes used as a coffee substitute
Leeks – Also an excellent source for vitamin K
Dandelion greens – They make a great salad
Jerusalem artichoke – Either raw or cooked
Radishes – Great in salads
Cabbage – Preferably raw, but also as sauerkraut.
Health Benefits from Prebiotics
Prebiotics offer many health and promote healing benefits such as relief from intestinal distress, both caused by bacteria and by antibiotics. They also reduce symptoms of both diarrhea and constipation in irritable bowel syndrome, promote improvement in the symptoms and decreased inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. By keeping the colonocytes healthy, prebiotics offer protection against cancer of the colon.
Not only do prebiotics support intestinal health, but they also aid in lowering cholesterol levels in the blood and help absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Your health depends a lot on what you eat. Even if you are young and healthy, consuming a diet of healthy foods will help to keep your body strong and vigorous. If you have any type of chronic disease, or if you are getting older, your diet becomes even more important.
They say laughter is wonderful medicine but so is food. Enjoy the amazing benefits of treating your body to the foods it needs and deserves to be at its best!