What’s in your Gut?
In recent years, the role of a healthy gut has become more important as we learn more about the functions of the intestines in overall health.
Many people are familiar with probiotics – the “good bugs” that our bodies need to help maintain a healthy GI. However, their role in overall health reaches much farther than our intestines.
Naturopathic Physicians have long recognized the importance of a healthy digestive system. It is often referred to as the root of overall health. A healthy gut supports our immune system by helping us to destroy pathogens to keep us healthy, by promoting our production of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that improves mood and sleep), and by helping our metabolism to absorb important minerals like calcium and magnesium from our foods.
What is less well known, is how prebiotics and probiotics work in concert to help achieve a healthy gut and a healthy body.
We need them both, as they serve different functions. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that humans cannot digest, but beneficial bacteria (Probiotics) can. Including prebiotic foods in the diet encourages probiotic growth and helps them to keep us healthy, happy and active.
Prebiotics are bacteria that do not naturally grow in the human gut, but they improve health by aiding digestion and destroying pathogens.
The Following Foods Contain Prebiotics:
- Beer (unpasteurized)
- Cold cooked rice
- Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
- Legumes, such as red kidney beans and lentils, sprouted and/or soaked
- Maple syrup
- Red Wine
- Whole grains, fermented and/or sprouted (barley, rye, oats, flaxseed and other grains)
Probiotics do not stay in our gut, so it is important to incorporate them daily into our diet.
Fermented Foods help increase good bacteria in the gut.
Good Sources of Fermented Foods include the Following:
- Yogurt (with live, active cultures)
- Buttermilk (uncooked)
- Sourdough bread
- Cultured butter and cultured cottage cheese
- Soft cheese, either aged or containing raw (unpasteurized) milk
- Miso (a Japanese paste of fermented soybeans)
- Kombucha (a fermented tea-type drink made from a mushroom starter)
- Tempeh (an Indonesian fermented soybean patty)
- Sauerkraut, labeled as containing live cultures and not pasteurized (read the label)
- Kimchi (a Korean dish of fermented and pickled cabbage)
Please note that while the above foods are good sources of probiotics, for most people the additional supplementation of a good probiotic supplement is needed as well. For example, it takes about 32 cups of yogurt to equal the amount of probiotics found in a good supplement, so for most people, supplementation with a high-quality probiotic is key for overall well-being and health.
Source: Kelly, “The Healthy Bones Nutrition Plan and Cookbook”