Probiotics vs Prebiotics - Why They're Necessary for Your Health

Last post I covered ways to improve your digestion because I strongly believe it's of the highest importance to anyone who cares about his or her health, and it can make or break your progress in the gym as well. There are roughly 100 trillion bacteria that exist in your body, and one of the most important factors in your health is the balance between the good and the bad bacteria. 

I spoke about probiotics in the last post and how effective they are in supporting gut health, preventing colds, flus, and allergies, and of course relieving digestive issues. They’ve also been known to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), reduce cravings, and fight depression and anxiety. Research is starting to show that having a proper gut flora balance can even aid in weight-loss. 


HOW TO GET PROBIOTICS INTO YOUR DIET
Probiotics are living bacteria and yeast that mainly live in the intestinal tract. This good bacteria helps to balance out the bad bacteria in the digestive system. We ingest probiotics through food and supplements. NOTE: Antibiotics prescribed by your doctor tend to kill off all types of bacteria, which means the good, beneficial bacteria is often killed right along with it. This can lead to an imbalance of intestinal flora and cause yeast infections and also digestive issues.

Eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks like Kefir and Kombucha will introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help the balance of bacteria in your digestive system. 


Fermented Foods
Aim for local and organic, and they should always be unpasteurized and refrigerated. You want a living, growing product, so it's important to choose products that don't contain vinegar. Vinegar kills the live bacteria. These foods should be used in small doses, like a condiment, with each meal. They're great, but fresh veggies are also necessary! 

Favorites:
sauerkraut
kimchi
pickled vegetables
tempeh (fermented soybean cake)
miso
kombucha (a fermented tea beverage, drink in much smaller portions than the bottle says - only up to 4 ounces at a time)
beet kvass (another fermented beverage primarily made from beets and water)

Dairy based (if you can digest dairy):
kefir
yogurt
cheese
buttermilk

For the curious foodies:
dosa
bean curd
natto
fermented breads such as sourdough and injera
fermented drinks such as amazake (Japanese rice drink)
ginger beer
coconut water kefir (from fermented water kefir grains)

Although eating fermented foods is the most natural way to get the benefits of probiotic bacteria and improve gut flora, many people find it difficult to consume fermented foods on a consistent basis, or they simply don't care for the taste of them. An effective alternative is to take a probiotic supplement.

Probiotic supplement is needed if you suffer with any of the following:
digestive issues (gas, bloating, leaky gut, IBS, constipation, chronic diarrhea, etc)
trouble losing stubborn weight
PMS
UTIs
seasonal colds and flus
skin issues
brain fog
hormonal imbalances
mental health issues
chronic stress
vitamin and mineral deficiencies
autoimmune diseases
or if you have used antibiotics at some point in your life, probiotics as supplement form would be highly beneficial, email me at maya@fitfactoryfitness.com and I can help you make some recommendations. 

On their own, probiotics have a limited effect. That's because they're easily destroyed. In order to live, probiotics need food to feed on. That's where prebiotics come into play. 


WHERE CAN YOU GET PREBIOTICS IN YOUR DIET
Prebiotics are a form of fibre, they are not alive like probiotics are. Think of prebiotics as food for probiotics and bacteria in the gut. We also ingest prebiotics through food and supplements. A healthy diet rich in certain fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources of prebiotic foods.

Note that most of these foods must be eaten raw or lightly cooked to obtain the good gut benefits.

Favorites:
dandelion greens and root
garlic
onions
leeks
green onions (anything from the allium family)
Jerusalem artichokes
asparagus
under-ripe bananas
plantains
raw honey
chicory (used in coffee substitutes)
oats
jicama
apples


MINI CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK

Include a fermented food in your meal.

Some ideas: Incorporate a little sauerkraut into lunch next week, throw in a little kimchi with your eggs, or make a quick miso and mushroom soup. 

Image shown below is my warm kale bowl (lots of kale!) with 1 cup cooked black bean rotini pasta, shredded salmon (1 4oz fillet) and carrots with some raw kimchi shown at the bottom part of the bowl. Simple and tasty! What will you try?

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