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What are Pre and Probiotics?
A Key to GI Health
At some point, you may have been told to eat yogurt with active cultures if you are on antibiotics. This is an example of the benefit of probiotic foods. Probiotics are an important part of a healthy diet and contribute to the "functional foods" that have been touted in recent years. There is a good reason for this, as they improve the quality of our diet, particularly for those who may be immune suppressed or fighting some sort of disease.
We have more than 400 different species of bacteria In our gut. Some of these bacteria promote health and good digestion and some inhibit it. Probiotics from foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and buttermilk are living microbes that improve the balance of good bacteria over the pathogenic bacteria. If you are lactose intolerant, you can also find probiotics in Miso, Tempeh and other fermented soy products. Or you can purchase probiotics in powder or capsule form at your health food store.
Probiotics help synthesize B-vitamins, improve Immunity, decrease allergies and speed recovery from disease processes like Candida Albicans, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and ulcerative colitis. Because they reduce inflammation, probiotics may improve cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Probiotics also decrease risk of colon cancer because of their beneficial action in the gut and reduce the incidence and severity of diarrhea caused by taking antibiotics.
Prebiotics are non-digestible substances that feed the living probiotics. Prebiotics help to lower the pH of the colon, making a more hospitable environment for the good bacteria and a less hospitable environment for pathogenic bacteria. They also increase mineral absorption, especially iron, calcium and magnesium.
Foods that contain prebiotics are starchy vegetables, cooked cereals and grains, such as oatmeal, leeks, garlic, onions, beans and other legumes, leafy greens, berries and bananas. Another type of prebiotic is called resistant starch. You will find this in manufactured products listed as Inulin, modified food starch, corn starch and maltodextrin. Some starchy foods such as dried beans, potatoes, and sweet potatoes convert their starch to resistant starch when cooked, then cooled and reheated. Resistant starch may be beneficial in supporting good blood sugar control in addition to it's prebiotic function.