This article originally appeared on Oxygen
When it comes to wellness topics, gut health often comes to mind — and it should. We’re learning that a healthy gut is an indicator overall well-being, and research has already shown that it can affect digestive, heart and brain health. Heck, what goes on in our gut community may even impact our weight and workout performances. A surprising amount of our immune system function can also be tied to gut health, also known as our microbiomes.
The human gut microbiota is a complex ecosystem that includes trillions of microorganisms on and in our intestines. And while you’ve probably heard a lot about probiotics when it comes to the microbiome, you might be less familiar with prebiotics and postbiotics — two more keys to achieving optimal gut health.
Here’s what you need to know about the “biotics” family and how to make them work harder for your best interests. Probiotics
These are living microorganisms (mainly bacteria and yeasts) found in certain foods and beverages that can take up residence in your digestive tract. It may sound creepy when you think of it that way, but as you’ve probably learned in a yogurt commercial or two, probiotics have various health benefits. They’re known for improving nutrient absorption and immune functioning, and one recent study found evidence that a greater microbiome diversity was associated with higher levels of active vitamin D — a nutrient many people are deficient in.
In general, probiotics including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help maintain a healthy population of microbiota (or flora) living in the gut, positively affecting digestion and overall well-being. And for the most part, probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and kombucha. It’s thought that regularly consuming probiotics helps to replenish the beneficial microorganisms in your gut and help counterbalance any less desirable bacteria residing there.
While probiotics are little living creatures like bacteria and yeasts, prebiotics are certain components of foods including fibers, and, surprisingly, that feed and promote the growth of these healthy, or “good,” microorganisms living in our digestive tracts. In other words, prebiotics are the food probiotics require to reproduce and get to work on tasks such as . So, probiotics and prebiotics work as a team to make us healthier. This means you can take all the probiotic supplements you want and pound back all the yogurt in the refrigerated aisle, but it won’t have the maximum impact if you don’t give the probiotics a fuel source to thrive on as they take up residence in your gut.
Prebiotics are found in many whole foods you eat, such as fruits, asparagus, and .
An example of a postbiotic is the short-chain fatty acid butyrate, an energy source for the cells in your colon and what appears to be an . When you consider that inflammation is the hallmark of several chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease as well as digestive conditions like Crohn’s disease, you see why creating more of this and other short-chain fatty acid postbiotics through better nurturing our microbiome is so important.
A lack of butyrate production resulting from poor diet choices is to play a role in the development of colorectal cancer. that the short-chain fatty acid propionate that is created when microorganisms ferment certain dietary fibers can help defend against the heart-damaging effects of high blood pressure.
Short-chain fatty acids also such as that are involved in appetite and insulin secretion and can improve metabolic health. This could be one reason why high-fiber diets, which can increase postbiotic production via improved probiotic health, are especially satiating. And the short-chain fatty acid propionic acid in a way that makes it less likely to gain unwanted weight and develop type 2 diabetes.
You may have heard about the “gut-brain axis.” Well, we’re learning that postbiotic compounds are likely what mediate the impact that the microbiome has on including the development (or not) of depression and . Postbiotics including caffeic acid and ferulic acid that are produced when bacteria work on polyphenols in the large intestine could be a reason why consuming more of these antioxidants can help protect us from several conditions, including heart disease and certain cancers. They’re even believed DNA methylation, a chemical process that takes place inside your body that can alter the behavior of genes. They do so in a way that can scale back the biological clock.
Though postbiotics are a boon to your overall health, it’s still not well-understood exactly how they work. But what’s now clear is that our diet has a on microbial composition in the gut, in turn affecting a range of metabolic, hormonal, and neurological processes.
Take for instance in the where scientists determined that people whose diets scored better on the Healthy Eating Index — meaning more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and less added sugars, alcohol and solid fats — had a more potentially beneficial bacteria and lower amounts of potentially harmful bacteria in their gut microbiome. Here are some other ways to build a gut-friendly plate to get more out of these biotics.
Looks like scientists have given us a good reason to play the field when it comes to eating plants. As part of the American Gut Project, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers that people who ate more than 30 different types of plant-based foods per week had a greater diversity of beneficial gut microbiota than those who ate 10 or fewer types of plant foods in any given week.
On the flip side, that a meat-heavy diet, especially at the expense of plant-based foods, can shuffle around the types of microbes thriving in the gut to favor less beneficial types.
After analyzing blood and stool samples of 36 healthy adult participants, discovered that a 10-week diet high in fermented foods including yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut boosts microbiome diversity and decreases markers of inflammation, suggesting improved immune function.
Inulin belongs to a class of carbohydrates called fructans, which are plant carbohydrates that, because of their unique structure, resist digestion in the […]