We have all heard the term ‘gut health’ and wonder why it is given so much importance. In case you didn’t know, a well-balanced gut is a key to overall healthy well-being and your gut microbiome is very important and is the foundation for optimum health. It helps in the digestion of the foods you eat, absorb nutrients effectively, and use it to fuel and maintain your body. A sound gut health also ensures better sleep, glowing skin, sound mental health, robust immune system, and a healthy wellbeing.
When there’s a balance between the good (helpful) and bad (possibly harmful) bacteria in your digestive system, good gut health occurs. However, any disruption in this balance is likely to affect your immune system and increase the chances of you falling sick often. So what does one do to maintain this balance in the gut microbiome? The answer is simple- include probiotics and prebiotics to your diet. But what are they and how do they help create good gut health? Let’s find out.
What Are Probiotics & Prebiotics?
Probiotics and prebiotics are both vital for overall human health. Probiotics are good live bacteria that naturally exist in the gut maintaining balance and are also found in a few foods like yoghurt, fermented foods like tempeh, kombucha, kefir, and the like. They are known for their numerous health benefits such as restoring digestive health, aiding in nutrient absorption, bolstering immunity, decreasing antibiotic resistance, and improving skin health, among other things.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are the food of the live bacteria. In short, they come from dietary fibre, which is not easily digestible for human beings. The most common prebiotic foods include artichokes, apples, asparagus, barley, berries, bananas, chicory, cocoa, dandelion greens, garlic, and the like.
How Can Probiotics and Prebiotics Help The Body?
Gut is an incredibly vital part of the body and for the body to function to its optimum potential, it is vital that we maintain a sound gut health. However, there are several factors that can affect the gut microbiome, disrupting the balance. If one suffers from chronic stress and isn’t able to manage it, then it leads to a leaky gut, causing a number of problems. Consuming too much processed, high-sugar, excessive fried, fatty foods, gluten, dairy, GMO products, and foods with artificial sweeteners can also harm the beneficial bacteria in the gut, causing inflammation in the body.
At the same time, consuming antibiotics and antacids for too long a period can also kill the good bacteria that live in the gut. When there are so many factors that can cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome, we need to come up with ways to offset the digestive imbalance by introducing more and more good bacteria to the gut. And that’s where the powerful combination of probiotics and prebiotics come into the picture!
Consuming balanced amounts of both probiotics and prebiotics can help ensure that you have the right balance of these bacteria to keep your gut microbiota healthy. The combination of both probiotics and prebiotics is called synbiotic and they both work in synergy to improve gut health.
While probiotics strengthen the good gut bacteria, possibly improving digestion and metabolism, prebiotic fibres help nourish and strengthen the probiotic bacteria to do its job. In short, they work together in creating an environment for good microbes to thrive and grow in the gut, making the gut flora more diverse and sound for the body to function properly. Some of the noteworthy benefits of including them to your diet are:
- They will help to keep array of gut health issues like constipation, gas, bloating, acidity, diarrhoea, and the like at bay,
- Aid in better and effective nutrient absorption,
- Offset free radical activity in the body,
- Reduce inflammation,
- Maintain pH balance in the body,
- Improve skin health, among other things.
Probiotic & Prebiotic Foods Or Supplements: Which One Is Better?
Probiotic bacteria, as mentioned above, are found in a plethora of foods, common of which are cultured dairy products like kefir, yoghurt and some fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto, miso, and the like. However, research suggests that in order for these foods to showcase their benefits, the bacteria needs to be alive at the time of consumption, which can be quite challenging as food processing and storage can affect the survival of probiotic organisms.
Moreover, those who are lactose intolerant or vegan, will have to look out for plant based alternatives or a supplement over a cup of yoghurt, no matter how nutritious it may be. Additionally, amidst a busy schedule and a hectic lifestyle, planning your meals and ensuring you get an equal dose of probiotics and prebiotics through the same is quite a challenging task. That is when it truly helps to include a probiotic and prebiotic supplement to your regular routine.
Consuming probiotics through supplements has its own set of advantages.
- Firstly, it allows you to pay close attention to the bacterial strains you ingest, which is vital for addressing certain health issues. For instance, a strain of lactobacillus acidophilus is beneficial for relieving symptoms of lactose intolerance, while another strain called lactobacillus rhamnosus will help combat diarrhoea. It will help you have a more targeted approach.
- Supplements can also ensure more microbial diversity, which is good for the gut.
- Thirdly, most probiotic supplements available in the market are devoid of allergens and sweeteners, which works out well for the gut as sugar can disrupt the balance of your gut microbiota.
- Lastly, there are many synbiotic supplements available in the market. They both work in synergy to restore gut balance and relieve gut-health issues.
What Should You Look For In A Probiotic & Prebiotic Supplement ?
Your daily supplement must include the following features to ensure optimum gut balance:
- It must include both probiotics (bacterial strains) and prebiotics (non-digestible fibres that assist these bacteria to thrive and grow) in it. Live bacteria are ideally known by three names – genus, species and strain. For instance, Bifidobacterium lactis HN019, bifidobacterium is the genus, lactis is the species, and HN019 is the strain, so ensure that all three names are mentioned.
- The supplement must also mention colony forming units (CFUs), which is a count that helps you gauge how much bacteria you’re taking in with each dose. There is no set rule for this and it is always advisable to consult a doctor to find out what and how much you might need depending on your gut issue.
- Also, ensure your supplement in question includes prebiotics like inulin, apple pomace, chicory root, FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides) or soluble dietary fibre with raw organic superfoods from whole grains, legumes, seeds, fruits & spices nourishing the beneficial gut bacteria.
- It must not contain sugar or any other allergens like gluten, soy, etc. Go for one with all-natural ingredients, so that you can be sure that you’re safe and healthy when using them.
- You can consume supplements that are in the form of oral strips or Melts strips as they are easier to consume (just put them on your tongue, and they dissolve) and don’t make a big mess. They also ensure faster and better absorption of the nutrients.
- You can also consume probiotics and prebiotics in the form of effervescent tablets as they keep you well hydrated, ensure 100% bioavailability, and are almost twice more effective than the regular synthetic pills. They are also easy to carry around and dissolve easily in any liquid, which will ensure you never miss them! They also come in delicious flavours, which will make them a healthier substitute for an otherwise sugary drink.
- You can also go in for an innovative capsule in capsule delayed-release formula designed to deliver potent prebiotic and multistrain probiotic strains over 8 hours, in the absorptive, less sensitive areas of the gut to ensure maximum bioavailability.
Ensure you go in for either of the aforementioned probiotic & prebiotic supplements to maintain good gut health and eventually a healthy body and mind.