Gut Health 101: Your evidence-based guide to prebiotics and probiotics.
November is officially gut health month on the blog/instagram/my life! Follow along this month to learn the ins & outs of great gut health and digestion, along with my personal gut-healing journey:
Hippocrates had it right nearly 2500 years ago when he said that “all disease begins in the gut.” Probiotics are a major trending topic in the health and wellness industry right now. Thousands of studies have been published in 2018 showing the amazing health benefits of probiotics, and researchers are beginning to dig deeper into the role that the gut plays in your overall health and wellbeing. The health of the gut microbiota has even been linked to most chronic health conditions including weight gain, diabetes, depression, insomnia, arthritis, cancer, autoimmune disease, allergies, acne and eczema/psoriasis. In order to start improving your digestive health it’s clearly important to first look at the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Here’s what you need to know about pre and probiotics, what they are, where to find them, and how they can benefit your health:
What is a Prebiotic?
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that beneficially affect humans by stimulating the growth of “good” bacteria in the digestive system; they are essentially the food for the good bacteria in your gut. Examples include: inulin, FOS, PHGG, arabinogalactans and galacto-oligosacchries and they are found in the following foods:
What is a Probiotic?
Probiotics are the good bacteria that are provide health benefits to humans; they are live microbes that live in and on our bodies and beneficially impact us by improving intestinal microbial balance. They improve health by maintaining healthy gut flora, healing the lining of the intestines to prevent leaky gut, rebalancing the immune system, reducing inflammation in the gut and by preventing and treat GI infection as well as improving overall digestive function. Studies show us that probiotic supplementation doesn’t actually ‘recolonize’ the gut, and must therefore be taken consistently to maintain beneficial results. You can take probiotics through supplementation or include the following foods in your daily diet:
Which Conditions Can Benefit from Pre & Probiotics?
Prebiotics and probiotics are an important part of any gut-supportive protocol and the digestive system is generally considered to be the root of all health & disease. While everyone can benefit from supporting their gut there are a few patient groups in which supplementation is especially important:
Are there particular strains or a brand that patients should focus on?
It’s always important to purchase probiotics from a reputable source. The dollar store even sells probiotics now but if you take a look at the bottle you’ll see the dosing is too low to have any significant impact on the body and they also happen to contain quite a few fillers. For general health maintenance any multi-strain formula containing greater than 10 billion CFU would be acceptable. If you’re looking to achieve any specific health outcomes by supplementing with pre and probiotics it’s important to work with a professional since certain strains can actually worsen things like autoimmune disease and gut function if they are taken by the wrong people. Your health care provider (Naturopathic doctor or MD with functional medicine training) will be able to help you pick the best probiotic for your specific health needs.
Why is maintaining a healthy gut important for your overall health?
The collection of microbes that live in and on the human body is known as the microbiome. We are dependent on these bacteria to help digest our food, produce vitamins, regulate our immune system, balance our hormones and keep us healthy by protecting us against disease-causing bacteria. It’s important to keep your healthy bacteria in check since there is research suggesting that approximately 90% of all diseases can be traced in some way back to the gut and health of the microbiome. Prebiotics and probiotic supplementation is a great place to start since these healthy microbes have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, promote weight loss, improve symptoms of depression, improve digestive health and even reduce occurrence of autoimmune disease.
*Note: online services provided by Dr. Sarah to those of you living outside of Ontario are delivered as a Certified Functional Medicine practitioner consult and not as an Naturopathic doctor appointment & as such they will not be eligible for reimbursement through private insurance.
Looking to connect with a Naturopath in Oakville to discuss your health goals? Book your appointment here.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Naturopathic doctor or primary care physician. Do not use the information in this document for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always speak with your Naturopathic doctor before taking any medication or nutritional or herbal or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read online.
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