The difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
A. Probiotics are good bacteria that help keep the digestive system healthy. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that are food for probiotics, they can’t be digested by the human body, but are essential for maintaining healthy microbial. Probiotics are essential to maintain the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Natural sources of probiotics
Fermented fibres are at the top of the list for maintaining bacteria population and growth. Fermented foods; kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt and Polyphenols i.e. red wine, dark chocolate.
To help feed probiotics, prebiotic food sources include asparagus, artichoke, oatmeal, legumes and bananas.
Studies are looking at the link to vitamin D intake in regulating the microbiome, furthermore finding that a deficiency in vitamin D can cause a dysbiosis and in some cases induce colitis.
Paleo blog, Marksdailyapple.com recommended that a variety of foods is essential in establishing and maintaining healthy gut microbial, just not too much. It is important to expose gut flora to a diversity of foods; colourful fruits and veggies, fermentable fibers, and healthy fats, but not so much that you never eat the same thing twice. Eating staple foods on a regular basis will allow the gut to develop the flora equipped to break them down.
The effect on the immune system
In a Swedish study of 262 workers, those who took probiotics for 80 days were 42% less likely to take a sick day for an upper respiratory infection or gastrointestinal disease.
The role of health gut flora
Probiotics are essential for management of a healthy gut and digestive system, a recent article in the The New York Times reported that Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down our food; their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effects of prescription drugs. Scientists are now looking at the link between the gut and mood; it is already known that serotonin is first produced in the gut. Biologists now believe that much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity. ‘‘It has enormous implications for the sense of self,’’ Tom Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told me. ‘‘We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. That’s a phenomenal insight and one that we have to take seriously when we think about human development.’’
Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety.
Christopher Coe, at the Harlow primate lab is one of the scientists studying the role of microbial activity, it seems plausible, if not yet proved, that we might one day use microbes to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders, treat mental illnesses and perhaps even fix them in the brain.
Symptoms of gut microbial imbalances
The symptoms of dysbiosis are different for everyone, some may include:
- Recurrent GI infections
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Inflammatory bowel disease like symptoms including: cramps, diarrhea, urgency and mucus/blood in stool
- Chronic constipation
- Decreased cognitive function or brain fog
- Gas/bloating and abdominal discomfort
- Fatigue/low energy
- Depression or anxiety
- Chronic sinus congestion
- Itching in the vagina, anus, or in other mucosal membranes
- Bad breath (halitosis)
How you can manage healthy microbial activity
- Take a course of probiotics and probiotics after Antibiotics
- minimise stress
- Air travel disrupts health digestive function
- Avoid refined carbohydrates
- Minimise sugar (including fructose)
- Avoid refined sugar
- Consume a balanced diet of healthy fats, fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates