Jo Wood explains the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics
Even though they may sound similar, probiotics and prebiotics each have a different role to play in terms of our health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics are food for bacteria. The food you eat plays a huge part in the balancing of good and bad bacteria in the gut. For example, a high-sugar or high-fat diet influences the gut bacteria negatively, allowing harmful species to overgrow. If you regularly feed the wrong bacteria into your gut, then they are going to be able to grow faster and colonise more easily without the help of good bacteria to prevent this. Studies show that harmful bacteria could cause you to absorb more calories than people with healthy gut bacteria.
Additionally, antibiotics aren’t great for your gut, as there’s evidence to suggest that they can strip away good bacteria, especially when taken during childhood and adolescence. As so many antibiotics are used worldwide, research is now focusing on whether there is a relationship between antibiotic overuse and health problems in later life.
Gut bacteria have many different functions in our body, so eating a balance of prebiotics and probiotics ensures we have the right levels of bacteria to stay healthy.
Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods or food supplements, and can provide huge health benefits, while prebiotics come from certain carbs that we can’t digest, but the beneficial bacteria in your gut can eat this fibre.
You can buy prebiotics, but so many foods contain them, and I always feel it’s better to come from nature rather than a processed source. Prebiotics are often in the form of fibre found in vegetables, fruits and legumes: particularly beans, peppers, bananas, berries, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, asparagus, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks and onions. Good-quality yoghurt, with live cultures is a great addition to your diet – I love coconut kefir myself. Here’s why I love prebiotics and probiotics:
1. They can help with weight loss. Studies have shown that taking prebiotics could help women lose weight and keep it off. The bacteria strengthens the intestinal, wall making it harder to absorb fat molecules.
2. They can fight colds, flu and coughs. Research focusing on athletes from New Zealand found that 40 percent of those taking probiotics for a month had fewer colds and stomach bugs than those on a placebo.
3. They can lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the main risks for heart disease. A healthy diet and exercise can help lower blood pressure, and now there is evidence that prebiotics can help, too.
4. Our emotions can affect our digestion, and scientists have suggested that the gut can influence our brain, and a happy gut makes a happy person. So, good food, equals a good mood!
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