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UNDERSTANDING PROBIOTICS AND PREBIOTICS

You’ve probably heard nutritionists, naturopaths and dietitian’s alike mention probiotics and prebiotic foods – but what are they and why are they so important to our gut health?

THE GUT
Before we get into the nitty gritty of what exactly prebiotics and probiotics are, it’s important to understand our gut and our gut flora. Our gastrointestinal tract (GIT) starts at the mouth and ends, yep you guessed it, at the anus. The path that our food takes to get from one end to the other is our GIT and includes things like the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. When we talk about the gut, we are looking specifically at the small and large intestines. This is where prebiotics and probiotics make a huge impact.

Gut health is something we are becoming increasingly aware of. We now know that the digestion and absorption of our minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates and fats all take place in the gut. The gut is pivotal to our immune health as well, which tends to be easily forgotten. So if we don’t have good ‘gut health’ how do we expect our essential micronutrients and macronutrients to make their way out of the GIT and into our blood and body cells?

Prebiotic vs. Probiotics

Our gut is home to millions and millions of microorganisms, found in bacteria, yeast and funghi. These are our probiotics. It mightn’t be unfamiliar to hear people say that they take probiotics daily. This just means they are supplementing their diet with different strains of good bacteria to keep the balance of good and bad in check, in the gut.

Prebiotics on the other hand are the types of food that feed the bacteria within our gut. In order for the good gut bacteria to grow and flourish, we need to provide it with an abundance of prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods also discourage bad bacterial growth in the gut.

An imbalance of good and bad bacteria often leads to poor digestion, mental health issues, inflammatory disorders and immune conditions.

Probiotic rich foods include miso, Kefir, yoghurt, dark chocolate (there is a god!), pickles, tempeh, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables.

Prebiotic rich foods include chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, asparagus (now there’s a reason to eat them!), cabbages, chickpeas, lentils, some fruit (apples, banana’s – the everyday suspects), wheat bran and rye, cashews and not surprisingly, human breast milk – great for the bubbas!

Slowly starting incorporate these wholefoods into your diet is a great way to start to boost the good bacteria in your gut.

However if you are experiencing gut issues, or symptoms that could be associated with the gut such as skin conditions, brain fog or low energy –  I highly recommend investigating your gut health through functional testing (Which we do here at The A Life!).

If you want to learn more, you can book a FREE 20 minute in person Nutrition Evaluation with me to see if we can help you on your health journey!

 

Annalise Maddrell (Resident Nutritionist)

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