The gut microbiome is a magical and mysterious place. We are learning more and more about it all the time while new research continues to emerge. When it comes to a healthy microbiome, doing everything we can to form a balance among the nearly 1,000 different species of bacteria in the gut is important. The presence of prebiotics and probiotics in our digestive tract may help us to achieve a happier gut and better overall health. Let us tell you how to give your gut microbiome some love!
The Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome, a term that has come more to light over the last few years, is a pretty big deal. In short, it is the foundation of every system in our body. Whoa! It is also considered to be the backbone of our immune system. It is made up of trillions of cells and includes many microorganisms, also referred to as the microbiota. The microbiota is responsible for stimulating the immune system, metabolizing nutrients, working to create antimicrobial protection, and maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier and structure of the gastrointestinal tract.
The gut microbiome performs many roles. It plays a very important role in nutrient and mineral absorption, synthesis of enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids, and production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The job of the gut microbiome is to fight off invaders that enter our system. These invaders want to move through the stomach lining to enter other tissues and the bloodstream, and that’s bad news. A healthy, balanced microbiome will put up a stop and keep this from happening.
Since the health of our gut microbiome affects the health of every system in our body, research suggests that proper balance can ultimately help support our mood, mental health, digestive health, immune system health, and more.
The function of prebiotics is to feed healthy bacteria already living in our gastrointestinal tracts. Prebiotics are the fiber that the human body cannot digest. Therefore, they are exclusively for consumption by bacteria and other organisms in the gut. Prebiotics are present in fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, or in supplement form. The more we feed the good bacteria that resides within us, the more balanced and stronger they will be to act as our interior army against trespassers that may cause us harm.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that we add to our already existing bacteria to give them an extra little boost. Most well-known probiotics come from lactobacilli and bifidobacterial strains. Sometimes, these bacteria are cultured using dairy products. This makes them unusable to those that are vegan or have a dairy-free diet. However, probiotics from spores in the soil are starting to emerge as an effective alternative. In order to know if a product is truly vegan, look for the word vegan on the label.
Probiotics are naturally occurring in foods that contain their own microbiota. For example, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and pickles all fit the criteria. They are also in many supplements. Some high-quality supplements will even contain live, active bacteria that are specially formulated to release at the exact place in the GI tract that needs them most.
Have additional questions about prebiotics and probiotics? Visit the store and speak with one of our supplement specialists for more information.
Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source, The Microbiome
National Institutes of Health: Role of the Normal Gut Microbiota
The Mayo Clinic: Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Your Health