Prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics – oh my!
Have you heard of the microbiome? It’s basically the ecosystem that lives in your gut. It’s called our ‘second brain’ because of the many neurons that connect it with our (first) brain. The microbiome houses both good and not so good bacteria. The road toward optimal health includes a better balance of good bacteria and nutrients to support gut health for mental and physical well being. Let’s start with probiotics. All are not created equal.
Probiotics are live bacteria that help enhance or restore health to the microbiome by shifting the balance toward more good bacteria while quenching the bad. There are active cultures in foods that you eat, like yogurt and kefir.
If you choose to supplement it’s important to remember to choose strains that best support what you’re trying to accomplish. You wouldn’t choose an antibiotic that doesn’t treat what you wanted it to treat, right? Probiotic selection can be viewed the same way. So, don’t simply grab anything off the shelf because of its fancy marketing!
Next up are prebiotics. These are often overlooked but very important when it comes to good gut health. Prebiotics generally contain a lot of fiber and can only be metabolized by the gut bacteria by way of fermentation. Essentially, prebiotics supply the food for the good bacteria that we, as humans, cannot. Some good sources of prebiotics include: Cabbage, asparagus, lentils, underripe bananas and fennel.
Synbiotics are a combination of both pre and probiotics.
So what can we do to best support our microbiome? Easy! Include food sources of pre and probiotics regularly in your diet, be intentional with any supplementation should you choose, and stay hydrated!