The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the host to a complex and dynamic population of tens of trillions of microorganisms, the gut microbiota. Our diet is one of the main drivers in shaping the gut microbiota, which can weigh up to 2 kg, bacterial numbers can increase by 1000-fold for a few hours after the consumption of certain foods!
The bacteria present in play a crucial role in maintaining the immune system, our metabolism and protection against pathogens. Altered gut bacterial composition (dysbiosis) has been associated with the pathogenesis of many inflammatory diseases and infections.
The two beneficial families and their strains that help us to regulate homeostasis are;
- Lactobacillus (Acidophilus and Salivarius)
- Bifidobacterium (Infantis, Bifidum, Brevis and Longum)
Microbiota homeostasis can become unbalanced through the influence of diet, aging, disease, drugs or stress. To correct dysbiosis it’s advisory to have a diet rich in probiotic foods on a regular basis.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live/active cultures of specific bacteria strains that contain lactic acid bacteria. Increasing your probiotic intake increases the number and variety of good bacteria in your gut which helps to enhance epithelial barrier integrity and function and reduce inflammation. Probiotic rich foods include; sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt (natural, no added sugar, active cultures), and kefir. Recommended probiotic supplements include Symprove and Udo’s Choice Super 8 Probiotic.
What are prebiotics?
In order to maximise the benefits of probiotics, prebiotics are needed for the probiotics to colonise our gut. Prebiotics are the foods that bacteria feed off, they nourish our colonic friendly flora. They are the non-digestible fibre compounds that help feed the probiotics and help them grow. Prebiotic rich foods include bitters like chicory, watercress, and rocket, garlic, onion, leeks, avocado, peas and edamame. If supplementing opt for Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) psyllium seed husk and pectin.
How do they work together?
Prebiotics help the probiotics do their job well. As prebiotics are mainly fiber and carbohydrate, they bypass digestion, so when they reach the colon, they become fermented by the microbiome. Prebiotics work synergistically with probiotics to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacterial like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria to help bring back balance.