By now, we've all heard about probiotics, the beneficial microflora that inhabit our gut and how crucially imperative their presence is to our overall health. There are so many things that can disrupt the balance of these microflora including stress. Various medications can also eradicate our little warriors like antibiotics, birth control, chemotherapy, steroids, etc.
Like any living creature, all beneficial microflora need to be fed. The foods that feed these little guys are called prebiotics. Prebiotic foods contain fiber or starch that can resist being digested before reaching the colon, i.e., they are resistant to the normal digestive processes of the stomach and small intestine. Once in the colon, these prebiotics act as food for the beneficial microflora and keep them nourished so they can continue to perform their never-ending duties.
The Best Prebiotic Foods Include:
acacia gum (or gum arabic)
raw chicory root
raw Jerusalem artichoke
raw dandelion greens
cooked or raw onions
whole-grain wheat or corn
RS (Resistant Starch) - cooked and then cooled potatoes, rice, legumes/lentils, e.g. potato salad, rice pudding, hummus, etc.
7 Benefits of Prebiotics:
1. Better Gut Health and Improved Digestion - Prebiotics stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria which help balance harmful bacteria and toxins living in the digestive tract, having numerous health implications, including improving digestion.
2. Enhanced Immune Function and Cancer Protection - The “prebiotic effect” has been associated with the modulation of biomarkers and activities of the immune system, including a reduction of the concentration of cancer-promoting enzymes and putrefactive (bacterial) metabolites in the gut.
3. Lower Inflammation - Prebiotics can help lower inflammation, which is one of the root causes of diseases.
4. Reduced Risk for Heart Disease - Prebiotics have a hypo-cholesterolemic effect, improving the body’s ability to prevent ischemic heart diseases.
5. Help with Weight Loss or Maintenance - Higher intakes of all types of fiber are linked to lower body weight and protection against obesity.
6. Protection of Bone Health - Prebiotics enhance the absorption of minerals in the body, including magnesium, and possibly iron and calcium.
7. Hormone Regulation and Improved Moods - Research regarding the “gut-brain connection” is still in its infancy, but it’s becoming clear that mood-related disorders like anxiety or depression are highly tied to gut health.