The Magic of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics. Probiotics' Sexy Older Sister.

Prebiotics. Probiotics' Sexy Older Sister.


Article by Jacqueline Rizk
Photo Credit: Carley Page Interiors
Magazine: Issue #42

What’s the big deal about bacteria? 

Everywhere we look, every time we consult Dr. Google we get the information that probiotics are the cornerstone to health and wellness. Remember, probiotics are the “good” bacteria.

In fact, there are thousands of probiotics on the market today. Couple that with the advice that everything you eat and drink be fermented; from kombucha to kimchi, these days it’s all about the bacteria.

Although I don’t always agree with the injudicious use of probiotics (some strains can actually cause imbalances in the body) there is something everyone can and should do incorporate into their diet to harness the power of food as medicine. Prebiotics can have a profound effect on the health of the gut and even the immune system

Probiotics may get all the press, prebiotics are the digestive darlings with their soluble fiber that, among other things, feed the good bacteria in your gut and while those good bacteria are feasting on probiotics the byproducts called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. In fact, there is a lot of research being done on SCFAs which is showing promising results in colon cancer prevention, relief from chronic constipation and even inducing remission in those with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Chron’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

So What’s a Prebiotic? 

Prebiotic foods are everywhere. Bananas, chicory root, Jerusalem and regular artichokes, raw greens, leeks, raw onions, raw garlic, tiger nuts, psyllium husks, konjac root, carob and oat bran are great examples of prebiotic foods.

A few of these prebiotic foods have several other benefits that are great for the waistline, too. Psyllium husks, konjac root and oat bran, for example, absorb water and swells in your digestive tract which aids in the feeling of satiety and fullness. This can help in slower gastric emptying which helps stabilize blood sugar. This also leads to increased leptin sensitivity thus helping you shed any excess pounds.

Bonus Points for Oat Bran.

Even though I am not big on most grains, oat bran has a special place in my heart as a prebiotic food. This unsung ‘superfood’ increases mucous production in the small intestine, which, in turn gives bile acids and digestive enzyme a greater chance of breaking down the foods you eat and delays transit time through the digestive tract giving your body the best chance of absorbing the nutrients of what you eat!

Oat bran is also beta-glucan rich which is important because, as the systems of the body don’t exist in a vacuum, there are always intersections between systems. Oat bran being a prebiotic and beta-glucan rich is where gut health and immunity meet.  

To make a long story short, beta-glucans have the unique ability to activate and modulate your immune system.

In short, giving oat bran a place at your breakfast table will boost both the health of your gut and your immune system and, before reaching for a probiotic pill, think about what you might have in your refrigerator right now that can feed the good bacteria that already exists in your gut!

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