Prebiotics / probiotics
The best defence against disease is looking after our gut health. What we feed all those zillions microscopic creatures residing in our gut is vital to our well-being. All those organisms (all the bacteria, fungi, viruses etc living in and on our body) are called microbiome. The food we give our microbiome has the biggest impact on our health.
There are two ways to maintain this balance — helping the microbes already there to grow by giving them the foods they like - prebiotics and adding living microbes directly to your system - probiotics.
I'm sure you've heard about the "leaky gut syndrome" - which allows toxins from our digestive tract into the bloodstream and from there the body fights the toxins using inflammation. To prevent this from happening, one of the best things we can do is to pay attention to what we eat.
The microbes that live in our gut can either be the direct cause of inflammation or protect us from disease. A lot of that depends on your diet.
A high-fat, high-sugar diet, lack of fiber combined with all the food additives we eat, harms our microbiome.
By eating a healthy diet rich in prebiotic and probiotic foods, we look after our gut health and help our body fight inflammation.
Prebiotics are fibers that our body can't digest, which stimulate the good bacteria in the gut.
They are whole grains, vegetables, fruits.
Prebiotic foods reduce endotoxin, a poison created by certain bacteria that is harmless inside the GI tract, but highly inflammatory if it leaks into the bloodstream.
Probiotics are foods that contain active bacteria, like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kefir, tempeh, miso, kombucha and also sourdough breads.
Look for the words "live and active cultures" on the label.
Including some of these foods in your daily diet helps reset your microbiome by introducing beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Research also suggests that probiotics may improve mental health and alleviate the symptoms of depression.
Another way to get probiotics is via dietary supplements. There are countless different supplements available - but no expert medical advice on their effectiveness.
In most countries there is no pre-approval process for dietary supplements. It remains the responsibility of the person legally responsible for placing the product on the market to ensure the product is made to an acceptable quality, is safe to use and complies with the law. That seems a bit like letting your toddler decide how much ice cream and lollies to eat.
If you buy a supplement do your research first. Otherwise, stick with the probiotics from the food you eat rather that from a pill.