You have likely already heard of probiotics; they are often referred to as “good bacteria,” “gut flora,” or “microbiota.” They are the bacteria that live in your gut and have received a lot of at- tention for how they help your digestion, immune function, drug metabolism, and more recently your mood. There is a growing market for products that help put varieties of probiotics into your body such as supplements, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha and more — but how do we keep these living organisms alive and thriving once they are in us? With the help of prebiotics.
Benefits of consuming prebiotics include*
- better gut health and improved digestion
- enhanced immune function
- lowered inflammation
- reduced risk of heart disease
- aids in weight loss
- protection of bone health
- regulation of hormone levels and mood
The last item listed may take many people by surprise. Gut bacteria can synthesize and respond to hormones and neurotransmitters to have a direct impact on mood and motivation. This can have a big impact on your health, considering the compounds produced include serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine (ACh), which have a positive influence on depression, anxiety, motivation, mental focus, and muscle control.
The good news is… you have an opportunity three times each day to impact how well you will reap the benefits of prebiotic activity — on the end of your fork. Foods containing prebiotic compounds include: Jerusalem artichokes, ground flaxseed, garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, jicama, unripe banana, unprocessed barley, legumes, bamboo shoots, dandelion greens and seaweeds. Also look for ingredients such as chicory root – used in coffee substitutes such as Dandy BlendTM, and fibre supplements like FiberrificTM. Be mindful that the fibre content of foods can be altered by cooking; consume many of these items raw whenever possible. The greater the variety of foods you consume the more varied your gut bacteria will be, as each food’s fibre profile will be the perfect fuel source for different bacteria you want to support.