Eco Health Guide

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Healthy Gut 101

When it comes to improving your digestive health, it’s a team effort. You do your part by eating right, avoiding foods that can cause problems and getting enough exercise to keep your entire body healthy. However, even if you take all the right steps, you also need a little help from probiotics. As many people know today, these are microscopic bacteria that live in your gut. Unlike the harmful types that cause infections and disease, probiotics work to maintain a healthier ecosystem inside your body. Researchers continue to examine how exactly they help, but they have been found to have a positive impact on digestion, especially for people who suffer from gastrointestinal disorders. In addition, research has found that they may be beneficial for conditions outside of the digestive system, including asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s for this reason that many consumers today seek out foods and supplements that contain probiotics. In addition to fermented food products such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi, they also are available in supplement form. As these become more familiar to those looking to live a healthier lifestyle, many manufacturers have started to market prebiotics alongside or in conjunction with probiotics. The fact that only one letter separates them may confuse shoppers into thinking these two are one and the same, or at least interchangeable. Even though they are very closely connected, this is not the case.

Probiotics are microscopic organisms that take up residence in your gut. Like all living things, they require food and an environment in which to grow. Prebiotics provide these essential elements. They are nondigestible fibers that your body can’t process but nonetheless prove invaluable as a food source for the bacteria living there. The main benefit they give you is to serve as a fuel source for the beneficial organisms you have inside you. Without both of them as a part of your diet, there is little chance you will gain the many benefits that have been associated with them. Check out the infographic below a detailed list of benefits.

Infographic provided by PacMoore

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There is a growing amount of evidence that probiotics help aid in a smoother digestive process. Research has indicated that they may help ease the symptoms of conditions such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea connected to taking antibiotics. In addition, there are studies that have shown a connection in taking probiotics and relief from allergies, periodontal disease and sepsis.

Because of their role in promoting healthy probiotic organisms, prebiotic ingredients are believed to reduce cholesterol, improve the body’s mineral absorption, prevent obesity and stimulate the immune system. Researchers also are probing the connection between a diet rich in these and a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.

The best way to ensure you’re getting the probiotics and prebiotics you want is to make sure your diet includes foods that are rich in both. Although not all fermented foods contain probiotics, you can find them in many types of cottage cheese, pickles and certain soft and aged cheeses.

Many of the foods that contain high levels of probiotics – such as kefir, miso and tempeh – may not have been familiar to most Americans before their benefits became widely known. On the other hand, foods that are filled with prebiotics should already be staples in a well-balanced diet. These include asparagus, mushrooms, onions, bananas, apples and wheat bran.

Keeping a sports team in good health is key to success. The same is true about the team working for you inside your own body. Include more probiotics and prebiotics into your diet and see the benefits for yourself.