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Prebiotics vs. Probiotics



Let’s get better acquainted with the who, what and why.


Many of us need clarification with prebiotics and probiotics in the journey for better gut health. One can become easily confused on any given day, especially in the social media world. Prebiotics and probiotics nourish the microbes in our microbiome. Both benefit your digestive health but perform their tasks in different ways.


Taking a proactive approach to nourishing those microbes with natural food sources is an excellent first step.


Microbes include trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses in and on your body. Beneficial and harmful microbes live in our microbiome, an ecosystem residing within us. These microbes give and send signals, feeding or fighting disease, controlling hormones, how we digest food, and determining immune health.


Let’s start with prebiotics. These are high-fiber plant foods that you should be eating regularly to fertilize your gut microbes. Plant diversity is vital to flourishing and supporting immune health. Your fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are crucial prebiotic foods for this task. Switching up whole-food plant selections supports the proper functions of beneficial bacteria. Don’t get caught in a rut of eating the same fruits and vegetables regularly. We all do it; however, as you become more aware of the perks, picking out something new could prove an exciting experiment for your palate, and gut health.


Probiotics are “live” cultures in foods (or supplements) that pass through our digestive tract and yield necessary, favorable bacteria. Probiotics have their place in supporting the gut microbiome, but it’s essential to understand that they only reside in our guts for a short time. As these transient probiotics temporarily pass through our systems, the goal is to aid in feeding good gut bacteria to maintain health and wellness.


Natural probiotics include kefir, yogurt, and kombucha – if it says pasteurized, pass it by. Other food-related suppliers of live cultures are green olives (preserved and brined in salty water, not vinegar), miso, kimchi, sauerkraut (not pasteurized), tempeh, and pickles. Fermented foods naturally wipe out unwanted pathogens and maintain harmony.


Restoring an unhealthy gut microbiome is achievable, and the best sources are not necessarily always in a bottle. As many strains of bacteria reside in our gut, boosting beneficial bacteria is sometimes best accomplished by these existing microbes feeding on the fiber we consume daily. While some forms of fiber cannot be digested in the body, there is a reason it passes through and acts as a fertilizer, stimulating the growth of what compromises a balanced, healthful digestive tract. The bottom line is we need both prebiotics and probiotics working in unison regularly to maintain optimal health.


It is also theorized and essential to point out that a person with an immune-compromised system should take precautions with probiotics. When I was experiencing ill health, and because my immune system was weak already, some probiotic strains further exacerbated uncomfortable symptoms. Checking in with a trusted doctor with concerns and questions regarding supplementation is always advisable.


Please see one of my newest plant-based stew recipes full of gut-friendly, nourishing sources of both prebiotics and probiotics.


In good health!




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