By: Darren Portelli
If you have a gut feeling that balance is important in your life, you’re right.
Health experts love guts – the digestive tract including the stomach and the intestines). And the profound connections they’ve made between gut health and overall wellness prove the importance of supporting and maintaining a balanced microbiome – all those microorganisms in your body. In fact, many studies point to the fact that gut homeostasis relies on bacterial diversity. And what is that?
According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, “Homeostasis is a healthy state maintained by constant adjustment of biochemical and physiological pathways”. Fortunately, our gut is already home to trillions (yes, you read that right, trillions) of natural and healthy bacteria belonging to thousands of different species. Nourishing these beneficial species can boost immune function, increase mental wellness, sharpen focus and improve nutrient absorption while reducing inflammation, cholesterol and fatigue.
The Biotic Trifecta
There are three key players in the nutritional exchange between our gut and our bodies, and each relies on the others in a symbiotic relationship. They are:
Prebiotics are a form of soluble fiber that human cells cannot digest. They are the “fertilizer” or “food” that nurtures essential bacteria in the gut by stimulating the growth of desirable microorganisms (probiotics) while simultaneously reducing or maintaining disease-causing bacteria.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that naturally inhabit the gut and provide various health benefits. They are the “good” or “friendly” bacteria our bodies need.
Postbiotics result from the probiotic fermentation of prebiotic fibre. They are a useful chemical by-product in the functioning of a healthy gut.
Early Gut Health Development
From birth, humans are in a mutually beneficial and codependent relationship with gut bacteria. Gut Bacteria profoundly affects our immunity to diseases, energy levels, liver function, digestive health, cardiovascular and mental health throughout our lives.
Babies are born without any microorganisms. It’s only when they begin breastfeeding that they become host to an array of healthy bacteria in their gut. The prebiotic fibre found in breastmilk kickstarts the development of their microbiome and postbiotic production.
Gut health maintenance – where prebiotic fiber and probiotics converge
Maintaining proper gut health means finding a lifestyle and dietary balance that incorporates prebiotics and probiotics either through foods or supplements.
An important step in nurturing a healthy microbiome is consuming enough fibre to support gut function. For women, the recommended daily amount is 25 g, and for men, 38 g. Few of us ever achieve the appropriate daily intake. Particularly men who average approximately just 40 percent of the daily recommendation. Women average 60 percent.
Prebiotic fibre passes through the small intestine undigested, until it reaches the large intestine where it feeds some of the trillions of probiotic cells in the body’s digestive tract and begins fermentation, the process of converting or extracting energy from organic material or carbohydrates. This fermentation helps feed beneficial bacteria colonies , thereby maintaining a balanced gut.
When our bodies lack prebiotics, probiotic bacteria seek fuel from other sources and often resort to eating the gut’s mucous layer, exposing our intestines to harmful germs.
The last stage of the biotic process involves postbiotics. They are responsible for many of the gut-healing benefits attributed to microbiota. This includes lowering blood sugar and preventing obesity by relieving glucose intolerance and increasing insulin sensitivity. Shielding against harmful bacteria by acting as placeholders in areas that can be desirable for bad, disease-causing bacteria. Reducing infection symptoms relating to diarrhea, IBS, and salmonella poisoning. Supporting immunity.
Your microbiota must be well-nourished and diverse to produce the chemical compounds essential to life. To help steer you in the right direction, be sure to feed and take care of your existing probiotic bacteria with prebiotics. There is a wide range of prebiotic products available, ranging from beverages to bars. The best include generous amounts of different types of fiber such as yacon root, chicory root, acacia fiber, baobab fruit pulp and more.
When making health and dietary decisions, you can’t go wrong if you go with your gut and its happy, hardworking microorganisms.
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