A lot of people hear how important probiotics are to gut health. And it’s true! Our lifestyle and diet has not made it easy for our guts to nurture and grow a healthy microbiome. So supplementing with probiotics can help incredibly with digestive issues, anxiety/depression, allergies, autoimmune issues, and more. However, they can be pricey and when some people I hear complain that they didn’t notice an improvement from taking them, I can see why many quit after a short trial. Don’t do that!
What we forget is that one of the reasons why our lifestyle and diet doesn’t make it easy for a healthy microbiome to flourish in our gut, is that we don’t feed the bacteria in our gut what they need to multiply. Our diets are rich in protein, refined carbohydrates, and fats, but not enough in specific types of carbohydrates our gut flora love and need to survive.
So we spend thirty to sixty dollars a month on probiotics and within a couple of days those billions of bacteria die off before they had a chance to make a difference.
So what are we not eating enough of? Prebiotics. And these are made up of primarily undigestible carbohydrates. These are the carbs that do not get digested in your upper intestine so they make it to your lower intestine where are your bacteria are supposed to grow and thrive.
Those bacteria get hungry, but sadly, pizza, hamburgers, and even many salads are already digested by the time they make it to the lower intestine, which means that those bacteria are starving. And just like any living creature, if they don’t get the food they need to survive, they will die.
So what do we need to eat in order to feed our microbiome from our probiotics? We need inulin, fiber, pectin, flavanols, and fructooligosaccharides and polyphenols.
Prebiotics have one or more of the indigestible carbohydrates from the list above and come in the form of some common and not so common foods. I’ve compiled a list here for you to use and make sure to include a few forms of these prebiotics every single day.
Roots and Tubers:
- chicory root (drink like coffee)
- yams/sweet potatoes
- yacon, konjac, hicama, and burdock roots
- jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
- parsnips and turnips
- celery root
- unripe/green bananas
- Pulp from ripe, in season, organic fruit.
- Figs (technically a flower!)
- dried dates and figs
- dandelion greens
- Belgian endive
- Cruciferous veggies (cooked if you have IBS)
- Leafy greens
- hulled barley
- wheat bran
- chia/flax seeds
- Shiratake noodles
- other non-grain “pastas”
- Some Sauces/Vinegars/Oils
- lemon juice
- Italian balsamic vinegar
So go ahead and sprinkle some flax seed on that spinach salad, add a yam to your dinner, and don’t forget to flavor up that meat with some garlic and onions. Your probiotics will thank you and you just might start noticing them really work to help you with regularity, reduced anxiety, reduced bloating and gas, and overall wellness.
On the days when you don’t have time or the circumstances don’t lend yourself to any real amount of prebiotics. You can also supplement.There are a few great prebiotic supplements out there from trusted companies like Garden of Life and Doctors in the wellness community including Dr. Gundry, Dr. Lynch, and Dr. Tobias.