Health professionals everywhere have been touting the benefits of probiotics for a while now. But it's time to start talking about prebiotics, the food that probiotics use for energy and could not function without.
A healthy gut is essential to living a healthy life. The microbiome, or the bacterial environment in our gut, regulates how nutrients are assimilated into our bodies and how our bodies eliminate toxins — and it affects our health in more ways than one. There are different elements that go into maintaining a balanced microbiome, and probiotics and prebiotics are both major factors.
When the bacteria of the gut lining is unbalanced, toxins can seep from gut into the bloodstream — a condition known as leaky gut. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut lining. These microorganisms are linked to many health benefits including weight loss, enhanced immunity, better digestion, reduced risk of disease, and even healthier skin.
“Research on the health benefits of probiotics vary from helping to treat anything from intestinal disorders to skin conditions," says Willow Jarosh, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist at Health-Ade Kombucha. "An overall healthy balance of bacteria in the gut might affect our immune system health, how well we metabolize glucose, and even our blood lipid profiles. The research is still pretty young, but the health implications of having an assortment of healthy bacteria in our digestive systems are pretty wide-reaching.” But in order for the good bacteria in the gut to multiply and remain balanced, they need prebiotic fibers to feed on.
“Prebiotics are the food for the bacteria that live naturally in our digestive systems," explains Jarosh. "Typically, they’re non-digestible fibers that go through our digestive system and feed probiotics to help them proliferate and create the ideal balance of bacteria in the gut.” In other words, prebiotics are the food that probiotics use for energy that help to increase the number of health microorganisms in the gut, which keep us regular, satiated, and healthy.
Prebiotics are mostly found in high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and veggies. While there isn’t as much research on prebiotics as there is on probiotics just yet, there are so many benefits to eating a high-fiber diet — and some of those are linked to weight loss. In fact, eating more fiber has shown to increase regularity, lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar levels, and even ward off diseases like cancer. Some studies even suggest that eating more fiber is linked to living a longer life!
Prebiotics are possibly the key to gut health we’ve been missing all along, and it's actually quite simple to get more of them into your daily routine. Just up your intake of fibrous foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables like onions, garlic, and leeks (which are especially high in prebiotics). And if you’re looking to take things a step further, there are plenty of prebiotic supplements to choose from that will help you nourish your microbiome daily. We like Bulletproof’s new Inner Fuel Prebiotic Supplement ($39.95, Amazon).