For some of you who don't know, I am a culinary management student with nutrition as my focus. Aside from school, I have spent quite some time doing independent research on health topics that are randomly selected as part of my area of interest and opportunity for growth. I enjoy learning especially anything that differs from the conventional.
My current area of interest is gut health.
A little background information on me is that I went vegan for almost 7 years and as of 2 years ago I converted back to my old ways of eating. Making that decision caused a tremendous amount of issues for me and some of these complications include immune system compromise with constant colds and flues, spontaneous weight gain, digestive setbacks and allergies.
I have decided to nurse myself back to health by working cohesively to fix the underlying concerns.
If you are like me and find yourself engaged in many health topics, this is a term that is often repeated and shouldn't be unfamiliar to you. Prebiotics- what exactly are they and what does it mean for health.
I hate reading long blogs that ramble on only to not understand the topic at hand, so I will try to keep this short and be as transparent and uncomplicated as possible.
WHAT ARE MICROBES AND THE MICROBIOME?
To understand prebiotics you must understand microbes and the microbiome, the link to obesity and other chronic health obstacles. Microbes keeps us healthy by helping us digest foods by the means of extracting the chemicals and vitamins we need from them. They keep us healthy by controlling our immune system. They are any microscopic living organisms which over-compasses the air we breathe, the soil or the food we eat. They are found all throughout our body.
Microbiome consists of many different tiny microorganisms (microbes) in your gut that includes bacteria, fungi and viruses. Most of the gut bacteria are found in the colon and is unique in every individual for example, lean individuals have different microbiome than their obese counterparts.
Good gut bacteria is essential for our health because they may improve digestion, boost immunity and help us maintain a healthy weight. Furthermore, they produce vitamin K including some B vitamins and turn fiber into short chain fatty acids which helps with metabolic functions and feed the gut wall. If we don't accumulate a large diversity of gut flora (microbiome) that can lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases, brain and cognitive effects and insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). Poor gut health increases our susceptibility to chronic illnesses.
WHAT ARE PREBIOTICS?
Prebiotics are non-digestible fermentable fibrous foods that feed and help the growth of good bacteria in our gut. We must keep in mind though that although prebiotics are fiber, not all fibers are prebiotics. Some prebiotic fibres include chicory root, whole grains, Jerusalem artichoke, endives, leeks and garlic just to name a few.
Fibers are useless for the harmful bacteria, but very beneficial for the good bacteria providing vitamins and support for both immune system and gastrointestinal problems. When fibre becomes insufficient, that can increase the risk of weight gain, and the microbes may start to use the protective mucus lining of our stomach resulting in an array of inflammation and diseases. Below are my top 10 favourite prebiotic fibers.
10 PREBIOTIC FIBERS
- Kimchi/ Cabbage
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Globe Artichoke
- Whole Grains
Healthy foods equal a healthy microbiome and the more diverse they are, the healthier you are. To keep your gut healthy there are a number of other considerable components that includes exercise, which can help reduce inflammation, eliminating stress is another which has the power to alter the bacteria in the gut, conscious eating by paying attention when you are full and water to increase hydration and reduce constipation.
It's important to refrain from processed foods in general and that includes processed sugars, processed meats, high fats and fad diets instead focus on balance and diversity of whole plant foods limiting meats to maintain a healthy gut and overall health.
Later I will discuss probiotics and their benefit to gut health.
Continue in the comments below!
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