Maintaining gut health is incredibly important because gut health directly impacts things like your immune system, heart health, brain health, mood, sleep, digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases. Maintaining gut health is complex but one of the best things you can do to support your gut health is introducing good bacteria. Most people are familiar with probiotics but many people are not familiar with prebiotics or what the difference between the two is and whether or not you need both for optimal gut health.
What Are Probiotics & What Do They Do?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast and these healthy bacteria can be found in both foods and supplements. Some common food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and other fermented foods. Probiotics can help nourish a healthy gut microbiome and aid in digestion, improve mood, signal neurotransmitters, and improve or heal leaky gut.
What Are Prebiotics & What Do They Do?
Prebiotics are different from probiotics and impact human health in different but beneficial ways. Prebiotics are plant fibers that can be found in both foods and supplements. Common food sources of prebiotics include apples, bananas, berries, asparagus, artichokes, flaxseed, garlic, onions, tomatoes, dandelion greens, wheat, beans, legumes, and more. There are a variety of benefits to consuming a variety of prebiotics including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, improved absorption of calcium, improved hormonal balance, improved immune function, decreased inflammation, improved digestion, and of course, improved gut health, and more.
Should You Take Both Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Needless to say, it is very important for both general health, and particularly gut health, to consume both prebiotics and probiotics from diverse sources. Though each is great on its own, it is ideal to get an adequate amount of both prebiotics and probiotics when you want to optimize your gut health. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics describes why you need both prebiotics and probiotics, “Ultimately, prebiotics, or “good” bacteria promoters, and probiotics, the “good” bacteria, work together synergistically. In other words, prebiotics are breakfast, lunch and dinner for probiotics, which restores and can improve GI health. Products that combine these together are called synbiotics.” If you are considering adding prebiotics or probiotics to your diet, or are concerned about your gut health, speak to your naturopath. Your naturopathic physician will be able to take a comprehensive look at your health and make recommendations based on your symptoms and goals to help you optimize your gut health.