by Shanice Miranda, Cora Health.
Many of us would have heard the saying, 'Follow your gut' – but are you aware of a colony of tiny living creatures inside it? They are called probiotics and these microorganisms have the ability to affect our overall health and psychology. Feeling demotivated? You may want to check your innards. Your gut microbiome reacts to the food you put into your body – raw fruits and vegetables, dairy and fermented goods are great for it! Now that we see how important this ecosystem is, we must understand that establishing a balance in your micro-flora is vital to your well-being. This is largely associated with our topic at hand- PRE-biotics. Prebiotics are the nutrients that replenish and sustain our internal culture of organisms. They are a type of indigestible fiber which is broken down by the gut bacteria. The probiotics and prebiotics work as a tag team to influence key factors like metabolism and intestinal functioning. Some of the crucial prebiotics are galactooligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides like insulin, which can be derived from fiber-filled foods (0). These include bananas, whole grains and beans. It is fascinating to learn about the world inside ourselves and with more nutritional research going into it, we are just getting started.
Here are some of the benefits prebiotics can have on your health:
1. Healthy Digestion
The gastrointestinal tract has these microbes floating about to promote healthy digestion. It has been reported that prebiotics has beneficial effects on digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and a chronic form of IBS called Crohn's disease. Supplementing one's diet with prebiotics decreases the population of harmful bacteria that disrupt normal digestion. In infants, the chances of contracting Necrotizing enterocolitis are greatly reduced due to the intake of prebiotics (1). They also have the potential to combat cancer?! – It’s true that that the risk and progression of colorectal cancer may be lowered by the consumption of fermented prebiotic substances like butyrate (which can be found in foods like chickpeas/channa).
2. Improved Immunity
Eating foods rich in prebiotics may enhance the growth of protective microbes in the gut. This in turn increases the concentration of lymphocytes and other white blood cells, the back bone of the immune system. It also stimulates the production of cytokines, another vital molecule for immunity (2). Prebiotics also affect the development of fetal immunity as the prebiotic compounds can pass through the placenta. Taking over-the-counter antibiotics without a prescription destroys the good bacteria as well as the bad – this weakens your immunity to a large extent. Hence, when it comes to medication, it must be taken with caution. Eat your vegetables guys and keep the disease-causing germs away!
3. Mental Health
In today’s day and age, almost everyone has experienced some form of mental illness. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders and autism are rampant because of various genetic and environmental factors. Did you know that one of the things that may be contributing to these conditions is what you put into your body? Your gut and brain are linked through the dynamic duo- the probiotics and prebiotics. The gastrointestinal tract is connected to the brain through a central channel and hence, it may impact the nervous system. This is called the ‘gut-brain axis’. Prebiotics may control the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. This includes stress hormones that cause various aforementioned disorders, like anxiety. Ingesting foods with wheat fiber could stabilize the gut microbiome in individuals with autism. In fact, most people that fall into the autism spectrum usually have gastrointestinal issues for which prebiotics may prove useful (3).
4. Get Your Glow
If you have battled with difficult skin, you would have heard that your diet makes a big difference in cases of acne, rashes, etc. This is true because the good bacteria in your gut can change the structural and functional components of your skin. The skin is the first external defense against harmful pathogens. Due to harmful UV radiation, pollution and other agents, our skin goes through a lot of damage that modifies the natural population of good bacteria on the skin. Rosacea, acne, and atopic dermatitis are some of the common skin conditions which may benefit from topical and oral applications of prebiotics (4). The anti-inflammatory properties of prebiotics make it a rewarding resource. Get your glow on naturally!
5. Protect Your Heart
Several cardiovascular diseases are caused by unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices. Owing to the anti-inflammatory properties, prebiotics have various advantages for heart health. Based on several studies, it was found that prebiotics may sufficiently reduce the concentration of harmful triglycerides and cholesterol (5). Hence, regular intake of prebiotics may keep your heart steady and strong!
There are plenty more insights we can acquire when it comes to the synergy between the gut and the rest of the body- but there’s one thing we know for sure. Every organ has an important part to play in keeping us safe and sound. Let us try to do all we can to keep these vital systems running strong!