The microbiota: a complex community of microbes colonizing the human body.
Most of these microbes live in your digestive tract, especially the colon, with trillions of bacterial cells residing there.
Each of us has a unique collection of microbes that greatly impact our health through immune function, metabolism, and nutrition.
Our resident microbes may also protect us from harmful microbes that we may encounter.
So it’s important to encourage the presence of the helpful microbes that call our bodies home.
Prebiotics can help!
Most prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that are used by the beneficial microbes in your intestine.
In other words, prebiotics are food for the good bacteria in your body: including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and other resident microbes…
Most prebiotics are dietary fibers, but it’s important to note that not all dietary fibers are prebiotics.
Prebiotics can be found – although at low levels – in foods such as whole grains, beans, onions, chicory root, garlic and artichokes.
Prebiotics are also available in more concentrated forms.
They can be isolated from chicory root and also created from linking sugar building blocks into more complex carbohydrates.
Increasing your intake of prebiotics may boost the number of good bacteria in your gut and has the potential to:
Promote healthy digestion,…
…support the body’s natural defenses,…
…improve mineral absorption,…
…and help regulate your desire to eat, your energy balance, and your glucose metabolism.
Prebiotic supplements • or foods with added prebiotic – are an effective means to increase your daily intake.
You should try to get about 3-5 g each day of prebiotics.
And since some fiber-rich foods also contain prebiotics, if you increase fiber-rich foods, you’ll
also increase your prebiotic intake.
However, the word “prebiotic” is seldom used on labels so it can be difficult to determine if prebiotics are actually present.
Instead, look for the actual names of the prebiotics, such as:
• Galacto-oligosaccharides or GOS
• Fructo-oligosaccharides or FOS
• Oligofructose or OF
• Chicory root or chicory fiber
• and Inulin
Good bacteria love these prebiotic fibers.
So do yourself, and your microbiota, a favor. Eat plenty of fiber, including prebiotics.
What are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are everywhere.
And they’re getting a lot of attention from the scientific community for their potential health benefits.
Research suggests that fermented foods may improve your immune system and may reduce risk of some metabolic diseases that are influenced by diet.
A fermented food or beverage is a food transformed by the growth and metabolic activities of microbes –such as bacteria, yeast and even some molds.
For example, yogurt is a fermented food made from milk.
During yogurt fermentation, lactic acid-producing bacteria grow on the sugars and other nutrients in milk.
As they multiply, the bacteria produce compounds that change the flavor, texture, and nutrients in the milk to give us what we know as yogurt.
Other foods, such as fresh kimchi, most cheeses, and sauerkraut are also made by fermentation with living cultures.
When you eat these foods, live microbes travel through your digestive tract. The introduced microbes can interact with your cells and support your intestinal microbiota – the trillions of bacteria that naturally exist in your gut.
The microbes from fermented foods can also help support your healthy immune function and metabolism.
A look back at human history reveals that people used to encounter a much greater number and variety of microbes – in their food and from their environment.
Fermented foods, which are part of traditional diets around the world, contributed to early human exposure to microbes.
Some modern practices, which have played an important role in preventing acute illness and fighting infections, have inadvertently reduced our exposure to microbes and may be leading to a poor community of bacteria in the intestinal microbiota.
Fermented foods containing living cultures safely introduce more of these microbes to our digestive tracts.
In this way, fermented foods may mimic some of the benefits of probiotics.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit.
However, it is important to note that although many fermented foods contain live microorganisms, they may not meet the minimum criteria to be classified as probiotics.
Not all fermented foods have been studied and shown to provide a health benefit.
And not all fermented foods contain live cultures.
Certain fermented foods such as sourdough bread or soy sauce are processed after they are made.
Living cultures cannot survive certain processing so although still yummy, these foods are not a source of live microbes.
To ensure that the fermented foods you eat contain helpful microbes, look for foods that say “contains live cultures” on the label. Or contact the manufacturer directly.
Fermentation, in addition to providing those helpful microbes to our intestines,…
… may also improve food taste, texture and digestibility,
…increase concentrations of vitamins and bioactive compounds in foods,
…reduce or even remove toxic nutrients in raw foods,
…and increase food safety and shelf-life.
The bottom line? Naturally fermented foods are definitely worth incorporating into your daily diet.
NEW: What is a Probiotic?
Understanding microbiome experiments: a critical assessment of methods and data analysis
A webinar presented February 19, 2018, for ISAPP by Prof. Greg Gloor. See related news post.
What is a Probiotic?
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Are All Probiotics the Same?
How to Choose a Probiotic
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