Everyone looks forward to the food being offered at a party, right? Our “other” cells, the bacterial guests in our colon are also largely at the mercy of what we, their hosts, see fit to feed them. As we mentioned before in this series, we need to be aware of nourishing this mass of commensal, beneficial microbes as well as ourselves, when we consciously sit down to eat.
How many of us think of feeding our friendly gut bugs? Most of us hardly think of feeding ourselves all that well!
As the term “probiotics” gains acceptance to mean the living supplemental bacteria we can add back to our GI tracts, the word “prebiotics” is still relatively unknown and causes confusion. It just means non-digestible (by humans) plant materials such as soluble fibers, really. Bug fertilizer, if you will. Prebiotics you’d recognize include bananas, oat bran, rice bran, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, raw almonds, chicory, certain bean gums, and many more.
In addition to “growing” the good bacteria (which can compete out problematic bugs), prebiotic fibers can increase absorption of minerals such as calcium and prevent/relieve diarrhea and constipation.
So, does it make sense to take probiotics if you give them little to live on? No. Prebiotics give the probiotics you may take (and the unknown good guys in your colon) more reason to live and colonize and be happy.
One study clearly demonstrated that guar gum from the guar plant was able to increase levels of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, the guests we know best. So, now we know that if we provide what they like to eat, they’ll stay and help out. Guests that never wear out their welcome!
~ Terry Pollock