Updated: Dec 10, 2020
I'm sure you have all heard about probiotics -- in the form of raw fermented foods or store-bought capsules, probiotics are beneficial bacteria to diversify and bolster your body’s microbiome, in turn aiding efficient digestion, nutrient assimilation and so much more.
Prebiotics are a lesser known but equally important. Prebiotics are functional foods that our human bodies cannot digest alone; they are digested by the bacteria in our gut. You can think of prebiotics as food for our bacterial friends. Consuming probiotics alone is not enough! If you invite all this bacteria to the party and don’t bring out the buffet, you can be sure they will leave as quick as they came.
Scientifically speaking, prebiotics are mostly foods that contain oligosaccharides, which are a non-digestible (by humans!) plant compounds that feed our gut microbes. Even human breast milk contains oligosaccharides to feed the microbes in our babies!
Prebiotics should be included as part of a regular healthy diet to feed those blessed microbes as well as we feed ourselves!
Good sources of prebiotics:
-garlic, leeks, onions and chives
-artichokes and brussel sprouts
-dates and currants
-whole grains, beans and nuts (first soaked, sprouted or fermented!)
Many of these foods are the FODMAP ‘do not eat’ list; in the context of folks following that diet, often diagnosed with IBS, it makes sense that these foods would cause gas and bloating because their guts are largely lacking the necessary populations of healthy and diverse bacteria that play an essential role in our digestion. If you are dealing with extreme digestive issues, try cutting out all inflammatory foods like pasteurized milk and unfermented gluten grains and try adding in a range of fermented foods to heal your gut and patch up perforations in your epithelial cells. For those with relatively normal digestions, bulk up the amount of fermented foods and ensure you are feeding those microbes with prebiotics!
Happy bacteria = happy life.