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Improve Your Gut Terrain with Prebiotics


Improve your gut with prebiotics - image of prebiotic foods

Improve Your Gut Terrain with Prebiotics

You may have heard of the microbiome, the vast collection of bacteria, fungi and even viruses living inside and on your body. You might have come across probiotics, supplements and foods containing beneficial bacteria to top up your microbiome. But are you familiar with prebiotics? They’re worth knowing about, as they have a significant effect on your microbiome and can positively affect your body’s internal environment, known as its terrain.

Read on to find out more about how to improve your gut terrain with prebiotics.

Introducing Your Microbiome

First, a quick introduction to your microbiome. It’s an incredibly complex community of microorganisms living alongside you, forming a delicate ecosystem. Broadly speaking, some species are beneficial to your health, others not so much. But it’s a bit more complicated than that because even the friendly bacteria need to be present in the correct quantities. If not, the whole ecosystem becomes unbalanced. Equilibrium is key in any community, and your microbiome is no exception.

What is Meant by Terrain?

Functional medicine always seeks to discover the root causes of health issues. It does this by looking at what’s happening inside your body. If you have an allotment and your veggies fail to thrive, you might want to take a look at the soil to see what’s wrong. It’s the same with your body. By examining the environment within, it’s possible to figure out where health conditions are originating from. Just as adding lime, compost or fertiliser to soil can change its makeup and means plants grow stronger, altering your body’s internal environment can help to change the course of a disease’s progression. This is a core concept of functional medicine.

Imagine two friends go to the theatre. Behind them is someone who is coughing and spluttering all over them. A few days later, one friend goes down with the flu, the other does not. They’ve both been exposed to the same virus, but only one has succumbed. This is because their internal terrains are different. In this case, their immune systems varied in their ability to deal with the virus.

The Beneficial Effects of Prebiotics

Your microbiome contributes hugely to the health or otherwise of your body’s terrain. Some microorganisms within you release beneficial substances, as you’ll discover in a moment.

The best way to encourage a balanced ecosystem within your microbiome is to provide friendly bacteria with the food they like to eat. This is where prebiotics come in. A prebiotic is something that encourages your beneficial bacteria to thrive.

To produce energy, bacteria ferment prebiotics, using them as a food source. During this process, substances are created which your body can use to its advantage. Sometimes called postbiotics, these include short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate, organic acids such as lactic acid, enzymes, amino acids and vitamins.

These byproducts of fermentation produce beneficial health effects by interacting with your immune system, nourishing the cells in your intestinal lining, and calming ongoing inflammation. They can act as antioxidants and help to manage cholesterol and blood glucose. Many postbiotics are acids, so they’ll create a slightly acidic environment in the gut, favouring acid-loving strains of bacteria, which tend to be the most beneficial.

Prebiotics: Fibre by any Other Name

Improve your gut terrain with prebiotics. Polyphenols are one group of such foods that can help

If you want to feed your microbiome, their food must be able to make it through your stomach and to your large intestine where most of your friendly bacteria are found. This is where fibre comes in. For years scientists have known fibre is great for health, but its myriads of benefits are only now being discovered. One of the reasons fibre is so beneficial is because it feeds those friendly bacteria in your microbiome.

Plant foods are rich in fibre. You can’t digest this fibre yourself, but the bacteria piggy-backing around with you most certainly can. In fact, they love it!

Prebiotic fibre comes in different forms, going by names like inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS, galactooligosaccharides, and pectin, rich in fruits. Plant pigments known as polyphenols can feed your friendly bacteria, too. A type of carbohydrate called resistant starch is also great food for your microbiome because humans can’t digest it. 

Different types of fibre nourish different strains of bacteria, so it’s important to consume a wide range of prebiotics from a diverse range of plant foods. This way you’ll feed and encourage a balanced gut microbiome.

Boost Your Prebiotic Intake

Easy wins to increase the prebiotic content of your food include asparagus, garlic, apples, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, tomatoes, dandelion greens, peas and beans. Meanwhile, potatoes, green bananas, rice, legumes, oats and cashews all contain resistant starch. The prebiotic content of potatoes and rice can be increased by cooking and cooling before eating.

If you would like to discover further ways to feed your microbiome and so improve your internal terrain, we’re here to help. Why not book a FREE 15-minute discovery call today.

Did you know you can request a FREE 15 minute Discovery Call

Do you need personalised natural support for your gut and microbiome? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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