It seems like almost every day now we can read an article on the need for good probiotics and how to get them into your diet - whether through food or supplementation.
But are you feeding the good bacteria that you already have?
You can eat fermented foods every day and take ALL the probiotic supplements you want, but if you aren’t also feeding those intestinal bacteria what they want, you could be throwing your money away. That’s because to thrive and multiply, healthy gut bacteria need to eat - and what your gut bacteria like best is fiber.
Research done at the University of Oveido, in Spain, found that obese people with low levels of a group of intestinal bacteria - Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Porphyromonas - also had a lower intake of fruit.
Fruit is a good source of pectin, which is metabolized in the colon by bacteria, such as Bacteroides, producing small chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are known to keep the immune system in check and turn down inflammation, known to be implicated in obesity. The researchers concluded that, “these results could be useful for designing strategies targeted to obesity prevention”. Very interesting!
Just be sure to eat your fruit with protein to slow the sugar metabolism!
The Role of PREbiotics
Researchers have yet to agree on a precise definition of prebiotics, the substances that intestinal bacteria feed on, but generally, they agree that these are “undigested dietary carbohydrates that are fermented by colonic bacteria yielding short chain fatty acids”.
Different prebiotics may nourish different types of bacteria, and researchers have not yet pinned down the specifics - that is, exactly what prebiotic nourishes which bacteria. BUT you can’t go wrong covering your bases by eating with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, right?
A high fiber diet has often been recommended for people who need to lose weight, but now we know the point of eating more fiber is, not only to make you feel full, but also because of its integral role in sustaining a healthy diversity of gut bacteria. Meanwhile, the opposite - unhealthy gut microbiota - is being increasingly associated with inflammation and obesity.
Supporting Gut Bacteria with Probiotics
In addition to a diet of ample and diverse produce, rich in prebiotic fiber, you can also support your microbiota with probiotics. Probiotics work best when you are already fostering your gut environment with healthy prebiotic fiber. Look for probiotics that will survive the acidic environment of the stomach. Many different strains exist and researchers are increasingly finding that different strains support different aspects of health. Research which ones may be best for you and switch them up on occasion.
Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha contain live microbes that can help improve the health of your gut bacteria. Make sure you get truly LIVE products and not pasteurized. They will usually be in the refrigerated section at the store.
If you end up lost in a sea of contradictory information overload, then reach out - I’d love to chat with you. FYI, my favorite probiotic right now is MegaSpore Biotic, and you can order it here.