Health & WellnessOptimising Digestive HealthProbiotics & prebiotics, the beneficial bacteria within

Probiotics & prebiotics, the beneficial bacteria within

April 2017

Are you aware that we have more bacteria living within our digestive system than we have cells in our body? Ten times as many in fact!1 The bacteria that live within us exert a significant influence on our health that we are only just beginning to fully understand.

Ensuring we have healthy colonies of the ‘good’ strains of bacteria helps to prevent dybiosis, supports immune health, protects against the development of food sensitivities and maintains the health of the intestinal mucosa. They also metabolise certain foods and aid in the synthesis of nutrients such as folate and vitamin K.

Diet & lifestyle factors that impact our microbiota balance

Many aspects of our modern diet and lifestyles negatively impact the balance of beneficial, protective gut microbiota and may result in dysbiosis. Some of these include:

  • Antibiotic-use: Kills good bacteria within the digestive system
  • Reflux medications: Interfere with stomach acidity, which is the first line of defence against gut infections, therefore allowing the growth of pathogenic (bad) bacteria
  • Diet: Low fibre (some fibres are food for our intestinal microbiota) High sugar (promotes the growth of a variety of pathogens)
  • Alcohol: Alters the bacterial balance and increases intestinal permeability
  • Stress: Reduces numbers of beneficial bacteria Reduces diversity and allows pathogenic growth
  • Gastrointestinal infections: Destroy good bacteria and allow the growth of bad bacteria

What are Pro & Prebiotics?

Fortunately there are two key categories of foods (and supplements) we can utilise to help promote gastrointestinal health through supporting our beneficial microbiota; probiotics and prebiotics.

The World Health Organisation states that probiotics are “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host."3 Probiotics include a variety of strains, the most common being those from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genuses. When supplementing with probiotics it is important to use a multi-strain formula that identifies all strains with their numerical genotype.

Top Probiotic Foods

  • Yoghurt
  • Miso
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh

We can use naturally prebiotic rich foods to support our gut microbiota balance also. For food to be considered a prebiotic it must: not be digested or absorbed in the upper digestive tract, be fermented by certain beneficial bacteria in the large intestine, promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, and exert beneficial effects on our health.3 Prebiotics essentially help to feed the good bacteria in our digestive systems and keep our intestinal mucosa healthy. Prebiotic rich foods are rich in certain fibres such as inulin. 

Top Prebiotic Foods

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Dandelion greens
  • Leek
  • Asparagus
  • Chicory root
  • Acacia gum

References available on request