A Comprehensive Guide to Gut Health: Prebiotics, Probiotics and Your Diet
Gut health has been receiving a lot of attention in the past year, and for good reason. A healthy gut is the foundation for a well-functioning digestive system, clearer skin, better brain function, improved sleep, stronger hair and nails and generally feeling better.
Prebiotics and probiotics are two key components of gut health. Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers found in many fruits and vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, bananas, garlic, honey, oats, leeks, legumes, lentils and onions. These foods are not easily digested or absorbed in a good way and bypass the small intestine to reach the colon. Once in the colon, the microbiota metabolizes and ferments prebiotics as food, resulting in the formation of different short-chain fatty acids.
Probiotics, on the other hand, are live bacteria found in certain yoghurts and other fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. It is uncertain whether the presence of beneficial bacteria can sustain a balanced amount of intestinal organisms and guard against many health issues; however, research is ongoing. Research has shown that certain probiotics can ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, for example, but there is no evidence that they help with eczema. The Cochrane collaboration reviews suggest that many studies are too weak to draw conclusions from, or that probiotics have little or no effect, though they may help prevent common colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
To support your gut health, dietitians recommend eating at least 30 different plants every week, with a combination of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and herbs—or as many varieties as you possibly can. Additionally, include prebiotic and probiotic-containing and fermented foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, live yoghurt and some cheeses.
To properly assess your gut health, consult with your doctor and consider a variety of tests to check for food intolerances, allergies and gut health. Finally, be aware of the signs of a potential gut health problem, such as diarrhea or vomiting, bloating or constipation, fatigue, frequent licking, restlessness, changes in coat quality and luster and weight fluctuations.
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2. “What are the real signs of a healthy gut? A user’s guide” The Guardian, 18 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/mar/18/what-are-the-real-signs-of-a-healthy-gut-a-users-guide
3. “Go with the Gut” AccessWire, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.accesswire.com/744183/Go-with-the-Gut