by Christine Hwang, ND, MS, LAc
By now you know that probiotics are good for you. If you’re a patient of mine, you’ve heard it ad nauseam - “Take your probiotics every day!” Probiotics are also everywhere in advertising these days - it’s even being added to commercial orange juice!
After working so hard to put good bacteria back into your gut, it’s important to know how to take care of it. You need to feed your gut microbiome.
Before I dive into the details of how to feed your gut microbes, I want to go over a few key details about your gut flora:
We’re still in the infancy stage of figuring out the complex interplay between the 500+ different species residing in our gut. Most of the different bacterial species can’t be put into probiotics - they die when exposed to oxygen. The Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium species happen to be oxygen stable so they can be put into capsules; the good news is these two species are also the dominant ones, so thus the benefits from taking probiotics.
Prebiotics are a specific subset of fiber that directly feeds the bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic fiber isn’t broken down by the body. It enters the large intestine intact where the gut bacteria consume it via fermentation. In order to maintain the balance and diversity of the hundreds of other species in our gut, it’s important to make sure we get plenty of prebiotics through our diet.
To maximize the prebiotic fiber content of any vegetables mentioned above, it’s recommended to eat them raw or cooked as minimally as possible. Fermenting these vegetables is a great way make them easier to digest while preserving the prebiotic content of the food — plus you get a healthy dose of fermented bugs to go with the prebiotic fiber!
You don’t need a lot of prebiotics to get the benefits. Just 4-8 grams per day is enough to support general health. For those with active digestive disorders, closer to 15 grams per day is recommended**. The key is getting as wide a variety of prebiotics in daily as possible.
So the next time you take your probiotics, think about the trillions of beneficial bugs that are already in your digestive tract and feed them some prebiotics!
**Always consult a healthcare professional before introducing anything new to your health regimen.