Unless you don’t own a TV or exclusively watch Netflix, you’ve probably noticed, as I have, the surge of commercials about prebiotics and probiotics. There are commercials for the yogurt with prebiotics and probiotics, the prebiotic and probiotic pill, and the prebiotics and probiotics powder that mixes with your drink. (I like watching TV. Don’t judge.) You may wonder what in the what what is going on. It’s all because these biotics are a big deal.
Simply put, probiotics are itty-bitty live bacteria and yeast that, with the aid of prebiotics, restore the gut microbiome. Prebiotics feed the probiotics. The human gut cannot digest prebiotics, but the probiotics love ‘em!
But, wait. What’s the gut microbiome? Excellent question.
According to the Human Microbiome Project (←THE organization for all things gut microbiome), the gut microbiome:
“is the collection of all the microorganisms living in association with the human body. These communities consist of a variety of . . . bacteria and viruses. Bacteria in an average human body number ten times more than human cells, for a total of about 1000 more genes than are present in human” DNA.
Although our understanding of the gut microbiome is in its infancy, what scientists do know is that a healthy gut microbiome, among many, many other things, positively regulates metabolism and inflammation, helps the body achieve optimal immunity, and may alleviate depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, due to over-prescription of antibiotics, excessive consumption of processed foods and sugar, and stressful lives, the standard American gut microbiome is less than healthy. Cue the prebiotics and probiotics.
Ideally, probiotics and prebiotics should be consumed daily in “real” food or drink form. Prebiotic foods include carrots, turnips, radishes, onions, and leeks. Bananas are also a good source of prebiotics. As for probiotics, any product that states it contains live and active cultures, such as yogurt or kefir (yogurt and kefir is a twofer: both contain prebiotics and probiotics) is a source of probiotics. You can also find probiotics in fermented foods, sourdough bread, olives, komucha, root and ginger beers and, drum roll please . . . BEER!
If you’re prebiotic supplement-bound, look for a supplement that contains fructo-oligosaccharides (sometimes abbreviated FOS), inulin, or high-soluble fiber such as citrus pectin. As for a probiotic supplement, look for products containing 1-100 billion various species of lactobacillus, 1–100 billion various species of bifidobacteria, and s. boulardii.
And that’s the deal with probiotics, probiotics, and the microbiome…OH MY!