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The Benefits of Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods

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This could be the missing link in your health regime if you’re not already using prebiotics and probiotics. No I don’t mean those manufactured drinks in the supermarket that claim they’ll give you all the good bacteria you need as they’re also loaded with sugar, sweeteners and dairy.

It's not surprising that in recent years the next major area of exploration in human health and performance is all to do with gut health and keeping the digestive system in proper working order.

The Benefits of Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods

THE FINDINGS

Research shows that the bacteria located within your gastrointestinal tract—also known as your gut—have a major influence on your health and athletic performance.

There are several factors that may influence the bacterial makeup of our gut that are beyond our control and one major variable we have control over, is our diet so making sure we consume nutrient dense foods that support the digestive system is paramount.

One game plan for improving your gut health should include increased consumption of both probiotics and what are known as "prebiotics."

WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are tiny, living organisms, like some bacteria and yeast that reside inside our gut. Not all bacteria are probiotics, though. The "pro-" prefix marks the ones that are thought to provide a health benefit.

There are plenty of them inside you right now—think 100 trillion, not just millions or billions. Still, several varieties dominate the landscape, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the two most common bacterial forms.

Probiotic organisms are found in a wide variety of fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, selected aged cheeses, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Supplementation is also a popular route to increase probiotic intake.

When things go bad in the gut, a disease-prone environment termed "dysbiosis" takes hold. This is when a few potentially harmful bacterial species predominate over more favourable strains. Diet-induced dysbiosis has been identified as a contributing factor for the development of a range of cardiovascular disorders, colorectal cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, Crohn's disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.

Regardless of why you want to improve your gut health, the most important reason seems to be to optimise the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria in the gut. When this happens, several health benefits have been shown, including:

  • Improved tolerance to lactose in those with lactose intolerance
  • Enhanced immune functioning
  • Reduced muscle damage and improved muscular recovery

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