Happy Gut Bugs: Prebiotics, Probiotics and Psychobiotics
Prebiotics are fibers which we eat that will increase the variety and quantity of our good gut bacteria. They are essentially food for our probiotic bugs. This is one reason elimination diets and restricting food is so harmful. If we are restricting our food intake, then our gut bacteria is dying as there is no food there to feed it. This can lead to worsening gut symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
Not only do prebiotic foods feed probiotic bugs, but prebiotics are fermented in our gut which produce a product called short chain fatty acids. These are beneficial for us as they are anti-inflammatory for our gut, brain and body. In addition, prebiotics are also important to keep food moving through the gut, as well as help with the gut-brain connection.
· Dandelion greens and Endive
· Whole grains
· Jerusalem artichoke
· Guar gum which can be found in a product called SunFiber
Probiotics are live bacteria (microbes). They often live in fermented food or can be taken in a supplement. There are trillions of different strains of probiotics, each serving a different purpose. Some help with constipation or diarrhea, others help with urinary tract infections. There are so many different types that their purposes are endless, some of which we have yet to discover.
Probiotics help us digest our food, protect our immune system, keep our gut barrier strong, and synthesize vitamins. Probiotics function by eating prebiotics, then do their job in the gut and exit, which is why we must eat them consistently as they don’t just live in the gut forever. They must be continually fed and cultivated.
Probiotic and fermented foods
· Aged cheeses
· Cottage Cheese
· Miso, kombucha, kimchi
Psychobiotics is a newer term that refers to certain probiotics which play a role in mental health. Because studies have only recently started to emerge, there is not a lot of information on them. What we do know is that eating a variety of probiotic and fermented foods, as mentioned above, leads to a diverse microbiome in our gut, which can impact how healthy and happy our brain is as well.