Gut Permaculture – understanding probiotics, prebiotics & synbiotics

September 14, 2015

All probiotics are not created equal.

First off I will start with the basics. Why we need probiotics.

Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria.”

The word “probiotic” is a compound of two Greek words: “pro,” to signify promotion of and “biotic,” which means life. Their very definition is something that affirms life and health. That’s true even by modern standards: the World Health Organization defines a probiotic as any living microorganism that has a health benefit when ingested. Similarly, the USDA defines a probiotic as “any viable microbial dietary supplement that beneficially affects the host.” Challa explains in his book, Probiotics For Dummies, that good bacteria help “crowd out” bad bacteria. That’s because the intestine is lined with adherence sites where bacteria latches on. If the sites are populated with good-for-you microbes, there’s no place for a harmful bacterium to latch on.

Over the years, researchers have pinpointed specific bacterial strains that can ease irritable bowel syndrome and help prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections. And preliminary research indicates that other strains may help improve vascular health, battle depression, and even ward off cancer. “We’re only at the cusp of understanding the potential of probiotics,” says Gregor Reid, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Western Ontario. In the near future, Reid theorizes, probiotics may be used in prescription drugs to treat a range of conditions, from acne to depression.

That doesn’t mean that all probiotics, or probiotic-containing foods are created equal.

And there isn’t just one I recommend. This is because the goal is to have a good variety of different kinds of probiotics in your gut. Also you want enough probiotics. How much do you need? it depends on lots of things. Have you taken antibiotics recently? this includes natural antibiotics like oregano oil, If so you probably need to rebuild your population of good bugs. Each of us has more than 1,000 different types of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts, helping us to break down food and absorb nutrients. But when we take antibiotics — medicine that is designed to kill destructive, illness-causing bacteria — the drugs can also kill the healthy intestinal flora that helps us digest. About 30 percent of the patients who take antibiotics report suffering from diarrhea or some other form of gastrointestinal distress, according to the recent JAMA study on probiotics and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. As a result, doctors commonly prescribe taking probiotics to “repopulate” the digestive tract with healthful bacteria. The study found that it was a viable solution for many. There are now probiotics that are resistant to many antibiotics. I got these from my naturopath. If your sick or feeling out of balance feel free to take extra probiotics.

In our home we try to eat fermented food with every meal. I also take probiotics. The probiotics I take varies. I never stick to one kind because I’m looking for variety, but what I do is make sure that the probiotics I purchase have 15 million plus cells of probiotics.

You want to get as many different kinds of strains as possibly. If you fear you might suffer from candida, a yeast overgrowth in the gut, then you should also try to take Saccharomyces boulardii . It’s actually a good yeast and has been known to save people from travelers diahrea among other things when nothing else has worked.

My children aren’t that excited about taking probiotic pills, so I have to make sure they get it in their diet. Natural Probiotics to eat or make: yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sourdough, sauerkraut, kimchi, cultured butter & cheese.

It’s always best for you to ferment your own foods, the probiotics in the store don’t compare to the probiotics you make at home. If you are new to probiotics and don’t eat much fermented food, do start off with a little at a time and build yourself up. Also another great thing to do is build up the environment in your gut in order for your probiotic to flourish and stay around, otherwise you could just be flushing your probiotics down the toilet. You can do this by eating Prebiotics.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a synbiotic. Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, are considered synbiotic because they contain live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive.

What Foods Contain Prebiotics?

Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, while prebiotics are found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes. In addition, probiotics and prebiotics are added to some foods and available as dietary supplements.

Let’s take a look at some more examples. In parentheses is the prebiotic fiber content by weight, followed by the amount of food required to obtain 6 g prebiotic fiber:

  • Raw chicory root (64.6%) – 1/3 oz
  • Raw Jerusalem artichoke (31.5%) – 3/4 oz
  • Raw dandelion greens (24.3%) – 1 oz
  • Raw garlic (17.5%) – 1.2 oz
  • Raw leek (11.7%) – 1.8 oz
  • Raw onion (8.6%) – 2.5 oz
  • Cooked onion (5%) – 1/4 lb, or 4 oz
  • Raw banana (1%) – 1.3 lb

inulin (per 100g raw)

  • Chicory root – 41.6 g/22.9 g
  • Jerusalem artichoke – 18 g/13.5 g
  • Dandelion greens – 13.5 g/10.8 g
  • Garlic – 12.5 g/5 g
  • Leek – 6.5 g/5.2 g
  • Asparagus – 2.5 g/2.5 g
  • Banana – 0.5 g/0.5 g

Synbiotics

The combination of probiotic and prebiotic therapies is referred to as synbiotics. The strategy of combining a probiotic with its preferred nutrient may allow for probiotics to stay present in your body for longer, according to a May 1999 article in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” Synbiotic therapies are new, but it makes sense. It’s just habitat for the good bacteria . . . gut biome permaculture.

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