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Are probiotics the answer?

Eat Well

 

Discussions about your gut microbiome, essentially your gut ecosystem, are all the rage today. The trillions of organisms in your gut ecosystem make up that biotic community.

Probiotics are the live bacteria found in and on food or supplements. Prebiotics are the food for these bacteria, mostly in the form of fiber. And from fiber, our gut flora produce short-chain fatty acids, which are an important energy source for the cells lining our colon. So, we feed our flora with fiber, and they in turn feed us right back.

However, ninety-seven percent of Americans are fiber deficient. Without sufficient fiber to feed the good gut bacteria, harmful gut bacteria can take over. This increases our susceptibility to inflammatory diseases, colon cancer, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, people tend to fall into one of two groups: those who have lots of different types of bacteria in their gut, and those with relatively few types. Those with low bacterial richness had more overall body fat, insulin resistance, high triglycerides, and higher levels of inflammatory markers. And, not only did folks with lower bacterial richness start out heavier, but the obese individuals with lower bacterial richness also gained more weight over time.

One way to increase bacterial richness in our gut is to alter what we eat. Raw fruits and vegetables may not only be a source of prebiotics fiber, but also a source of novel probiotics. The communities of bacteria on fruits and vegetables appear to be distinct from one another. Whole grains can tamp down blood sugar spikes, but they are also broken down into food for our gut. And beans, one of the true "super foods" that exist today, are amazing for gut health.

Unfortunately, it's a use it or lose it proposition. When you eat your beans, your good gut bacteria shoots up, but within days that population diminishes. That's why we need to keep eating a rich and varied, fiber rich, plant focused diet.

Maybe we could use supplements instead of fiber rich food. The currently available literature neither supports nor refutes the safety of probiotic/prebiotic supplements. There just isn't enough published data. However, a research team did build a machine to mimic the human digestive tract to study timing of probiotic supplement intake. They found that probiotic "bacterial survival was best when provided within 30-minutes before or simultaneously with a meal or beverage that contained some fat content."*

*(T. A. Tompkins, I. Mainville, Y. Arcand. The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract. Benef Microbes 2011 2(4):295 - 303).

Taylor's Provisions is located at 208 S. Mill St., Tehachapi, near the corner of Mill and F Streets. Part of the Mill Town Marketplace collection of businesses. You can also reach Taylor's at (661) 750-0390.

 
 

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