Your body consists of trillions of microorganisms that make up what is known as our microbiome. The microbiome is defined as a community of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses that inhabit a particular environment. Within the human body these organisms live on the skin, the gums, the eyes and especially in the gut. In fact, the number of bacteria living within the body of the average healthy adult are estimated to outnumber our cells TEN TO ONE!
These organisms help our body to carry out life-sustaining functions, so maintaining a healthy and diverse range of healthy bacteria is critical. The microbiome is fundamental to the breakdown and absorption of food, to the regulation the immune system and aids to reduce inflammation across our systemic organ systems.
As I mentioned earlier, the greatest concentration of these friendly bacteria live inside your gut, so what you ingest can have a profound effect on these organisms! So, back to the original point of this post… what are probiotics and what are prebiotics? Probiotics are the live, “good” bacteria found naturally in your body that help to keep your gut healthy and are responsible for about 90% of the digestion process! You can ingest probiotics through fermented foods or in a capsule form. (Fermentation is the process of adding yeast to a food to change its structure. During fermentation it is usually the sugars and the starches that are broken down.)
Examples of foods containing probiotics:
Yogurt (with live cultures)
Dark chocolate (70%+ cacao content)
Sourdough bread may also contain the bacteria Lactobacillus
Vegetables such as green beans and leeks…
Prebiotics are the food that the probiotic bacteria eat in order to stay alive, thrive and multiply. As a definition, prebiotics are a type of non-digestive fiber. As the human body is not able to fully break these compounds down, they pass through the small intense and reach the colon, where they are then fermented by the gut microbiome. Essentially, the prebiotic becomes a nutrient source for the probiotics that live within your gut.
Examples of foods containing prebiotics:
- Acacia gum (YESSS you go eat that acai bowl)
- Raw garlic
- Raw chicory root
- Raw or cooked onions
- Raw leeks
- Raw asparagus
Photo credit to Jannis Brandt