Both prebiotics and probiotics are essential for healthy gut function. Prebiotics are essentially active compounds that help feed the friendly good bacteria in your gut. They consist of mainly fermentable carbohydrates and help to nourish the good gut bacteria so that they can better survive and flourish. Probiotics can aid in digestion and keep your gut happy!
The Difference with Prebiotics and Probiotics
Eating a diet rich in prebiotics and/or supplementing your diet with a prebiotic has many health benefits. Prebiotics can boost your health in many ways because it helps to reduce chronic inflammation in your body over time. They fight off harmful bacteria in your gut and thereby help boost your overall immunity towards viruses and other toxins. Some prebiotics may even help with weight management because they contain fibers that can help with satiety.
Prebiotics are naturally found in a lot of fruits and vegetables such as bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, dandelion greens, and sunchokes. They are also present in whole grains such as wheat. You can also easily supplement your diet with inulin from chicory root to boost the amount of prebiotics in your body.
Probiotics, on the other hand, are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you and your digestive system. They keep your gut healthy by preserving and maintaining the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut (i.e. your gut microbiome). Probiotics also help to move food through your gut by affecting the nerves that control your gut movement. And some people even use probiotics to treat some common conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious diarrhea and diarrhea caused by the use of antibiotics.
There are Many Different Types of Probiotics
Here are a few of the common ones:
- Lactobacillus – most common and commonly found in yogurt and other fermented foods. They are especially helpful with digesting lactose and sugar in milk.
- Bifidobacterium – usually found in some dairy products. They help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Saccharomyces boulardii – a type of yeast found in probiotics supplements and helps ease diarrhea and other digestive problems.
Together, prebiotics and probiotics are your best gut buddies because they do good for the health and balance of your gut microbiome. 
The Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that are living in your intestines. There can be as many as 500 species of these bacteria and some are good, and some are bad.
You will always have some bad bacteria but your good ones should always dominate for optimum health. If your gut is hosting more bad bacteria than good ones, your body will let you know that in many more ways than one. You will generally feel unwell but maybe not sick enough to go to the doctor for a specific diagnosis. At times, your gut health could be suffering so much that you experience one or more of the following symptoms on a more regular and consistent basis.
Most bacteria in your gut can be classified into 1 of 4 groups – Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria or Proteobacteria.
The good bacteria in your gut destroy harmful bacteria and other harmful microorganisms and produce vitamin K, folate and short-term fatty acids that are beneficial for you.
Symptoms of Poor Gut Bacteria
As you may have gathered, a lot goes on in your gut and it is a delicate space. Life’s stressors such as too little sleep, high consumption of processed and sugary foods can have a negative impact on our gut microbiome.
When you have too many bad bacteria running the show in your gut, your health suffers because your digestive, immune, nervous and endocrine systems all communicate and interact with one another. And when the center of it all – your gut, is not functioning properly, your body will tell you in many ways.
- Bad moods/mood swings
- Brain fog and lack of ability to focus
- Food allergies or food intolerances
- Skin problems such as breakouts and rashes
- Digestive issues such as bloating and abdominal pains
- Autoimmune issues
- Bowel issues such as constipation or diarrhea
- Joint pains
- Headaches and migraines
- Unintentional weight changes
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping/staying asleep
How Does Your Gut Microbiome Get Messed Up
Not eating a good enough variety of foods that are primarily plant-based.
Simply put, a lack of diversity within your gut microbiome can limit your recovery from harmful influences such as an illness, infection or brief use of antibiotics. The food you eat provides much of the nutrients that the good bacteria in your gut needs to thrive and survive. A diet rich in whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) will provide that nutritional variety that can help your gut microbiome thrive.
1. Lack of prebiotics in your diet
As mentioned, prebiotics is a type of fiber that passes through your body without being digested and thereby helps promote the growth and activity of the good bacteria in your gut. Add foods that are naturally high in prebiotics to your diet or simply add a prebiotic supplement such as PaleoFiber RS.
2. Consuming too much alcohol
You already know many of the harmful effects of consuming too much alcohol. Alcohol is not a health food. So consume in moderation or eliminate it from your diet if you can. Alcohol can cause dysbiosis in your gut – a condition when the gut flora in your gut contains way more bad guys than the good guys.
Sometimes the use of antibiotics is inevitable, such as when you have to go through surgery or conditions as common as a urinary tract infection. Antibiotics work by killing bacteria and prevent them from multiplying. However, as they do their job to protect you, they also inevitably kill the good bacteria in your gut.
4. Lack of regular physical activity
Activities can be as simple as walking or gardening or as extensive as swimming and cycling. Regular exercise has been shown to not only help work and maintain your muscles, but they also help to reduce stress and thereby reduce your risk of various chronic diseases. Recent studies have also suggested that regular physical activity can alter your gut bacteria and improve your gut health.
5. Use of tobacco
Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals of which a lot of them have already been shown to cause cancer. If not for your gut health, there are endless reasons to not use tobacco. There are many studies out there that have already shown that smoking cessation can increase and improve your gut flora diversity over time.
6. Not enough sleep
Sleep deprivation has been shown to cause many different diseases from obesity to heart disease. And it is little wonder that that is the case because it turns out that your gut also follows a daily circadian-like rhythm. Therefore a lack of sleep over a period of time can negatively affect the composition of your gut microbiome. Read my article on natural remedies for improving sleep strategies.
7. Too much stress
Studies have shown that different types of stressors such as isolation, crowding and even heat stress can negatively impact the gut flora diversity in your gut and ultimately upsetting the balance of your gut profile. Managing stress, in any case, is very important to your gut function.
Now that you know what can potentially alter your gut microbiome and damage it, remove or eliminate these causes as best as you can. One of the first things you can do is to make some healthier changes to your diet.
Eat your way to a healthier gut with fiber-rich foods and why
There are 2 different types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fiber is not soluble in water and therefore provides bulk to help keep your bowels moving. It is usually found in hard, outer skins and surfaces of roots, grains, and seeds that are not easily digested and therefore often keeps you feeling fuller longer. Here is a list of foods that are high in insoluble fiber:
- Whole-grain bread and cereals
- Outer skin of fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in water and forms a thick gel in your intestines. They, therefore, help to slow down digestion and thus keep you feeling fuller longer as well. Soluble fiber can therefore also help stabilize your blood sugar levels, especially for those of us managing diabetes. Long term and regular consumption of soluble fiber have also been shown to lower the bad cholesterol in your body. Foods that are high in soluble fiber include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans and lentils
In summary: So you can see, eating a diet that is primarily plant-based and contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is the way to go to ensure that you put enough fiber, both soluble and insoluble, into your body and your gut. Both types of fiber together ensure regular healthy bowel movement to rid your body of toxins, and they also contain the nutrients that your good gut bacteria need to thrive. So eat on. It is hard to get too much fiber for most of us.
1. Start slow with vegetables
For some of us though, it can be too much fiber too soon. So watch out. Some of us may need to add vegetables and fruits to our diet a little more slowly because too much fiber can cause digestive distress such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and intestinal blockages.
2. Benefits of fermented foods
Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics because they are literally made by allowing good bacteria and yeasts to breakdown the sugars in the food. Fermentation was used primarily as a food preservation method because there were no refrigerators back then. There are many different ways to add fermented foods to your meals. Use them in the cooking itself or use them as toppings on salads. Below is a list of fermented foods that you can easily find at your local supermarket: 
- Kefir (beverage)
- Plain yogurt (you can always add your own fruit and nuts)
- Pickles (in salt, not vinegar)
- Kombucha (no sugar added)
- Cottage cheese or Farmer’s cheese
- Fermented vegetables
- Probiotic drinks such as apple cider (ACV)
Healing Benefits of Homemade Bone Broth on the Gut Microbiome
Bone broth is a liquid containing brewed bones and connective tissues from a type of meat that could be chicken, beef or even fish. It became a health trend only recently and has been suggested to improve joint and bone health because of the amount of collagen present in bone broth. However, did you know that bone broth is beneficial for your digestive system and gut health also?
Some of the amino acids, especially glutamine, present in bone broth can help improve your digestion and thereby improving your gut microbiome and health over time. Studies have shown that glutamine can help heal the intestinal barrier in your gut and therefore may help heal a leaky gut.
Bone broths are readily available nowadays in the soup aisle, so drink on!
Another effective alternative to bone broth is found in this amazing product called Gi Revive. GI Revive™ powder offers comprehensive support for optimum gastrointestinal health and function. The lining of the gut must have proper permeability and integrity so it can not only absorb nutrients but also prevent toxins, allergens, and microbes from gaining access to the bloodstream. GI Revive™ is available in capsule and powder form.
If you would like to learn more about the importance of a healthy gut, read my articles:
Work with a Functional Nutritionist to Treat Your Digestive Issues
As always, making changes or additions to your diet can be daunting for some of us and not always easy and straightforward for some of us. If you would rather not go at this alone, please feel free to CONTACT ME. My practice offers a wide array of nutritional and gut health testing that can help pinpoint the causes of your gut health challenges. With that information in hand, we can work together to better focus on the remedies that will work for you and your lifestyle. Let me give you the professional guidance that you need to get to a healthier gut and a healthier tomorrow.
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1. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Symbiotics on Human Health.
2. A fermented rapeseed meal additive: Effects on production performance, nutrient digestibility, colostrum immunoglobulin content, and microbial flora in sows.