Let’s talk gut health.
There are so many supplements out there claiming to increase gut health: probiotic pills, kombucha, and even prebiotic supplements.
But, what’s the difference between prebiotic and probiotic? What should one eat to promote a healthy gut microbiome?
In order to obtain optimal health, we must ensure our gut bacteria are healthy and flourishing. To ensure happy gut bacteria, we must feed them accordingly. Fiber derived from natural plant sources play a major role in maintaining blood sugar levels, satiety, as well as feeding our existing gut bacteria. Yet to receive all these health benefits, we must injest both types of fiber: water-soluble and water-insoluble. Water soluble fibers slow digestion, increasing the rate of nutrient absorption. Because soluble fiber isn’t well absorbed, it can also prevent blood sugar spikes. Foods which are high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, legumes, nuts, apples, and berries. These natural sources of soluble fiber help to feed the millions of bacteria that live inside our gut. Anything that feeds gut bacteria and helps them flourish is considered a prebiotic. As opposed to a probiotic, which adds cultures of bacteria to your gut microbiome in the form of a probiotic pill or fermented food such as yogurt or kimchi.
On the other hand, water-insoluble fiber helps to keep waste moving through the intestines. Cellulose is an example of an insoluble fiber found in plants, which our body can’t digest. Since insoluble fiber is not broken down or fermented by our gut bacteria, it keeps waste moving through the intestines and promotes a healthy digestive flow. Insoluble fiber has also been linked to lowering blood pressure, glucose levels, and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Whole-grain foods which still include the outer hull, including brown rice and wheat bran, can be great sources of insoluble fiber. Additionally consuming vegetables like celery, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and fruits still in their skin can be an excellent way to add more insoluble fiber to your diet and improve gut health.
The most important thing is to eat a wide variety of foods, so that we can feed a wide variety of different microbes and increase the diversity of our microbiome! It has been found that the healthiest microbiomes are the most diverse, containing a broad spectrum of bacterias. Through consumption of foods with prebiotic soluble fiber, we feed and nourish our gut bacteria. With insoluble fiber sources, we ensure that foods pass through our digestive system and balance our blood pressure. Since about 90% of our serotonin production occurs in the gut: a healthy gut microbiome means a healthier and happier you!