Attending a recent workshop on spring detox , I once more realized how important it is to look after your gut and what massive role it plays in our health and daily functioning of life.
I decided to write about the things called prebiotics and probiotics and how your gut works. While PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS sound similar, these supplements are very different and have different roles in the digestive system or gut.
Fist let’s have a look on how our digestive system works and why it is so important to look very well after it. Imagine your gut or colon as a dustbin. All the unwanted stuff that your body does not need, (which we put in it), is being dumped into your colon to be eliminated. Just like you would have a dustbin in the kitchen, you put all the rubbish in and then you empty it right, because if you don’t, what happens? It starts smelling, rotting and all sorts of illnesses and bad bacteria’s breed in there; soon you have trouble on hand. This meaning, if your colon or gut is not working like it should the same thing happens to your body, illness and un-comfort strikes.
The colon and its enormous bacterial content provide many health benefits, but only if it is properly nourished, it contains over a 1000 species of bacteria and we want to promote good digestive bacteria.
The stomach is the reservoir that collects the food and liquid we eat and drink. It grinds up the food and ejects it in little amounts into the small bowel. The small bowel receives digestive juices and enzymes from the liver and pancreas. Then food is digested in the small bowel. This means that the calories, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body to where needed. The residue from the small bowel then flows into the colon. This is where fiber enters the picture. Fiber comes from plant material. It is mostly unused by the small bowel and is not digested. It enters the colon pretty much as it left the stomach.
With today’s modern diet that includes processed foods and high amounts of sugars and synthetic ingredients, we put in even more rubbish into that dustbin making the bad bacteria more and killing of the good ones. Bad bacteria break down the protective wall between the lower gut and the rest of the body, resulting in weakened immunity to a range of dangerous health problems. Good bacteria or healthy bacteria not only improve regularity, mineral absorption, and gastrointestinal disorders; they may even help with obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and much more.
So what can we do to make sure this does not happen . . . . . .? Now this is where our PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS come in to their role.
We can start with a foundation of healthy eating, focusing on fresh, organic vegetables and fruits, while avoiding processed food products and sugary foods and drinks.
PREBIOTICS are a special form of dietary fibre that acts as a fertilizer for the good bacteria in your gut; they nourish the good bacteria that everyone already has in their gut.
PROBIOTICS are live bacteria that can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods; they must compete with the over 1000 bacteria species already in the gut.
PROBIOTIC bacteria must be kept alive to be active. They may be killed by heat, stomach acid, or simply die with time, whereas prebiotics are not affected by heat, cold, acid, or time. This makes it important to take it regularly even on a daily basis if possible. You can get both these from your food intake or supplements if needed.
You might have thought that your brain is maybe the most vital organ in your body, but think again . . . . . . Ever heard that you must listen to your gut or that gut feeling?
The lining of your gastrointestinal tract is the largest interface between your body and the external environment — it has even more surface area than your skin. At that interface your body has three types of chemical detectors: nerve cells, endocrine cells, and immune cells. Signals from those detectors affect tissues and organs throughout your body.
Those detector systems are more extensive than those of any other organ: there are nearly a billion neurons in the intestinal nervous system, the intestinal endocrine system uses more than 20 identified hormones, and the gut immune system contains 70 to 80% of the body’s immune cells.
All of those detectors are profoundly influenced by the composition of your intestinal microbial population. When you use probiotics to maintain or restore a healthy balance in your intestinal tract, you are directly and indirectly promoting health in many of your body’s most vital systems.
Taking ANTIBIOTICS, kills your good gut bacteria (the name says it all, anti = against), so it is then very important to take prebiotics and probiotics to restore the good guys again. Other killers are smoking, drinking, sugar, lack of exercise and emotional stress.
PREBIOTICS work together with PROBIOTICS to allow specific changes to take place, both in the composition and activity of the gastrointestinal system. They play a fundamental role in preserving health by maintaining balance and diversity of intestinal bacteria, because the health of our gut is closely tied to many other bodily functions, prebiotics and probiotics together are important for battling inflammation and lowering overall disease risk.
Looking at the benefits of PREBIOTICS:
- Better Gut Health and Improved Digestion
- Enhanced Immune Function
- Lower Inflammation
- Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
- Aids in Weight Loss
- Protects Bone Health
- Regulates Hormone Levels and Mood
Foods that are rich in PREBIOTICS are things like onions, garlic, asparagus and bananas. Preferably these are to be eaten raw.
Now let’s look at the benefits of PROBIOTICS:
- Digestive health
- May improve mental illness
- Immunity boost
- Decrease in inflammation
- Healthy skin
- Food allergy protection
- Diabetes treatment
- Lowering of blood pressure
So which foods can we consume that contains PROBIOTICS?
We can eat more sour food like Apple Cider Vinegar and fermented vegetables like Sauerkraut and Kimchi, Water or Milk Kefir, Yoghurt, Kombucha, Miso, Kvass and raw dairy.
All these fermented foods or drinks are very easy to make yourself. You will also find the cultures and the how to for many of these form a good health shop. I am including an easy DIY recipe for Sauerkraut.
You can also find good PROBIOTIC supplements from your local Health shop.
I really do hope that you would take good care of your gut health, see and feel the difference too.
Happy fermenting and eating your fibers . . . . Till next time.
Quick Sauerkraut Recipe
Prep time: 20 mins
- 1 medium head of white cabbage (800 -900 g)
- 3½ teaspoons sea salt (about 18 grams)
- ⅓ cup filtered water
- Glass jar, about 500-750ml & a lid
- Large bucket, container or a mixing bowl
- Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the core and shred with a knife or a food processor.
- Add to a container and sprinkle with salt, toss through and set aside for 5 mins.
- Wash the glass jar and its lid in soapy water, rinse and dry.
- Add water to the cabbage and start mixing and squeezing everything with your hands for a few minutes to bruise the vegetable and release the juices.
- Pack the cabbage tightly into the clean jar. Use a spoon or a wooden stick to push down the cabbage so it’s very compacted and the brine floats to the top. Fill up to the top, leaving about 1-2cm space at the top. Press down again so that the cabbage is covered by the juice, pour in the rest of the brine. Cover tightly with the lid and set aside in a warm spot, like near the stove.
- Leave the jar out at this room temperature for at least 7 days. For the first few days, open the lid every 12-16 hours to let some of the pressure out and to make sure cabbage is submerged under the liquid. Add a little extra water if needed. Taste after 7 days and it should be fermented enough to start consuming. Ferment longer for more sour and softer kraut. After that, keep the jar in the fridge for a few weeks.
My name is Rica Grové,
I started my journey never really knowing what I wanted to do in life, but I always had this interest in the healing properties of foods and a few years back I really found my passion in life, the natural healing of herbs. Living as natural and healthy and earth friendly as possible.
It is so amazing to know the gifts that nature has in store for us, the medicinal properties of plants that God created gave to us. We must just use it! For century’s people has been using plants to heal. It is my passion and mission in life to know as much as possible of natural healing and the amazing benefits of all the plant medicines and to put it to practice to help heal people and animals in the best way possible. I even started my own range of natural ointments and oils.
Practising alternative healings gives me so much Joy in life. Not just healing the body, but the mind and the Soul. I am also a Life Activation Practitioner & Kabbalist in the Modern Mystery School.
I would love to share my knowledge with all of you who wish to learn to heal yourselves the natural way.
Contact Rica at Rica@LiminaLucem.co.za