All disease begins in the gut – “Hippocrates the father of modern medicine”. Even during those times the physician knew that a healthy gut was important for our health. The symbiotic relationship that we have with the trillions of bacteria in our gut is the key to our long term good health. To understand gut health we need to understand some basic terminologies.
Soluble and Insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. This slows digestion. Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas and some fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. It adds bulk to the stool and appears to help food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. Both are important for health, digestion and preventing diseases.
Prebiotics are defined by WHO as a ‘non-viable food component that confer health benefits on the host associated with modulation of the microbiota.’ Basically what it means is that prebiotics are soluble and insoluble fiber that act as food for our “good” bacteria or probiotics.
Probiotic – Means “For Life”. A probiotic is an organism which contributes to the health and balance of the intestinal tract. It is a “friendly” or “good” bacteria. Examples include Acidophilus, Lactobacillus and food as probiotics include yoghurt and kefir. The gastrointestinal tract houses around 200 trillion microbial cells with over one thousand species, most of them belonging to bacteria. These bacteria are much more than all the cells in our body and have been living in our body since the time of the cavemen. Just as our parents pass their genes to us this bacteria are also passed down to us. Probiotics inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria that cause digestive stress. They also improve digestion of food and absorption of vitamins and stimulate the body’s natural defense mechanism – the immune system. Also help make vitamins needed by the body. Researchers also believe that this probiotics in our gut also have a role in our endocrine and neurological systems. I believe the research into probiotics is still in its infancy stage and we probably still do not know much about how this “good” bacteria work with us. What we know so far is probably just the tip of the iceberg and a lot of new exciting answers will be coming out in the near future of our relationship with this trillions of “foreign cells” in our gut. What we do know so far is that our current lifestyle is causing a lot of damage to this “good” bacteria and our gut lining and is causing the epidemic of chronic diseases. One of the results of this is what we call Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when an unhealthy gut lining may have cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. This may trigger inflammation and changes in the gut flora leading to increased intestinal permeability. Several studies have shown that modifications in the intestinal bacteria and inflammation may play a role in the development of several chronic diseases including autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne and even obesity and mental illness. Causes of leaky gut include a diet low in fiber and high in sugars and saturated fat, heavy alcohol use, stress, ingestion of toxins, certain medications. What it basically means is having a diet low in prebiotics and damage to our natural probiotics?
In the end it comes back to our lifestyle. A diet high in fiber and less in toxins which includes sugars and saturated fat. There are also products in the market now that have both prebiotics and probiotics and the term symbiotic is used for them.You can try this if you find it difficult to get enough of the right food. I will end with what Hippocrates said – “Thy Food is thy Medicine and thy Medicine is thy Food”.