Everyone knows antibiotics – that’s what the doctor prescribes when we’re sick. And always when a nasty bacterium has made us sick. Antibiotics kill bacteria, as their name suggests: Anti = against and bios = life. This means the life of the bacteria. But it is often forgotten that there are not only bad, disease-causing bacteria. There is also a whole range of bacteria on which our body depends. Most of them live in the intestine and do an excellent job here when it comes to digesting our food. The good bacteria we should therefore cherish and care for and how that works we explain to you today in this blog article.
What are probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that can have a positive effect on our health. They are often referred to as “good bacteria” and are contained in certain foods, but can also be obtained as dietary supplements. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are components in our food that cannot be digested by the body itself, but serve as food for the “good bacteria” in the gut. These include, above all, plant ingredients such as inulin and oligofructose. Since the good bacteria have more food through them, they can multiply. Pathogenic bacterial strains then have a harder time spreading. Together, pro- and prebiotics ensure that the intestinal flora remains in balance and that bad bacteria cannot multiply uncontrollably.
These bad bacteria are the ones that make us sick. Whoever has caught it, the doctor prescribes an antibiotic. This then kills the bacteria, so that we become healthy again. However, it does not differentiate between good and bad bacteria. After taking an antibiotic, we have therefore also lost a large number of our good bacteria in the body.
What does the gut have to do with my health?
Our gut is a fascinating and complex organ that plays a central role in absorbing nutrients and supporting our immune system. One of the most important factors for healthy digestion and a strong defense is the composition of the intestinal flora. Thousands of strains of different bacteria live in your gut, especially in the colon. In fact, the hundred trillion microorganisms together make up a weight of one to two kilograms! This composition of bacteria in your intestine is also called the microbiome. A balanced and diverse intestinal flora contributes decisively to the optimal functioning of your body.
Interest in research on the composition of the microbiome and its impact on health has increased greatly in recent years. More and more study results show that the composition of the intestinal flora has an impact on our physical, but also our mental health. It is still relatively expectable that, for example, in the case of so-called irritable bowel syndrome, the intestinal flora differs significantly from the microbiome of healthy people. In this case, those affected suffer from permanent digestive complaints such as diarrhea or constipation, without there being a recognizable trigger in the diet such as a food intolerance.
However, the findings on neurological diseases are also particularly exciting: It has been discovered that depressive patients often show a so-called small intestine malabsorption. There is then a disturbed balance of intestinal bacteria and bad bacteria are in the majority. This is why we speak of the “gut-brain axis” or the “gut-brain”. Your intestine permanently sends nerve impulses to the brain and vice versa. Certain intestinal bacteria can therefore actually change brain activity and thus influence the mental balance. The intestine is therefore very closely linked to your health and a balanced intestinal flora contributes to both your physical and mental well-being.
Where are pro- and prebiotics contained?
Now that you know how important a healthy intestinal flora is for your health, you are surely wondering how you can support it. This is possible with a balanced diet! There are various foods that contain pro- and prebiotics and thus let the good bacteria in your gut gain the upper hand. Probiotic foods contain really living bacteria and thus support your intestinal flora in a direct way. These include dairy products such as natural yogurt, buttermilk, some cheeses and kefir. Especially kefir is to be emphasized here, since it contains the most positive bacteria. Traditional kefir is even almost lactose-free, as the lactose is converted by the bacteria. This also makes it very well tolerated by most of us. If kefir tastes too sour for you on its own, try adding some freshly squeezed orange juice. This makes it a delicious and fresh snack, especially in summer.
In addition to dairy products, fermented vegetables also contain probiotics. In Germany, we are particularly familiar with sauerkraut. However, you should make sure that you buy fresh sauerkraut from the refrigerator. Canned or jarred sauerkraut unfortunately no longer contains any of the bacteria, and the vitamins have also been lost through heating. Besides sauerkraut, other plant-based probiotic foods include kimchi, tempeh, miso or kombucha. These come from Asian cuisine, but are now also becoming increasingly popular in our country. Do yourself and your gut a favor and give them a try. 😊
You can also support your intestinal flora indirectly through prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are found in many plant foods such as garlic, onions, asparagus, chicory, artichokes, bananas and whole grains. So nature already provides us with quite a bit to promote a healthy gut. The important thing is that it takes some time for damaged intestinal flora to regenerate. So give yourself and your body enough time to notice the positive effects.
Reading tip: Dietary fiber
Who needs probiotics from the pharmacy?
As you have just read, there is a whole range of foods that naturally have a pro- or prebiotic effect and thus wonderfully support the maintenance of a healthy intestinal flora. If you eat a balanced diet rich in fiber and variety and have no health problems, you do not need additional probiotics in the form of a dietary supplement from the pharmacy or the Internet.
Probiotics in the form of a dietary supplement can be particularly useful if there are already problems with digestion, such as flatulence, constipation or diarrhea, for example. Probiotics can also be supportive in cases of disturbed intestinal flora, for example after antibiotic therapy or chemotherapy, and restore the balance of intestinal bacteria more quickly. In addition, probiotics can also be beneficial for people with a weakened immune system or allergic diseases such as neurodermatitis. However, if you suffer from severe or long-lasting symptoms or a chronic disease, you should always consult a doctor or alternative practitioner before taking probiotics.
How else can I support my gut health?
In addition to probiotics and prebiotics, there are other ways you can support your gut flora and therefore your well-being. Here are some tips:
A diet rich in fiber: In addition to prebiotic foods that feed your gut bacteria with very specific fiber, fiber also generally promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and also helps regulate bowel movements. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Psyllium husks are also a good source of fiber.
Drink enough water: Adequate fluid intake also supports digestion and helps regulate bowel movements.
Reduce stress: Stress can affect bowel function. Relaxation exercises such as yoga, meditation or walks in nature can help reduce stress levels.
Regular exercise: Sports and physical activity promote blood circulation and thus support digestion.
Take antibiotics with caution: As necessary as antibiotics are to kill disease-causing bacteria – they also destroy beneficial bacteria in the intestines, damaging the intestinal flora. Therefore, antibiotics should only be taken in the case of serious infections and under medical supervision. After antibiotic therapy, it is always advisable to take a probiotic restorative cure to allow the good bacteria in your intestines to gain the upper hand.
Losing weight can be quite frustrating. If aggravating diseases such as Hashimoto's, lipedema or drug therapies with cortisone or antidepressants are added to the mix, there seems to be no way out. As a nutritionist at My Weight®, I support my patients individually and personally on their way to their desired weight. Losing weight can and should be fun...and we work on that together! 😊
Maike - Weight Buddy® and nutritionist at My Weight®