by Nicole Rumsey, dietitian at Thrive Wellness Centre
In part 1, we looked at prebiotics and how they fuel the gut cells and microorganisms in our intestine – by breaking down into short chain fatty acids which act as an energy source. In part 2, we will look at the role of probiotics and what effect they have on our gut microbiome.
What does gut health mean and why is it important?
To recap: Firstly – gut flora, intestinal flora, gut microbiota, microbiome, bacteria – they are words used to describe the microbial cells in our intestine. Our intestine is home to a lot of gut flora – more than a trillion. There is believed to be more than 500 different species in the gut. The main and most common type is bacteria – but again, there are different types of bacteria in the gut.
Some of the roles of these microbiota are essential to our human function – synthesis (making) of vitamin K and some amino acids, fermentation of undigested dietary fibre and protection against pathogens (foreign viruses and bacteria).
Our intestine naturally contains good and bad bacteria, and our body works to maintain homeostasis, or balance. The current research is looking at various situations when this balance may be affected – obesity, some types of cancer, use of antibiotics, digestive disorders, to name a few. We can’t necessarily change the bad bacteria in our gut – antibiotics, for example, target all bacteria whether good or bad – but we can promote and increase the numbers of good bacteria to assist in restoring gut homeostasis.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms outside of our body, that when consumed, promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in our body. Most people think of them as ‘good’ bacteria for our gut, but they also inhabit our mouth, skin and lungs. There are a huge number of different types, the most known groups being Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium – within those groups there are also more specific names like acidophilus. When our intestine becomes dominated by ‘bad’ bacteria, as mentioned earlier, it can lead to symptoms including irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea or constipation. By increasing the amount of ‘good’ bacteria in our gut and increasing our probiotic intake, we can help restore the balance. There is also research being conducted into links between probiotics and food allergies, cholesterol and our immune system.
What foods contain probiotics?
The food most commonly associated with probiotics is yoghurt. While this is true, there are also other great food sources of probiotics:
- yoghurt (containing live cultures)
- kombucha (fermented black or green tea)
- kefir (fermented milk)
- sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- tempeh (fermented soybean)
- kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage)
- miso (paste made from fermented soybeans & barley or rice malt)
- pickled gherkins
- sourdough bread
Nicole Rumsey is a Dietitian here at Thrive Wellness Centre. Click here to book an appointment with her.
All of our friendly practitioners work evenings and/or weekends to assist making and attending appointments that little bit easier for you. For any queries, please contact our office on (08) 9478 3869.