There are many factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle: diet, exercise, and sleep just to name a few. However, did you know the bacteria living in our guts can impact our overall health and wellness more than any other lifestyle factor? It’s true!
Our gut flora is small but mighty. They can ultimately make all the difference between a happy, healthy gut and one that needs a little extra TLC. The good news is one of the easiest ways we can improve our gut health, and overall health is by incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into our daily health and wellness routines.
Most people are familiar with probiotics but are less familiar with prebiotics. This inspired us to offer a closer look at prebiotics and to suggest some easy ways to incorporate more prebiotics into our daily diet and lifestyle practices.
The Importance of Gut Health
We have trillions of bacteria living in our gut. These bacteria are collectively known as the gut microbiome, which affects everything from our brain health to food cravings to metabolism. Gut health impacts the functioning of our main organs too.
- Gut Health and Brain Health. Our gut can affect our brain and our brain can affect our gut due to the gut-brain connection. In fact, the gut is often referred to as the “second brain.” Some newer studies have found that improving gut health may even improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and hypertension.
- Gut Health and Immune Health. Over 70% of the cells in our immune systems are located in the gut and an imbalance of bacteria, or inflammation in the digestive tract, may cause even small imbalances in our immune health, like a cold. Improving our gut health can potentially strengthen our immune systems.
- Gut Health and Skin Health. Modifying gut bacteria may improve symptoms of pesky skin conditions, like acne, dermatitis, or psoriasis thanks to the gut-skin axis.
It is evident that maintaining a healthy balance of our gut bacteria and practicing proper gut health is important to multiple areas of our health and well-being. However, when people think of gut health, they usually first think of probiotics, but prebiotics are just as important, if not even more important, than probiotics. That may leave many of us wondering, “What are prebiotics?”.
What are prebiotics?
Although they often get less attention, prebiotics are just as essential to our health as probiotics. We can consume all of the probiotics we want, but it won’t do us much good if we aren’t supplying our bodies with prebiotics too.
Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber that plays a critical role in gut health. These plant fibers are a crucial fuel that helps our friendly gut flora flourish. Essentially, prebiotics are the food that helps the good bacteria in our guts thrive. They are a specific type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria and allows them to survive and thrive. We need sources of prebiotics in order to keep our gut environment full of beneficial bacteria and maintain diverse strains of friendly gut bugs so we can reach optimal gut health.
This is important because our good bacteria compete every day with toxins and harmful gut bacteria. These harmful bacteria feed on inflammatory foods, processed foods, and sugar, all of which are commonly found in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Other foods that can disrupt our gut health include beverages and foods like alcohol, dairy, and gluten.
The Importance of Prebiotics
In order to support the beneficial bacteria in our guts, it is important to provide our bodies with a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber. Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains in a Harvard Health article:
“When fiber enters the digestive system, enzymes from the microbiota help to break it down, producing substances called short-chain fatty acids. Experts think that having more of these fatty acids changes the pH inside the colon, making it less hospitable to some damaging types of microorganisms.”
Probiotics may make all the difference when it comes to our gut health and overall well-being, but what we feed those beneficial bacteria through prebiotics, impacts how we can reach optimal gut health. Not only does fiber play a key role in digestion and gut health, but higher intakes of dietary fiber are also shown to lower some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and lower body weight. Just ask Sally!
Unfortunately, the average American only consumes about 10-15 grams of total fiber per day. The USDA recommended daily fiber amount for adults (up to age 50) is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, while for women and men older than 50, 21 and 30 daily grams respectively. We are clearly not getting enough fiber through our daily diets and regular routines. Although prebiotics are available in supplemental forms, we prefer to enjoy our daily dose of prebiotics through beverages and whole food sources.
Prebiotics are found in an array of fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain complex carbohydrates, such as fiber from resistant starch. These carbs aren’t digested by the body, so they pass through the digestive system to become food for the bacteria found in the gut. A quick internet search will yield a variety of prebiotic foods as will a consultation with a registered dietician. However, some popular prebiotic foods that you may already have in your kitchen include:
- Allium vegetables like chives, garlic, leeks, onions, scallions
- Apple cider vinegar
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion Greens
- Ground flaxseeds
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Sprouted-Grain Breads
- Whole grains including oats and wheat
For optimal gut health, aim to eat at least one prebiotic-containing food per day or enjoy a bottle of your favorite hellowater®.
Prebiotics and hellowater®
Though prebiotics are available in supplemental forms, enjoying a diet teeming with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is one of the best ways to add more dietary fiber into our health and wellness routines. But, let’s be honest…very few of us would say we’re achieving the levels we need on a daily basis.
With 5 grams of soluble fiber from chicory root in every bottle, hellowater® is both an easy and delicious way to not only add more fiber to our daily diets but to get that coveted prebiotic fiber as well.
We think that working to create a healthier lifestyle is something all of us can do and enjoying a bottle or two of hellowater® is a great step towards achieving those goals.