By: Benjamin Cole
To conclude this three part series on our body's energy dynamics, we're going to take a deep look into pre and probiotics. Yes, there are prebiotics too! If you haven't yet, be sure to check out the earlier posts in the series on the body's metabolism and energy sources in macros and micros.
This week is perhaps the most important, as pre and probiotics are the most critical piece of a well functioning digestive tract, and by extension, immune and energy system. Join me in this brief but informative post that dives deep on the different fiber types, fermented foods, and how to cultivate a digestive fire that keeps you healthy, fights infections, and allows you to eat what you want and when.
Fiber plays a crucial role in digestion and nutrient absorption. Without fiber, the foods you eat would run right through you. There are two types of fiber:
-> Insoluble Fiber (doesn't dissolve in water)
-> Soluble Fiber (dissolves in water)
Soluble fibers, those that dissolve in water, attach to particles of food and cholesterol and slow digestion down, helping to regulate blood sugar. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, helps prevent constipation by 'giving form' to stool and helps to pass food through you digestive tract quicker.
Worth noting is that the digestive tract/gut biome have their own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system, that communicates bidirectionally with the central nervous system.
Fermented Foods = #1
Kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha are all examples of foods that are fermented. These foods act as a rich source of nutrients for the microbiota (gut bacteria!) that live in your gut by the hundreds of millions. Harvard Medical estimates there are over 100 trillion bacteria living in the gut!
These are the probiotics, the little bacteria that act as the producers for a host of neurotransmitters, worker bees for digesting food of any kind, and the extraction of nutrients from our diet. The show that is our body generating energy from food would not work without these critical microorganisms.
Fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut, depending on the quality and fermentation process, act as a rich source of new bacteria that help your body digest food and stay healthy. Additionally, they act as a prebiotic with the bacteria feeding on the raw, fermented vegetables they're introduced with.
To ensure the best firing digestion possible, it's important to have a balanced diet with probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics act as the food source for probiotics to live on and multiply. In tandem with probiotics, they are the other side of the coin of a healthy digestive tract.
A common misunderstanding is that having just probiotics is enough to take care of your digestion. If you eat pretty bad regularly, having a probiotic supplement isn't enough to fix your gut health. You need to have a balance of things for the probiotics to feed on and live from, like the fermented carrots or leaves of cabbage in kimchi. Apple skins, potato skins, bananas, and other fruits or vegetables also act as a source of nutrients for these microbiota to feed on.
Having an apple or banana a day or a variety of raw or roasted vegetables throughout the week offer the perfect feeding grounds for these little bacteria to live, multiply, and keep you healthy.
Eat Good Now, Eat Bad Easy Later
If you eat junk or fast food regularly, dunked in hot oil and made-to-order from flash frozen processed foods, your gut likely isn't functioning properly and is at a higher risk of leaky gut syndrome, a stomach/intestinal lining issue that doesn't allow you to get the full nutrients from your diet.
If that's regular, having a kombucha or even probiotic supplement won't be enough to fix your digestive issues. When it comes to building a robust digestive fire, it is a process of cultivation over weeks to get the balance right inside. It sounds harder than it is, and after awhile you'll be able to feel what works for your body and what doesn't.
Your stomach can literally tell you what to eat and when! Anyone can build this type of internal 'dialogue' with their digestive tract/stomach. When you have a happy tummy, you have a happy body and brain. A happy body and brain is a happy life. Quite literally, the gut creates over 90% of our body's serotonin, the principal neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, sleep, metabolism, and libido.
So if you eat good now, with a balanced diet of healthy and hearty fruits and vegetables aided by helpful probiotics like yogurt, kefir, or kimchi, your digestion will be firing on all cylinders. This way, when you inevitably want that cheat meal or 'bad' food (whatever that is for you), your digestive tract will be ready to annihilate it in the the inferno of your well functioning digestive tract.
It's actually pretty amazing how sensitive our digestive tract/enteric nervous system is. That sensitivity can actually be a superpower. For example, take a pregnant mother who has suddenly taken an ardent aversion to raw fish or meat to the point she can't even look at it. Multiple systems play into this, but fundamentally the body (and its nervous systems) reject it because it has a higher likelihood to carry bad bacteria and disease than its cooked alternative. All of that is without conscious awareness!
The body, communicating with itself in different places, makes a decision for the pregnant mother that having certain foods in her body isn't good for her or the baby at that time. That is a miracle at work!
This piece was intended to be brief but full of important information regarding digestion and pre/probiotics. Be sure to check out our earlier post from founder Mike Staszak on probiotics and digestion for a deeper look. From a healthy gut stems all bodily wellness. Our gut is where our body destroys food and generates energy, where it creates essential neurotransmitters for brain function and health, and where those instinctual 'gut decisions' come from.
Take care of it and it'll take care of you! Be sure to join us on next week's evolve blog.
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