The human body is made up of trillions of cells, but did you know that we also serve as host to hundreds of trillions of beneficial microorganisms? They reside mainly in our intestines and on our skin. One of their essential functions is to ensure the proper development of our immune system. In addition, they play a large role in protecting us from disease-causing microorganisms. But, like all living creatures, these beneficial bacteria eventually die off. With the prevalence of modern antibiotic therapy, food processing, and pollution, our intestinal flora can be greatly reduced to the point that it seriously affects our health. To renew populations of beneficial bacteria, we can consume these bacteria alive in fermented foods like yogurt or kefir, or we can ingest them in encapsulated supplement form. Collectively, these populations of helpful bacteria are referred to as probiotics. Today, it is not uncommon for health practitioners to prescribe probiotics to treat certain illnesses or to promote general well-being. Large numbers of intestinal flora keep us healthy, but what can we do to keep them healthy?
Our internal ecosystems depend on large numbers of “good” bacteria to outnumber potentially harmful ones that may invade our bodies and make us sick. But to ensure the health of those beneficial populations, it is important to understand the basics of prebiotics – the food that probiotics eat.
Prebiotics are typically carbohydrates that are nutritionally classed as soluble fiber. This soluble fiber is not digestible in the human system but is fully digestible to bacteria. To put it another way, prebiotics are food for our intestinal flora.
Sources of Prebiotics
Of course, researchers have isolated the prebiotics from food and they are readily available as supplements, but there are many food sources of prebiotics. Bananas, onions, leeks, garlic, artichokes, and asparagus are among the best food to eat to obtain adequate supplies of quality prebiotics. What’s more, prebiotics are heat resistant. That means that you don’t have to eat your garlic raw to gain the benefits.
In order to maintain optimum health, people need large populations of beneficial flora or probiotics. Just like all living organisms, the health of these essential microorganisms depends on the quality of food they are given. Scientists are now discovering the critical role that prebiotics play in maintaining a healthy internal ecosystem.