Prebiotics and Probiotics

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Prebiotics and Probiotics

Having suffered with IBS for 30 years I have explored many options to help me manage my symptoms and have been looking for a ‘cure’.

Upon initial diagnosis, I was given bran to eat, and not just a little bit but I was recommended to eat at least 6 to 8 tablespoons a day! That was impossible but I gave it my best shot. Needless to say I felt worse; however I never associated all the symptoms I was getting with my food; migraines, tiredness, lethargy, a bloated stomach.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my second daughter that the migraines and pains as well as the bloating became almost debilitating.  I decided to take matters into my own hands

It was my homeopath who first suggested taking probiotics.  So I went to the health food shop and bought some. I had no idea what they were. At the same time I was also using over the counter charcoal tablets and other remedies for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Things worked for short periods but the effects wore off quickly.

In the past 12 months I have begun to explore why I am get these symptoms and that’s when I began to look into probiotics in more details.

So the information I am sharing with you is that of my own experience and exploration. I urge you to research for yourself before embarking on the journey of change so that you have knowledge which is key.

Let’s us start with the gut health. Gut bacteria and a word which is being used and heard more often now, our microbiome. This is the term used to describe the trillions of microorganisms, or microbial species, such as bacteria, which inhabit our body, not only in our gut but elsewhere too. They outnumber our other cells 3:1. However the highest density is in our gut.

Our microbiome is responsible for keeping us healthy, supporting our immune system and it is being explored and researched to confirm that it is actually what makes us individuals… in terms of how we digest and process food, to obtain its nutrients. Research conducted by Dr Tim Spector on the microbiome in particular one study on identical twins found that in some cases even those on the same diet, exercise or movement, there were cases where there was a differential in weight gain. He suggests that this could be due to an individual’s different make up of their microbiomes.

It is strongly suggested that our microbiome may be linked to combating or reducing inflammation and disease. IBS, intolerances, allergies are all ways in which our body becomes inflamed. So for me this was the place to start, and in particular  my gut health because, as well as there being the highest density of these microorganisms in our gut, our digestive systems are the second largest nervous system in our body…our Enteric nervous system. I have always felt that there was a strong connection between how we are feeling and how we digest and process food. If the bacteria in the gut are not working or I don’t have enough good bacteria, maybe that’s why I can’t process food well?

Probiotics are the ‘good bacteria’ in our gut which we need in order to process the food to extract nutrients and to help support a healthy immune system and reduce inflammation. These good bacteria can be killed off by the following; antibiotics, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, taking medicines, alcohol, excessive sugar intake, GMO foods and stress, exposure to toxins and pesticides, and inflammatory gluten, such as wheat.  If we consider the following;

  • Most of the food we eat and which is readily available to us has either been injected with antibiotics or has been sprayed with pesticides
  • We have an increase in obesity levels in the UK due to lack of movement, excess added sugar intake and poor diet.
  • People are struggling to sleep
  • We are all leading fairly stressful lives
  • We were being prescribed antibiotics

It is no wonder that intolerances, allergies, IBS, and other diseases are more apparent and becoming more common.

So how can we change this?

Having taken the tablets for about 5 years and not having noticed a great deal of difference, I needed to explore alternatives. Once I started looking, it was fairly simple to include ‘probiotic friendly foods’ in my diet.

  • Kefir (see article on my blog on kefir) I have water and coconut water kefir but kefir yogurt made with organic or unpasteurised full fat milk is the best.
  • Miso
  • Tempeh- fermented tofu
  • Fermented foods such as Sauerkraut or Kimchi
  • Kombuchca
  • Raw Cheese- I have started to eat small quantities of hard cheese made with unpasteurised, grass-fed cow’s milk and which has been fermenting for many years; parmigiano reggiano
  • Yogurt, with a live culture
  • Apple Cider vinegar
  • Brine cured olives

The ones I consume on a daily basis are Sauerkraut or fermented foods of some kind, homemade Kefir, (miso and raw cheese although are not daily).

To help nourish and feed my probiotics so that they remain healthy and can multiply, I eat prebiotics; which are foods high in fibre and that we are unable to digest. These include

  • Raw Garlic; I have crushed garlic every so often in my salad dressing
  • Raw or cooked onions; I used cooked onions in nearly every evening meal
  • Raw Asparagus
  • Jerusalem Artichokes; which I add raw to salads. Cooked are not so effective but I add them to soups or even roast them
  • Dandelion leaves-can be tricky to get hold of.

I have introduced all these foods in small stages so that I could assess their effects and have adjusted consumption accordingly. Initially my stomach was saying ’Uh oh what are you giving me’ but after a few days it settled and I actually began to feel that my tummy was calm, happy. It’s a feeling that hard to describe in any another way. Those who suffer from IBS will understand.

I can say that for now I am going to continue using these foods. I have also introduced certain spice blends in the forms of homemade teas into my diet, and these are also having a positive impact.

I must add that I am not saying that this is a miracle cure for anything but it is certainly part of a package that seems to help and I think this will be for the longer term.

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