The doctor might order us to take an antibiotic to help fight an infection when we are sick. I was given penicillin as a kid. Later in life, I was given amoxicillin. Erythromycin and ciprofolxacin are also commonly used antibiotics today. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria in our guts. Our gut contains eighty percent of our immune system.
If we keep our immune systems primed to do battle with harmful bacteria and viruses, we would not need antibiotics. I’ve discovered over the years that doctors don’t recommend taking probiotics to help our intestinal system recover from the antibiotics. Probiotics work well to restore some of the good bacteria. Prebiotics help even more.
A food that is not digestible and stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria in your digestive system is called a prebiotic. Prebiotics are nonliving, non-digestible forms of fiber and/or carbohydrates. Prebiotics perform their role by nourishing the bacteria that live in the intestines. Prebiotics can survive heat, cold, and acid.
Probiotics are live active microorganisms that when administered in adequate amount will have beneficial effects on its host. Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria are the most commonly used microorganisms for probiotics. Probiotics are more fragile, vulnerable to heat, and may be killed over time. Probiotics fight the harmful bacteria present in the gut.
Prebiotics are contained in many traditional foods – soybeans, jicama, oats, wheat, and barley to name a few. Prebiotics are also found in breast milk – an important source for the development of an infant’s immune system. It is important to realize that no particular plant or food is a prebiotic – they contain prebiotics – some more than others do.
The FDA has not set a recommended daily allowance for prebiotics. However, it is recommended that four to eight grams are required for good digestive health. The prebiotic does not focus on one specific type of gastric bacteria but provides an enhanced environment for them to grow. Your immune system grows stronger. You have the ability to enhance the absorption of minerals when beneficial gastric bacteria grow in your digestive system.
If you want to average six grams of prebiotics from common food sources – how much of what would you have to eat? One and a quarter ounces of raw garlic – a little less than two ounces of raw leek, two and a half ounces of raw onion or a quarter pound of cooked onion, a quarter pounds of raw asparagus, a quarter pound of cooked whole wheat flour, a quarter pound of raw wheat bran, one and a third pounds of raw bananas, etc. Obviously, people don’t typically eat one and third pounds of bananas a day, but you can combine a little of this with some of that and average out of daily needs and still watch your caloric intake and overall nutrition.
Studies have shown that prebiotics work well to increase mineral absorption, especially calcium. Other benefits noted from these studies are increased immune system effectiveness, reduction in risk of colorectal cancer and reduced risk of inflammatory bowel disorders. Intestinal regularity is one of the first signs that everything is working according to plan. Don’t overload to catch up on what you might have been missing. You might also notice a temporary increase in gas, bloating and the number of bowel movements.
Keep your gut healthy and you will be healthier for it.