PRE AND PRO
So what can we do about this? There’s still much research to be done on this subject, but so far a few things have been established. Nutritional advice for feeding your gut bugs is fairly predictable. Mostly, the good guys love real food, especially soluble fibres that come from plants. They thrive on the fermentable carbohydrates that all vegetables and fruit deliver.
Diversity is key; each type of food supports a different microbe population, so variety supports the diversity of the entire microbiome. Like vitamins and minerals, the gut bugs work together in teams, with one type working only when another is present.
The endotoxin-producing bad guys proliferate with manufactured foods, especially refined sugar and wheat, and the bad fats that are the vegetable (industrial seed) oils such as corn, soy and sunflower.
This is all a matter of degree, a continual push and pull, with either the inflammatory or anti-inflammatory microbes dominating at any point in time. The mere presence of fermentable carbohydrates feeding the good guys can be enough to make a positive difference.
‘Prebiotics’ is the term used for the food you eat that supports the good guys, mostly soluble plant fibre. It can be a very smart move to consume extra fibre in supplement form, blending it into soups or smoothies.
There’s also the possibility of using ‘probiotics’, which introduce strains of beneficial gut bugs. Many studies show that various strains of the microbe Lactobacillus are strongly anti-inflammatory – but only if they have a “pre-existing diverse microbial community” to work with.
A number of different studies show beneficial outcomes from the introduction of probiotic compounds consumed in capsules. These are a bit of a shot in the dark, though, because the value of introducing strains will at least partly depend on what you happen to have to start with. It’s also said that most probiotics don’t survive the harsh environment in the stomach. And, once introduced they’ll still need feeding with the real food that keeps them alive.
The benefits can be real, though. Studies have shown positive results with probiotic use for allergies, digestive problems and depression (serotonin is made in the intestines) to name a few. With the reduction of inflammation come improvements in a wide number of processes, including a stronger immune system, and the loss of excess fat. Research in this area is gaining momentum, and we are sure to hear more of this story in years to come.