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Diet & Nutrition

The Importance of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Both prebiotics and probiotics are essential components of a healthy diet. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics, which contain live bacteria. Together, they help promote the growth of the good bac- teria in your intestines and maintain your gut’s ecosystem. When a food contains both substances, it is called synbiotic: a synergistic combination of the two.

Prebiotics

Onions and garlic are terrific sources of prebiotics, so use them liberally. Other sources are asparagus, artichokes, dandelion greens, leeks, and chicory. Prebiotics are a form of dietary fiber, prebiotics occur naturally in plants, although in tiny amounts. They are resistant to heat from cooking and to stomach acid, and they cannot be digested. They move through the digestive system to the large intestine, where they nourish beneficial gut bacteria.

There’s no need for prebiotic supplements. However, you could look for cereal and bread with prebiotics added.

Probiotics

These beneficial bacteria that colonize the gastrointestinal tract are essential for good health. The research conducted thus far about the role of probiotics is encouraging. It indicates that probiotics do the following:

*Help stop diarrhea, including bouts that happen as a result of taking antibiotics.

*Stave off vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections, and help treat those that may occur anyway.

*Ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

*Lower the risk of bladder cancer recurring.

*Help with healing intestinal infections more 
quickly.

*Ward off eczema and aid in curing established cases of the condition.

*Reduce the likelihood of contracting colds and flu, and make the illnesses less severe if they do happen. Here are some good sources of probiotics.

Yogurt

Look for the words “live active cultures” on the label that tells you the yogurt is a source of probiotics. Yogurt is considered synbiotic because it contains both the bacteria and the fuel the bacteria need to thrive.

In addition to all the other reason that probiotics are good for you, yogurt turns out to have an additional benefit. A University of California, Los Angeles study of women who regularly consumed yogurt with probiotics provides the first evidence that changing the bacterial environment, or microbiota, in the gut can positively affect brain function.

The lead researcher, Karen Tillisch, M.D., noted that many people eat yogurt because they like it or for the calcium content, but the study findings indicate yogurt may do much more that that  It may change the way a person’s brain responds to the environment. In fact, just 4 weeks of yogurt-with-probiotics consumption was enough to show a difference in the activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.

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