Gut Biome 2: Prebiotics, polyphenols.
Posted on 13th November 2023 at 11:26
My previous article on the Gut Biome discussed probiotics. Prebiotics are basically types of fibre that are not digested but are used as a source of nutrition in the gut by probiotics, are not digested but are used as a source of nutrition in the gut by probiotics. They help to stimulate the growth or activity of intestinal bacteria.
While many claims have been made about them being able to improve or prevent specific conditions, there is little medical research to support these; but there appears no doubt that a good intake and balance of pre- & pro-biotics is good for health and wellbeing in general.
Good natural supplies of pre-biotics are found in vegetables, fruit, pulses/rice and flax/chia/hemp seeds, honey and dark chocolate.
Polyphenols are nutrients in plants (“phytonutrients”) which help protect the plants from disease and assist in sunlight absorption. They are claimed to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, helping to fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. As with pre-biotics, many of the specific health claims are yet to be substantiated by proper clinical research (it is relatively early days in the understanding of both, so that is perhaps not surprising), but it does seem sensible to have a healthy intake of these too. Polyphenols tend to be high in fruits and vegetables with vibrant colours, so if you consider “eating the rainbow” you are likely to achieve a balanced intake. Turmeric, ginger and chili are good too.
All of which, you might argue, is just another iteration of what was once called the “Mediterranean Diet”. In a sense, you’re right, although we now have more specific information about why that is healthy. For those of us not living in sunnier climes, for whom an abundant and varied supply of fresh, locally produced fruit & veg at the weekly market is not an option, there is still a good year-round availability of most of what we need (and polyphenols survive in frozen food). Also, do not forget the importance of Vitamin D (see my other blogs).
How long should one persevere with this sort of balanced diet? Well, pursuit of health is something I have always regarded as a life sentence, but with parole: as Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation….including moderation”. So choosing a selection of high fibre and incorporating these into your regular diet would be a good start. Reduce consumption of carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, pasta). Fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, apple cider vinegar, as well as yoghourt or kefir (the latter apparently has a larger and more diverse array of healthy gut bugs than the former). Reduce your portion size. If you adhere to this, with the occasional treat, you will feel better for it.
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