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The Pros of Pro and Prebiotics

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on November 6, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Blog

Probiotics have been making the news for the last few years. Their efficacy is so convincing that they are found as ingredients not only in yogurt, but baby food, pizza crust, toothpaste – and even skincare (I myself am enamored of at-home yogurt masks). In our house, I up our intake of probiotics as soon as cold and flu season hits, maintaining a healthy army of good bacteria to help fend off the bad.

We all have an amount of healthy bacteria living in our guts, often referred to as “friendly” bacteria, which helps keep bad bacteria and yeast from growing in our intestinal tract. The amount of friendly bacteria can vary from person to person, but we live in a culture that promotes a lack of the healthy stuff . Our poor diets are notoriously high in sugar, caffeine, alcohol and refined grain, stress, and antibiotics (they kill the good with the bad). This all leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast.

Lack of good bacteria leads to stomach upsets, poor digestion, allergies, and illness – all symptoms of a compromised immune system. In other words: without our little bacterial friends, we’re asking for trouble.

Upping our healthy bacteria is as easy as eating some of our (probably, hopefully) favorite foods (if they’re not, read on for an easier-to-stomach solution). Probiotic bacteria – lactobacillus, acidophilus, etc – can be found in foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, which are naturally fermented.

More and more foods found at our local supermarket and health foodstore contain probiotics, so eating them can be as easy as probiotic pie. Even easier is taking a supplement, usually a refrigerated capsule of powder (choose from tens of brands) or the liquid probiotic “shooter” by BIO K (my personal fave). Be forewarned: you who are seriously lacking healthy bacteria need to take it slowly! Recommended doses in the introductory phase can cause gas and stomach upset. Start with half the amount, and work up to full strength. Trust me on this one.

Every friend needs a friend, and prebiotics are the BFF’s of the pros. They come from carbohydrate fibers called oligosaccharides which are indigestible by us humans, but feed the probiotics and keep them alive. The source of these oligosaccharides includes fruits, legumes, and whole grains. For those of us lacking enough in our diets, fructo-oligosaccharides can be taken as additional supplements.

In this day and age of over-sanitization, overuse of antibiotics, poor diets and stress, we seem to be ailing more and more. No wonder: these conditions all contribute to an overabundance of bad bacteria in our bodies, creating a stressed out, limited immune system. Boosting our immunity is as simple as replenishing our friendly bacteria – just go pro!

Love, Sage

Read also: The Downsides Of Three Of The Most Popular Diets

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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