Probiotics, prebiotics for a healthier gut

October 5, 2013 10:10:56 AM PDT
It hits tens of millions of people right in the gut, literally. Chronic intestinal distress, like irritable bowel syndrome, can make life miserable, but one doctor says food, instead of pharmaceuticals, could help tame your tummy.

"The intestines are not a sewerage system," said Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff of Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. "They're a garden, and we need to be good gardeners."

Integrative medicine physician Dr. Plotnikoff says what happens in your stomach can impact your entire body.

"Gut health is the foundation for all health. Our gut bacteria regulate our mood, our energy, our immune system, even our metabolism," he said.

Bad gut bacteria leads to, "gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea -- the things that no one wants to talk about," said the doctor.

A gut full of good bacteria, called probiotics, can help prevent those problems.

The doctor says they're like seeds in your gut garden that flourish with the help of prebiotics--a special form of dietary fiber.

"These are like Miracle-Gro for our internal garden. I prescribe foods that are actually going to support the friendly bacteria in our gut," Plotnikoff said.

He says cultured products, like tofu and yogurt, are great for your gut, and so are fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir (fermented milk), and kombucha are a few other fermented foods that stimulate growth of good bacteria.

Asparagus, artichokes, and carrots are packed with prebiotics, in addition to apples and oranges, the doctor said.

Plotnikoff believes these foods are a low-cost, side-effect free alternative to medications for gut problems.

"Don't take my word for it. Trust your gut," he said.

While some, like Doctor Plotnikoff, swear by probiotics and prebiotics, others are skeptical about the benefits. Supplements containing probiotics and prebiotics are not regulated by the FDA.


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