Prebiotics and probiotics are our allies for a healthy tummy. What is it about? How do they work and where do you find them?
Prebiotics, to nourish our microorganisms
What is it ?
Just as a combustion engine vehicle cannot operate without gasoline, our microorganisms need specific energy and nutrients to fuel themselves, maintain their balance and effectively resist attacks. These fuels are vital compounds found in foods rich in fiber. It’s a complex chain of sugar molecules that our bodies can’t digest, but the intestinal bacteria are fond of.
How do prebiotics? act on the intestines?
Two main actions: on the one hand, prebiotics stimulate the growth and activity of some friendly bacteria – such as Bifidobacterium and lactobacilli – at the expense of pathogens; On the other hand, by breaking down these fibers, bacteria release compounds that are beneficial to the body. Gastroenterologist William Peribe summarizes: “These medications significantly improve the functioning of the immune system, regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels, or enhance fat metabolism.”
Where are prebiotics found?
Plants are full of it, especially whole grains and legumes (lentils, beans, fava beans, etc.), but also vegetables and fruits. Among the best products offered are: artichokes, onions, shallots, garlic… On the sweet side, apples, pears, apricots, red fruits, bananas, dried fruits and nuts. It is recommended to consume at least 30 grams of fiber per day. An amount that is relatively easy to achieve, according to Dr. Preby: “You just need a varied diet. This corresponds, per serving, with 150-200 grams of raw vegetables, 150-200 grams of cooked green vegetables, and a small fruit (or one large one). ) and 100 grams of rye bread. Also alter some reflexes by eating an apple instead of pastry if a little hungry.” Are we in danger of eating too much fiber? No, except for possible digestive upset.
The extra thing: bet on seeds
It is enough to adopt simple reactions to include fiber in your diet: sprinkle yogurt with wheat bran, oats or psyllium; Garnish the salad with sesame, pumpkin or flaxseeds. eat fresh fruit (preferably with the peel) instead of juice; And for cakes, replace some of the white flour with wholemeal flour.
The right recipe: Special Fiber Smoothie
This drink has good points: it provides vitamins A, E, B, C … but also minerals (potassium, magnesium …) and fiber in large quantities. Take a banana, two apples, a handful of spinach, a zucchini and 250 ml of oat milk (preferably organic products to reduce the content of pesticides). Cut the peeled fruits and vegetables into pieces and put them in a blender. Add oat milk and mix everything. it’s ready !
Probiotics, to fill in the good bacteria
What is it ?
According to the World Health Organization, “Probiotics are microorganisms that, when taken in sufficient quantities, positively affect health.” Concretely, under this name, both good bacteria and yeasts and micro-fungi are hidden, which will improve the diversity and quality of our intestinal microorganisms.
How do they act on the intestines?
The mechanisms are not all known, but they appear to be manifold. First, by reaching the digestive system, these good bacteria compete with bad bacteria and thus limit their growth. They also affect the barrier effect of the intestine, by stimulating the production of mucus that prevents the attachment of pathogens. Another type of action: “Bifidobacteria, for example, will increase the level of so-called tight junction proteins, which allow cells of the epithelium (the protective layer of the intestine) to ensure good permeability,” defines Philip Langela, director of research at Inrae.
Where are they found?
The first source: food. We bet on fermented vegetables (raw sauerkraut, but also olives, pickles, carrots, celery, etc.), sourdough bread, some cheeses (especially those made from raw milk, eaten with the peel) and, of course, fermented yogurt or Yogurt produced by the fermentation of milk by lactic acid bacteria. Some drinks are also on the rise, such as kefir or kombucha, which are made with milk, sugar water, or brewed tea. What about nutritional supplements? Unlike medicines, its efficacy does not need to be proven in marketing. But several publications indicate that they may have an interest in different indicators.
The plus thing: move regularly
Studies with volunteers with different traits (high-level athletes, women cured of cancer, etc.) confirm that regular physical activity is beneficial for germs. By what mechanisms? Muscle contractions associated with oxygen consumption would improve bacterial diversity and the proportion of good bacteria.
The right recipe: kefir, a highly fermented drink
Mix 1 liter of water, 100 grams of kefir grains, 1 dried fig, half a lemon and 50 grams of sugar. Cover with a cloth and leave for 24 hours at room temperature. Strain and store in the fridge for another 24 hours in a closed jar…and enjoy.
Sometimes treatment is necessary
William Periby, gastroenterologist and hepatologist and author of the book microbiotic medicine (Editor, Marabut, 2022).
I’m interested: Should we take probiotics as a supplement?
William Priby: It may be interesting to boost immunity as winter approaches, but also in various diseases. I advise you to consult a doctor. For example, if you have transit disorders and abdominal pain and are considering treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, it is important that your GP or gastroenterologist confirm this diagnosis and remove any other causes, including organic ones.
What types of products should be preferred?
First, choose those whose breeds can be recognized. In the box, you should see the type (LactobacillusAnd the Bifidobacterium…), Type (Bulgarian…) and lineage (letters or number). Today, manufacturers offer combinations of several strains, but no publication has shown that they were effective. It is better to limit yourself to only one. Also check the amount of bacteria: each capsule should contain at least 1 billion. These “microcapsules” are protected by a lipid coating to counteract the acidity of the digestive system: they are more reliable than the freeze-dried forms. Packaging is also important because bacteria are sensitive to air or moisture. It is better to choose capsules in the blister rather than the ones in the bottle.
What is the duration of treatment?
Probiotics do not permanently colonize the intestines, and their effect is only transient. In order for the bacteria to be found in sufficient quantities and for them to have a positive effect, the treatment should be quite long, between one and three months. I also recommend taking it in the morning on an empty stomach, at least thirty minutes before a hot drink.
To find out more
Stress, hypersensitivity, depression … What if the solution came from bacteria?, Gabriel Perlmutter, ed. Flamarion, 2020.
Microbiota, the friend that protects you, Patrick Hellon, ed. Errolls, 2020.
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