Prebiotics are Fuel for the Gut

Your gut bacteria need Prebiotic foods

Prebiotics are high-fibre foods that contain simple and complex  sugars but also non-digestible or resistant starches. We cannot digest them and they pass into our lower bowel and are zero calorie. Our gut bacteria ferment them to produce short chain fatty acids (scfa’s) and in the process they also  produce gas and in some people, excessive gas.

The highest content prebiotic foods are  –

Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, Leeks, Asparagus, Onions, Beans, Split-Peas, Lentils, Bran and Whole Oats, unripe fruits such as green bananas – [fructoligosaccharides-FOS]. There is a certain amount of Prebiotic is in all fibrous plant foods.

I guide my clients on a Low-Carb or Keto food plan to aim for 20g to 30g of fibre per day to ensure that bowels remain healthy.

If you have taken a round of antibiotics make sure that you help your gut bugs to flourish again by feeding them prebiotic foods while taking your probiotic supplement.

A word of caution: Indigestion, Excessive flatulence, Constipation, Diarrhea, Abdominal pain, Bloating

If you experience any of these, then high fibre can exacerbate them. Read about Probiotics in another of my articles and note that their effect on the body only lasts while they are being taken. You may need to take special action as your gut may no longer be able to process prebiotic food. There are specific dietary guidelines for IBS, Crohn’s, Colitis and SIBO conditions.

For others it may be just a case of introducing new foods such as lentils and beans,  little by little and using some of the supplemental tips below to aid digestion.

Passing intestinal gas / wind is normal. A typical adult does it about 15 times a day. Vegetarians who typically eat more beans, lentils and veggies produce more gas. Sulphur containing foods – [egg, onions, broccoli, sprouts, garlic, cabbage] can result in an unpleasant odour.  Milk and milk products can also be a problem as healthy bacteria are needed to metabolise lactose.

Supplements that may help to relieve wind build-up and indigestion

  1. A tea made from grated ginger and lime juice helps digestion, to be taken after a meal. Peppermint, caraway seed, fennel and aniseed have carminative properties that relieve intestinal wind reducing the gassy fermentation. You can buy teas that combine these herbs or soak them in boiling water and create your own tea.
  2. Wormwood and gentian are bitter herbs that stimulate the digestive juices, to be taken before meals. Digestive enzymes can be supplemented to support the complete breakdown of food, relieving indigestion, to be taken with meals at the beginning of the meal.
  3. Probiotics help the good bacteria to flourish and are discussed in the another educational blog
  4. Charcoal helps to absorb gas in the intestine and reduce the accompanying odour, to be taken after a meal. It can be taken in tablet form or as a powder in cold water, sipped through a straw to avoid staining teeth. Ask your pharmacist or health store for advice before using this.
  5. Fibres from bran, linseeds, oats, nuts & seeds, lentils, beans, psyllium help to bulk stools and soften them. I feature these in my recipes online.
  6. Goblet cells in our gut produce a mucous that lubricates our gut wall, binds toxins and acts as a diffusion barrier , protecting the gut wall from gases. Mucilage-containing herbs such as Slippery Elm or Marshmallow support mucus production also helping to keep stools soft – to be taken after meals and best before bedtime.
  7. Aloe Vera is a demulcent and sooth inflamed cell walls, relieving pain, to be taken first thing in the morning and before going to bed. You can buy it as a ‘shot’ drink in a health store.
  8. If there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the bowel, essential oils such as oregano can help to kill off bad bacteria. Wild Garlic  [a supplement and food] is also useful.
  9. Avoid fizzy drinks as carbon dioxide, it increases wind. Chew food thoroughly and eat slowly. Avoid eating when stressed.

Joan Moloney BSc Nutritional Therapy from Middlesex University, UK specialises in Weight-Loss Nutrition and motivational coaching and runs www.JustWeight.ie offering 8-week weight-loss programmes.

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