So you’ve heard about probiotics, but what about prebiotics? These non-digestible plant fibers promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics and probiotics support good digestive health and may be beneficial for those with IBS, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, or even food allergies! When I was diagnosed with my food sensitivities, my physician gave me a vegan probiotic to promote the good bacteria in my gut and to help mitigate some of the inflammation caused by my allergic response to certain foods. Probiotics (the beneficial bacteria) have been shown to promote regulatory responses in both the mucosal villi in the jejunum and in the mesenteric lymph nodes. These studies concluded that inflammation in response to a model of peanut sensitivity was reduced through probiotic supplementation by inducing TGF-β, a cytokine with an important role in the immune system via regulation of T cells expressing FOXP3. (Had your fill of molecular biology for the day? Welcome to my life in Nutritional Sciences research, where these molecules are routinely mentioned on my floor! Pretty cool to be in the thick of it).
Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses with live cultures, are known for containing probiotics (thanks, in part, to the 5 million commercials in which we’ve seen Jamie Lee Curtis Foods talk about how she stays on the reg with Activiaaaaaaa); however, there are vegan sources of probiotics as well, including kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh. Want some more information on kimchi? Check out fellow blogger 365 Days of Food’s recent post on kimchi! Now, to feed those good bacteria, we need some foods containing prebiotics, such as chicory root, artichokes, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and onions, which contain high levels of inulin and oligosaccharides. Pack a bigger punch by creating synbiotic meals that contain both prebiotics and probiotics, such as a stir fry with tempeh and asparagus! For the non-vegans out there, try some Greek yogurt topped with bananas and blueberries for an extra antioxidant kick! Want more ideas? Check out these prebiotic-rich recipes from the NY Times!
Spring is here- the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming… our allergies are going crazy. So while you’re outside soaking up some vitamin D while watering your plants, mowing your lawn, and landscaping, don’t forget to also fertilize your intestinal flora with some healthy prebiotics! ❤ Nika