Did you know that there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells?
In our gut, there are 100 trillion microbes, and they constitute 90% of the cells in our body. That means that the majority of our cells are not human, but are microbial. Wow!
Those bacteria in our gut are referred to as gut microbiota.
Think of your gut as a garden. In our garden, we want flowers, vegetables and herbs to thrive (the good, healthy bacteria). We don’t want weeds (bad bacteria) to take hold of the soil, and prevent the flowers, vegetable and herbs from taking root and growing.
We can help our good plants to grow by putting in more good plant seeds (probiotics) and by feeding those seeds with water, sun and nutrients (prebiotics). These will help the good plants take root and grow strong.
Gophers, pests and pesky bugs (bad bacteria, an unhealthy diet) can actually kill off the good plants and help weeds multiply and take hold of the garden. Yikes!
How does gut bacteria impact our health?
Gut microbiota play a critical role for our overall health, regulating our immune system, mood, inflammation, blood pressure, metabolism and risk of disease.
Dysbiosis, the imbalance of gut bacteria (i.e. too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria), can create inflammation in the body.
Since inflammation is at the root of many diseases, an imbalance of gut bacteria can lead to a compromised immune system and health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live cultures of beneficial microbes.
Probiotics are ingested as dietary supplements or in food – including yogurt – as well as naturally fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.
Eating probiotics increases the number of good bacteria in our gut, and the good bacteria in our gut are associated with a healthy immune system.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are not beneficial microbes themselves, but they are the food for our gut microbes.
So, what makes a good food for our gut microbes?
Prebiotics are foods that cannot be broken down by our own digestive enzymes, but rather are fermented by our gut bacteria. Fermentation stimulates the growth of good bacteria in our gut! Some studies have even shown that eating prebiotics can reduce the number of pathogenic bacteria in our gut, like clostridia or salmonella.
Examples of prebiotics include leeks, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions, wheat, bananas, soybeans, honey, oatmeal, red wine and legumes.
Whether its probiotics or prebiotics, here are a few ways to eat right for your gut in Milwaukee.
Found at 207 W. Freshwater Way, Bowls offers quick, globally-inspired meal options in the form of, well, bowls! For something good for your gut, try the Thai Green Curry bowl, which contains the prebiotic asparagus, along with rice, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach and the titular Thai green curry sauce. Or dive into the Soba Noodle Bowl, which packs a one-two punch of prebiotics (broccoli) and probiotics (ginger-miso dressing).
Zyn, a Milwaukee-made holistic wellness drink containing turmeric, may help boost the health of your gut. Curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, is metabolized by gut microbiota. Find Zyn beverages at Sendik’s, Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative, Good Harvest Market and online at www.drinkzyn.com.
If you like to cook at home, you can create a filling and balanced breakfast of oatmeal drizzled with honey, a spoonful of crunchy almond butter and sliced banana. The ingredients are actually all prebiotics!
Zymbiotics is a local producer of all things fermented, from sauerkraut and ginger carrots to vegan kimchi. You can find Zymbiotic products at markets and foodstores throughout Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago and the Midwest as well as online.
Seoul Korean Restaurant
Seoul Korean Restaurant, located at 2178 N. Prospect Ave., can satisfy all your kimchi cravings, from their kimchi pancake to kimchi fried rice and kimchi ramen.
Costco has the best prices for kombucha, a fermented tea drink with a little fizz, a little sweetness and a little sourness. Stock up by bulk-buying an eight-pack of kombucha at your closest Costco.
Chelsea Gloeckner, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and the founder of VICTAE, a nutrition coaching business helping athletes and professionals reach their dreams and goals through practical and proper fueling.In her life and here content, Chelsea combines her love of nutrition, science, and food to provide a fresh perspective on how to live a full and vibrant life.