What is a pre-biotic? A pre-biotic is simply dietary fiber. Fiber is naturally occurring in the legumes, fruits and vegetables of a nourishing plant-based diet. The function of dietary fiber is to act as "brushes" in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). As the fiber scrapes by the villi of the intestinal wall, sticky debris is removed to expose GI tissue to the current nutrients passing through -thus benefiting nutrient absorption.
Pre-biotics provide opportunities for pro-biotics. Good bacteria (which are beneficial to immune protection, digestion of nutrients, production of vitamin K and much more) are allowed the opportunity to adhere to the intestinal lining after it has been "cleaned" by fiber. These good bacteria, or probiotics, also provide protection against: urinary tract infection, auto-immune diseases, ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria, and esophageal conditions. For more information and videos regarding probiotics and their dietary sources, see my October post Vegetable ferments and Probiotics.
The gut has been called the "Second brain". The intestinal system is known to produce more than 80% of the neurotransmitters which feed the wellness and function of the brain. Serotonin (90% production coming from the intestine), helps to stabilize the moods and emotions. Starches in the diet help to stimulate serotonin production, so a cautionary statement is appropriate here. Consumption of high sugar and refined carbohydrates can increase serotonin production but can also contribute to dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels, causing a vicious cycle of addiction. Sugary and refined carbohydrate foods also are very acidic and contribute to feeding the bad bacteria in the gut which in turn produce negative health effects. On the other hand, healthy starches, whole grains with their fiber, potatoes and other starchy vegetables are great sources of energy for the body and brain!
Dr. Pam Popper, Wellness Forum, talks about fiber, probiotics and GI health.
Foods that "bog" down the gut (slow digestion and nutrient absorption)
- dairy products
- meat - red meat, poultry, fish
- high fat foods
- refined flours
- low fiber foods
- soy products
- high fructose corn syrup