As a health conscious person, you are likely aware of the fact that digestive health is directly linked to overall health. This means that keeping our digestive systems healthy must be a priority in our lives if we want to be healthy and feel good. You may also know that a diet rich in probiotics is a must when it comes to having a healthy gut, and most of us are familiar with probiotic foods and supplements.
So how do we keep our digestive systems healthy? Three things come to my mind when I ask myself that question.
1. We can eat a healthy real food diet.
2. We can utilize herbal bitters to help stimulate the digestive process.
3. We can increase the amount of pre- and probiotics that we consume.
I’m sure you also know that a diet rich in probiotics is a must when it comes to having a healthy gut, and most of us are familiar with probiotic foods and supplements. But what are preboitics? Glad you asked!
What Are Prebiotics & How Do They Help Our Digestive Systems
Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds found in the soluble fiber contained in certain plants that help stimulate growth and activity of gut flora within the digestive tract. Examples of the prebiotic substances found in this type of fiber consist of inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides, and from my understanding, these are basically a bunch of saccharide molecules that ferment and help feed our gut flora so that they stay strong and healthy.
Simply put… prebiotics are like fertilizer to probiotics.
Now you may be thinking, “Why take prebiotics if I’m already getting enough probiotics?”
Well, no matter if you already eat a diet high in probiotic rich foods or you opt for a great probiotic supplement, you ideally want your gut flora to be able to survive on their own without you constantly having to keep up with them. Another reason is that there may come a time when you can’t consume probiotic-rich foods or supplements, and in that case, you’re going to need to do what you can to keep your intestinal flora as healthy as possible.
What Foods & Herbs Are Prebiotics?
Several foods are high in prebiotics, but don’t stress about memorizing these. Simply eat a good variety of vegetables as they contain soluble fibers (especially in their skins). There’s also a lot of debate on the daily amount of prebiotics we need as it varies by individual. I’d also like to point out that raw foods will contain more prebiotics, but cooking only diminishes it by 10% (Sisson, 2010).
- Jerusalem artichokes
Beyond foods, herbs contain prebiotics and a lot of them, and supposedly in higher amounts than foods, too. Don’t you just love that? I know I do. I love that we can use herbs for their amazing nutritional benefits as well as their medicinal benefits.
Below you’ll see a list of some herbs that are know to contain prebiotics in their fiber (we purchase ours here). Keep in mind that these herbs are to be used powdered in order to obtain the soluble fiber from them. Teas and tinctures don’t give you fiber!
- dandelion root
- burdock root
- chicory root
- marshmallow root
- elecampane root
- licorice root
- slippery elm (on the United Plant Savers At-Risk list)
A Prebiotic Herbal Electuary Recipe
1 part licorice root powder*
1 part dandelion root powder
1 part marshmallow root powder
1 part elecampane root powder
raw honey – warmed
*Do not take licorice root if you have high blood pressure, kidney or liver problems, diabetes, heart disease, or are pregnant.
- Measure and combine herbal powders in a bowl.
- Add just enough warmed honey to form a thick paste.
- Take 1 teaspoon daily in between each meal. (I like to eat it directly off the spoon… yum!)
What do you do to promote healthy gut flora? Let’s chat in the comments below!
Meagan Visser is a registered nurse turned home-schooling, stay-at-home mom to 4 small boys. She live in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee, and is currently a family herbalist that is passionate about using herbs for health and healing. She teaches natural-minded mamas how to take charge of their children’s health naturally on her blog GrowingUpHerbal.com and in her Letters To Natural Mamas emails.
Sisson, M. (2010). A Primal Primer: Prebiotics. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from MarksDailyApple.com
Newgent, J. (2013). Prebiotics and Probiotics: The Dynamic Duo. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from EatRight.org