What Do Probiotics and St. Patty's Day Have in Common?

Your diet is made up of many dif­fer­ent parts. Each part helps your body func­tion and work each day. You may be famil­iar with some of the dif­fer­ent nutri­ents in your food like vit­a­mins, min­er­als, and pro­teins, but a well-round­ed diet includes so much more. 

Oth­er key aspects of a well-round­ed diet — and espe­cial­ly a healthy gut — are pro­bi­otics and prebiotics. 

While pro­bi­otics are a term you might hear on TV or social media, you may be won­der­ing what they are, what they do, and if you should be eat­ing more of them. These are all great ques­tions, and here are the answers. 

1. Why should I eat pro­bi­otics and prebiotics? 

Dif­fer­ent nutri­ents help your body and health in dif­fer­ent ways. Vit­a­min D can pro­tect your bones, pro­tein can help you build mus­cle, and vit­a­min C can help keep you from get­ting sick. Pro­bi­otics also can play a role in your health by main­tain­ing a healthy bal­ance of good bac­te­ria in your gut.

While you may hear the word bac­te­ria” and think about get­ting sick, this kind of bac­te­ria is dif­fer­ent, and it can actu­al­ly be help­ful for your body. Pro­bi­otics are the good kind of bac­te­ria that can be found in your diges­tive tract.

Hav­ing a healthy bal­ance of bac­te­ria in your gut might not seem like it will have a big impact, but it can help improve your diges­tion, immune sys­tem, weight man­age­ment, skin health, and even brain health.

Pre­bi­otics on the oth­er hand aren’t bac­te­ria but are instead made up of dietary fibers. Your body can’t digest these fibers, so you might be won­der­ing why you need them. Pre­bi­otics can help the pro­bi­otics do their work in your body, which is why it’s best to con­sume some of both. 

Many pre­bi­otics are found nat­u­ral­ly in foods that are already full of oth­er nutri­ents, like bananas and beans. These foods can pro­vide you with many of the vit­a­mins and min­er­als your body needs any­way — hav­ing a pre­bi­ot­ic ben­e­fit is just a bonus!

To learn more about improv­ing the health of your diges­tive sys­tem with pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics or to dis­cuss any diges­tive con­cerns or symp­toms, you can sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our pri­ma­ry care physi­cians online or by call­ing your desired location.

2. How can I get more pre- and pro­bi­otics in my diet? 

When it comes to mak­ing a healthy addi­tion to your diet, there’s no time like the present. You can focus on your gut health at any time of the year, but it might be even more rel­e­vant on St. Patrick’s Day.

You may be won­der­ing what the con­nec­tion is between pro- and pre­bi­otics and this March hol­i­day. While they might seem unre­lat­ed, they are con­nect­ed by one lucky food: cabbage.

Cab­bage can both be a pre­bi­ot­ic and a pro­bi­ot­ic depend­ing on how it is cooked. On its own, cab­bage is already a pre­bi­ot­ic. But when it is turned into sauer­kraut or kim­chi, the fer­ment­ing process cre­ates bac­te­ria that make it a probiotic. 

So if your St. Patrick’s Day cel­e­bra­tions include a spe­cial din­ner of corned beef and cab­bage, you’re not only treat­ing your­self to a great meal, but you’re treat­ing your gut, too. 

    It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that not all pro­bi­otics are cre­at­ed equal — espe­cial­ly when it comes to sup­ple­ments you might find in the store. Pro­bi­ot­ic sup­ple­ments aren’t all held to the same FDA stan­dards as oth­er pre­scrip­tion drugs. This means you may not know exact­ly what is in them or how hon­est a com­pa­ny is being about their product. 

    Eat­ing a lit­tle bit more yogurt in your diet is one thing and is gen­er­al­ly going to be harm­less — even if it doesn’t dras­ti­cal­ly improve your health. Tak­ing a ran­dom pro­bi­ot­ic sup­ple­ment that you saw on Tik­Tok is anoth­er thing and could actu­al­ly be very harmful.

    3. Who should try probiotics? 

    Gut health is impor­tant for every­one, and research sug­gests that pro­bi­otics and pre­bi­otics have pos­i­tive impacts on your health. 

    Recent research has shown that pro­bi­otics may be ben­e­fi­cial for peo­ple who have:

    • Irri­ta­ble Bow­el Syndrome

    • Inflam­ma­to­ry Bow­el Disease 

    • Con­sti­pa­tion

    We don’t know every­thing there is to know about pro­bi­otics, and there is still a lot to learn. Future stud­ies will con­tin­ue to look at how gut health may impact over­all health and can give med­ical providers a bet­ter idea about who pro­bi­otics can help. 

    It’s All About Balance

    Just like with oth­er aspects of your diet, it’s all about bal­ance. Everybody’s body is unique and responds to new foods in its own way. 

    If you’re inter­est­ed in eat­ing more gut-healthy foods like pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics, start by talk­ing to your Duly pri­ma­ry care provider. They can review your med­ical his­to­ry and under­stand your health goals or con­cerns. They can also answer any ques­tions you may have and help you fig­ure out what changes in your diet are healthy and safe. 

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    • Gloria Okereke, DO - Orland Park Family Doctor

      As a primary healthcare physician, I am strongly committed to providing high quality comprehensive care to each and every one of my patients. This involves listening to my patients with careful attention to their needs and providing them with evidence-based knowledge to improve their health. My experience in medicine has further solidified the importance of establishing great relationships with patients and attention to detail in order to improve outcomes.