The COVID-19 pandemic has brought ‘Immunity and Health’ to spot light in all our lives. Did you know that not just white blood cells but our gut also holds an effective immunity shield?
Yes, the human gut has a large community comprising of more than 100 trillion microbes residing symbiotically within it. These microbes serve several vital functions to the body. A disruption in this microbial community can pave the way to intestinal diseases (like IBS and IBD) and metabolic disorders (like diabetes and obesity). The gut micro organisms fight infections by detoxifying toxins, reducing inflammation, secreting or producing Immunoglobulins (IgA), and stimulating T cells death. If this community is disturbed, the micro heroes (i.e., gut microbes) can be rescued by the other macro and micro heroes namely, the Prebiotics and Probiotics.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics are substrates that are used to promote the growth of microorganisms as well as administered probiotic strains, to confer health benefits to the host. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits on the host when provided in adequate amounts.
The most common prebiotics are fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, xylooligosaccharides inulin, fructans, psyllium and compounds like proteins, flavonoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and micronutrients can also exhibit prebiotic effects. The probiotic strains found in functional and fermented foods are species of Lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, Enterococci, Leuconostoc, Saccharomyces etc.
Prebiotics posses cholesterol lowering properties thereby preventing dyslipidemia and cardiovascular diseases. It also helps in preventing cancer, improves immunity, enhances mineral bioavailability, improves bowel symptoms, and helps in weight loss by providing satiety.
Probiotics manifests health benefits such as inhibiting allergic reactions, maintaining blood cholesterol levels, improving bioavailability of nutrients like calcium, maintaining intestinal pH, and promotes immunity.
Studies revealed that probiotics are a great tool for people with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic disorders. Probiotics supplementation showed glycemic control, reduced cholesterol levels, blood pressure control, and reduced inflammatory markers. They display antioxidant, antiplatelet, and anti-inflammatory properties and also help in maintaining optimal lipid levels by promoting cardiovascular health.
Studies also reported that supplementation of probiotics among gestational diabetes patients reduced fasting blood sugar, serum insulin levels and showed significant effects on insulin resistance, and sensitivity. Reductions in total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL), and serum triglycerides among gestational women on supplementation were also reported. Probiotics are also beneficial in treating hepatic disease, gastroenteritis, and diarrhea.
Both prebiotics and probiotics have also been found effective in COVID-19 infection. Probiotics act as ACE receptor (the gateway for SARS-COV-2 virus) blockers, whereas prebiotics enhance the growth of probiotics and block the ACE enzymes causing an effect on gastrointestinal symptoms caused by COVID.
We do not have to always buy supplements to avail the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics. Several foods and traditional food items are a great source. Prebiotics are found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables like apple, asparagus, banana, garlic, onions, barley, oats, legumes, wheat etc. Some of the probiotic rich foods are yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, buttermilk, lassi, miso, natto, and some fermented cheeses.
Prebiotics and Probiotics are the trending macro and micro heroes that provide several health benefits to the host. Including food sources rich in prebiotics and probiotics in our daily diet is being encouraged by Nutritionists and Doctors. Get your hands on the prebiotics and probiotics and enjoy its benefits.
“Nourish your intestinal flora to nourish yourself.”
- Soundharya M G