Our individual gut contains more bacteria than stars in the Milky Way. Probiotics from both foods and supplements get a lot of attention and certainly serve a purpose in terms of gut health. Food sources such as Kefir, yogurts, kimchi, authentic sourdough bread, sauerkraut, are some foods that contain probiotics. But perhaps a component that isn’t as much talked about, and may play a larger role, is prebiotics- particularly resistant starch. If our gut already contains trillions + bacteria shouldn’t we be focused on “feeding” the right bacteria that we already have and are introducing with the probiotics. Probiotics, for a refresher, are live active cultures of bacteria. Prebiotics are what they feed on.
Resistant starch is difficult to digest so it passes thru the small intestine and into the large intestine where the gut bacteria break it down and transform it into a metabolite butyrate, a short chain fatty acid. Butyrate is the preferred energy source of the cells that line our digestive tract. These cells play an essential role in keeping our guts intact. Butyrate also helps mediate gene expression, gut tissue development, stress reduction, cell differentiation (read cancer prevention), to name a few functions. So to promote a thriving healthy gut, a steady and ideal daily supply of resistant starch and fiber is key. Foods high in resistant starch include lentils, beans, legumes, oats, greenish bananas, and rice, pasta, and potatoes that have been cooked and cooled. The process of cooking rice, past, and potatoes and cooling overnight changes the chemistry of the food and increases the resistance starch. Improving the gut microbiome can be felt within just a short amount of time after adding in these foods and can have a positive effect on mood, cognition, insulin sensitivity, inflammation, and metabolism. So if you aren’t already consuming these foods, add in a couple servings daily and just see how you feel! And let me know if you notice an improvement or have any questions about digestive health.