Prebiotics Part-2 - Foods that Help us Keep Body Inflammation in Check
Updated: Mar 27
This article is Part 2 of a two-part series about prebiotics. For learning more about this topic, please, check out Part 1 of this series. (1)
In my last article in this series, I explained what is the gut microbiome, factors that influence our gut flora/microbiome composition, how does the gut microbiome affect our immune system, how to feed our gut flora/microbiome, what is prebiotic fiber, how does prebiotics help the digestive system, prebiotics and the production of short-chain fatty acids, the benefits of prebiotics go far beyond our gut, increasing prebiotic consumption, how do we get prebiotics in our diet? Through foods or supplements, the most common substances that act as prebiotics, foods that are rich in prebiotic substances, and more.
In this article, you are going to learn how to take a good care of your gut microbiome. You will find a few lists of plant foods containing variable amounts and forms of prebiotic substances, including polyphenol-rich foods. Also, a list covering the best prebiotic supplements on the market, and much more.
How to stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria?
As we learned in the last article, prebiotics, including polyphenol compounds, are non-digestible substances that resist our normal digestion.
Then, these substances are fermented and serve as fuel to our colonic bacteria. Stimulating the growth of beneficial gut species and creating an ideal environment where gut microorganisms can thrive.
Prebiotics fibers are simple and powerful tools found in whole-food sources that can be used in our diet not only to help support a rich, diverse, and balanced gut microbiome but also, for good health in general. (2, 3)
Gut microbiome richness and diversity
. Richness is the total number of bacteria species in our gut microbiome.
. Diversity is the number of individual bacteria from each of the bacterial species present in our intestinal microbiome.
The two most important concepts to keep in mind is that a healthy and resilient gut microbiome relies on high richness and diversity.
In reality, when we have a rich and diverse gut microbiome, we have a much more capable and resilient community of microbes. With many different species of bacteria and with a large number of each specie. Or a more balanced internal ecosystem, conducive to a stronger and more stable immune system. (4, 5)
Prebiotics in the maintenance of good health
Prebiotic substances have the potential to increase the production of anti-inflammatory compounds known as SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids) like butyrate, valerate, and propionate.
There are substantial evidence supporting that SCFAs play an important role in the maintenance of health and the development of disease. As example:(6)
The production of SCFAs is essential for gut integrity by regulating the luminal pH, preventing IBD - inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal mucus production, providing fuels for epithelial cells, protective against colon cancer, and more (see more here -7, 8)
To be metabolically healthy means that our body is able to respond to food in a beneficial way that reduces our risk of conditions such as obesity, type 2-diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, etc. (
SCFAs directly regulate metabolic health through a range of mechanisms related to appetite regulation, energy expenditure, glucose homeostasis, reducing fasting blood sugar, body weight, and improving insulin sensitivity. Reducing plasma concentrations of cholesterol, and more. (9)
There is lots of evidence suggesting that SCFAs may influence microbiota-gut-brain communication through many routes. For example, some SCFAs can enter into the blood circulation and then, cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to regulate the responses to inflammation. Also, it stimulates neural growth and development, and much more.
The purpose of the blood-brain barrier is to protect us against toxins or pathogens that could cause brain infections, while at the same time allowing vital nutrients to reach the brain. (10)
How does chronic inflammation affect our body?
Evidence suggests that most of the modern diseases share the same cause: chronic inflammation.
Consequently, prolonged or chronic inflammation is a risk factor for several diseases, including:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Autoimmune diseases
- Chronic liver and kidney disease
- Rheumatic arthritis
- Heart diseases
- Cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease among many others (11)
Body inflammation and disease
Inflammation needs to be considered from two different aspects:
- Rapid, short-term or acute inflammation
- Long-lasting or chronic inflammation
In reality, acute inflammation per se is not a bad thing and goes away within hours or a few days. It is our body’s way of protecting itself from infection, illness or any injury. It is critical for our survival and has a significant role in how our immune system maintains our body safe and healthy.
On the other side, chronic inflammation is a silent process that can last for months or even for years. Causing damage to our tissues, joints, organs, and blood vessels. Often, we neither see nor feel anything until significant problems are caused.
Generally, the extent and effects of chronic inflammation vary with the cause of the injury and the ability of our body to repair and overcome the damage.
Then, it is important to understand that chronic inflammation is not a specific disease but a process that over time can cause severe damage to our body. (12, 13)
Our diet and lifestyle causing chronic inflammation
Our diet and lifestyle can directly affect every aspect of our health and can promote chronic inflammation in our body.
So, there is a lot we can do from a diet and lifestyle perspective to help our body do not get out of control and make us sick. (14)
Our food choices and chronic inflammation
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is what a typical American eat and is filled with ultra-processed foods. More precisely, 70 percent of the Americans’ plates represent processed foods. (15)
The main inflammatory components of the Standard American Diet (SAD) are:
- Refined carbohydrates (breads, cakes, pasta, grains, etc.)
- Industrial grain and seed oils (canola, sunflower, soybean, corn oil, etc.)
- Refined sugar (soft drinks, juices, etc.)
So, SAD is a diet low in fiber from fruits, vegetables, salads, and high in hydrogenated fats and sugar. Basically, this is a diet that is dense/rich in calories and deficient/poor in vital nutrients.
Obviously, our choices in the supermarket have a huge impact on our body's inflammation. Then, keep in mind that the best way for us to prevent chronic inflammation is removing from our shopping carts the modern, processed, and packaged modern foods. (16, 17)
As a general rule: If it comes in a package or box, don't buy it.
Foods that create imbalances in our intestinal flora
The composition of our gut flora/microbiota is constantly changing under the influence of factors such as our diet and lifestyle.
A diet packed with processed foods can cause a rapid and radical change in our gut microbiome and its functions. Producing microbial imbalances, known as gut dysbiosis, and contributing to chronic inflammatory processes with effects not restricted to our gut.
Gut dysbiosis can cause disruptions in the balance in both: in the composition and the diversity of the intestinal microbiome. Then, it might lead to increase permeability of the intestinal barrier (known as leaky gut). Resulting in low-grade systemic inflammation, metabolic disorders, and more. (18, 19, 20)
Intestinal dysbiosis and health consequences
Studies show that intestinal dysbiosis might have multitude health consequences such as:
- Small intestine bacterial overgrown (SIBO)
- Leaky gut, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
- Allergic disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer, and Parkinson
- Cancer and more (20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27)
Foods and supplements rich in prebiotic substances
One the other hand, in order to reduce body inflammation, you can generously include in your shopping cart, and in your daily diet all the foods listed below.
With one restriction:
If you have any blood sugar condition, it is better to limit your fruit intake to maximum two fruits a day. But you can freely eat all the berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. Since wild fruits have a very low sugar concentration and do not cause blood sugar spikes.
Also, remember that the lists below contain foods with variable amounts and forms of prebiotic fibers. Some of these foods are less fermentable, and some are the most fermentable ones. But all are beneficial to keep gut inflammation in check. (28, 29)
- Watermelon, and more
- Burdock root
- Dandelion greens
- Green peas
- Herbs in general
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Konjac root
- Yukon root, and more.
Prebiotic-rich legumes and nuts
- Green peas
- Hazelnut, and more.
The best prebiotic supplements for gut and digestive health
These are the best prebiotics supplements in the market to support your digestive wellness:
1- Sunfiber (PHGG) by Tomorrow’s Nutrition
2- BiotaGen by Klaire
3- Galactoimmune by Klaire
4- FOS - Fructo-oligosaccharide by Now Nutraflora
5- Bimuno - GOS – Galacto-oligosaccharides
6- Glucomannan by Now
7- Psyllium husk powder by Now
8- Acacia fiber (an alternative to psyllium husk)
However, if you decide to change your diet and increase the intake of probiotic-rich foods or supplements, GO SLOWLY in order to adapt your gut to these foods. Please, do that even if you have a perfect gut health.
Remember that prebiotic-rich foods may change the composition of our gut microbiota and might cause gastrointestinal symptoms (read more here – Part 3 of this series of articles).
Also, little by little, try to diversify as much as possible your prebiotic-rich foods and supplements. Different fuels (prebiotics) promote the growth of different types of beneficial bacteria.
Then, the more species of bacteria we have, the more resilient and stronger our health is going to be.
As we saw in the last article (here), polyphenol substances also act the same as prebiotics in our digestive system. (30, 31, 32)
Then, below you can find listed many delicious polyphenol-rich foods to include in your daily diet:
- Black elderberry
- Black grapes
- Green grapes
- Grapefruit juice (concentrated)
- Pomegranate juice (concentrated)
- Sweet cherry
- Black/green olives
- Green beans
- Green lettuce
- Red/green chicory
- Red/Yellow onions
Polyphenol-rich legumes and nuts
- Garbanzo beans
- Kidney, white, navy and black beans
- Split peas
- Hazelnut and more
Resistant starch-rich foods
As you can see in my past articles, fermentable fiber is a type of fiber that is digested and used as fuel by beneficial gut bacteria that live in the large intestine. (33)
In reality, the colonic bacteria thrive on fermentable fibers or prebiotic fibers. So, the more fermentable is a fiber, the more health benefits it has. Since the fiber fermentability describes the rate and extent to which a fiber is broken down by our gut bacteria.
So, if we think from the perspective of our health, the most important thing to consider is the fermentability of a fiber. Or more we feed gut bacteria with their favorite dish, fermentable fiber, more they benefit us.
Then, if we imagine a fiber scale moving from not fermentable at all (inulin), to the most fermentable one, resistant starch is the one that is the most fermentable type.
Consequently, resistant starch fiber is the most beneficial type of fiber that restore the balance of our gut ecosystem.
Resistant starch selectively stimulates the growth of beneficial species like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. It also increases the concentration of SCFAs like butyrate, valerate, and propionate.
Resistant starch fiber has been shown to protect against colon cancer, improve metabolic health, reduce fasting blood sugar and body weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and much more (see here). (34, 35, 36)
Resistant starch rich foods and supplements
Below you can find resistant starch-rich foods and supplements to help you restore your gut ecosystem balance:
- White rice
- Potato and sweet potato
- Unripe bananas and plantains – During the ripening process the resistant starch is transformed into a regular starch
- Properly prepared lentils and beans (soaked to remove acids)
Important tips about resistant starch-rich foods to keep in mind:
1- The amount of resistant starch in foods change with the cooking process
2- Foods that are rich in resistant starch lose many of their resistant fiber during the cooking process
3- To restore the resistant starch fiber in these foods they need to be cooked and completely cooled down before eaten
Resistant starch-rich supplements
- Unmodified Potato Starch (only by Bob Red Mills brand preserves the resistant starch molecules in its product)
- Organic Green Banana/plantain flours
Also, remember if you heat these flours, they will lose their resistant starch fiber.
As we saw in these last two articles, our diet plays a very important role in the modulation of the composition and in the activity of our gut flora/microbiota. And has a direct impact on our overall health.
So, in order to keep our intestinal flora/microbiota strong and healthy, we must keep eating in the same way our ancestors ate for millions of years. A nutrient-dense type of diet, rich in vital nutrients, prebiotic fiber, dietary fibers, and probiotics. Also, packed with essential nutrients to maintain good health and well-being.
Besides, we must remove from our plates the modern processed foods, packed with dangerous toxins, hormones, and chemicals. Substances that are highly harmful to our intestinal flora/microbiota and to our overall health.
In the next article, I will continue to talk about the differences between prebiotic, dietary fiber, and probiotics. Their roles in our health, and much more.
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