There is a bit of confusion among the general public as to what is needed to keep our digestion healthy. We hear a lot about probiotics and prebiotics and digestive supplements, but many of my clients are not to sure what they should be taking and why. I get a lot of clients who seem to think that if they are constipated they need to take heaps of extra fibre to drive the bowels (which is not the case), while other clients think that because they have diarrhoea their problem isn’t as bad as that of those who are constipated.
Both constipation and diarrhoea are problems. A good digestive system is not created by overdosing on heaps of fibre and driving the bowel. Digestion starts in the stomach and, to be more precise, in the mouth with digestive enzymes while we are chewing our food. If we are just trying to drive the bowel then we are simply pushing that organ and not really improving our digestion at all. In the same way, if we have diarrhoea then we are not getting the proper nutrition out of our food and it’s just getting flushed down the toilet (pardon the pun).
Without meaning to sound too gross, you need to take a look in the toilet when you go to the bathroom. If, when you are emptying your bowels, what comes out are hard pellets and lumpy looking sausage-type stools, then you need to admit you are constipated. By the same token, if you are not emptying your bowels every day, you are also constipated. Think of it this way: food in, waste out. Not days later, but the day you ate – which is every day.
By the same token, if your stools are soft and fluffy with no clear edges, watery or entirely liquid, then you have diarrhoea. Having diarrhoea means the food is possibly leaving your body before you are able to get the right nutrients out of it. Having diarrhoea does not necessarily meant that there are not little pockets of blockages in your bowel. This needs to be taken into account, which is why, as a nutritionist, I consider a probiotic and prebiotic essential for everyone to assist in their digestion.
We are all human and often perhaps eat foods that will harm our system, but if we have a system that ‘flows’ – as in releases our toxins easily – then to some extent we can get away with it.
Probiotic and prebiotic foods and supplements are important as they enhance the growth of healthy bacteria in your body. These supplements are important in terms of helping you have a good digestive system and preventing many gastrointestinal problems.
There are billions of bacteria in your body that actually help you to stay healthy. A large number of these are in the gut and they help with digestion, but in order to maintain a good digestive system you may need to take probiotic and prebiotic supplements.
Probiotics are live microorganisms: tiny animals consisting of just one cell. Probiotics can be found in fermented dairy and soy products as well as other foods, however often we don’t get enough of these so we may need to take a supplement. The benefit of a probiotic supplement is that it is specifically prepared to survive until it reaches the intestines and begins to grow.
Prebiotics encourage the growth of probiotics, so they are like the food of these beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are not live organisms. They are usually carbohydrates that we would not digest, but beneficial bacteria can digest them and grow.
Combining probiotics and prebiotics enhances how both of them work. They form a protective element in your digestion that stops harmful bacteria and viruses from causing problems. This, in turn, assists in making your immune system healthy. This becomes very important if you have had an infection or have used antibiotics, as the live organisms will assist in your natural immunity building to protect you in the future.
Also, remember the importance of drinking enough water to flush things through. Boiled, filtered water which is still slightly warm is wonderful to get a sluggish system moving, not only first thing in the morning but throughout the day. It’s also wonderful to take your supplements with, as the warmth is soothing to the body.
So take a good look at how you are digesting your food and if it’s inadequate consult your natural therapist to find which digestive enzyme is right for you. There are heaps of different brands out there and they are not all the same.