Probiotics and prebiotics: what’s really important

Probiotics and prebiotics are a hot topic these days. You’ve likely seen many ads on television and online for supplements and foods that promise to deliver helpful bacteria and their benefits. Here’s what you need to know before purchasing these products.

Your large intestine contains 100 trillion “good” bacteria that are essential to health. Called the microbiome, these beneficial microbes help maintain healthy bowel function, and may even help with like inflammatory bowel disease. Research suggests they may even play a role in regulating weight and mood.

Everyone starts with their own unique microbiome at birth. We add to these through the foods we eat.

Here are some of the best ways to add healthful bacteria to your microbiome:

  • Yogurt and kefir. Be sure to look for the words “live and active cultures” on the label, to make sure you are getting live cultures.
  • Fermented foods. Beneficial microbes are the “cooks” for some familiar foods. For example, they turn cabbage into sauerkraut, cucumbers into sour pickles, soybeans into miso, and sweetened tea into kombucha. When if the products have been pasteurized—as most packaged fermented foods are—the microbes will be dead. The best solution is to buy from delis where they do the pickling themselves or natural food stores that carry fermented foods. Or make your own; you can find clear and easy instructions in books and online.

There are also probiotic supplements on the market, of course. But it’s not easy to sift through them and find exactly what you need. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Usually, these products contain just a few bacterial strains, compared with 3,000 or so strains in your gut. And not all gut bacteria are alike.
  • Specific bacterium play specific roles in the body, so if you’re trying to treat a specific condition, like irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea, you need to find the right ones with documented benefits for that condition. In 2020, the American Gastroenterological Association released guidelines for the use of probiotics.
  • Experts point out that good evidence for taking probiotic supplements exists for only a handful of conditions. For general health, look for brands that contain both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Finally, you can help your body produce healthy gut bacteria. Here’s how:

  • Include plenty of foods rich in insoluble fiber in your diet. You’ll find them whole-grain products such as oatmeal and wholegrain breads, as well as in vegetables like asparagus, leeks, onions, and garlic, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and corn. Beans, lentils, and peas are also good sources.
  • Limit sugar, saturated, fat and processed foods. These can deplete the good bacteria in the gut. As always, try to stick with whole, unprocessed foods.


Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? (Genesis 18:24) And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” (Genesis 18:26)

And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’” Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” (Genesis 32:20)
to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. (Genesis 50:17)

“Forgive my sin, just this once, and plead with the Lord your God to take away this death from me.” (Exodus 10:17)
Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. (Exodus 23:21)

Moses Intercedes for Israel The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin, but I will go back up to the Lord on the mountain. Perhaps I will be able to obtain forgiveness for your sin.” (Exodus 32:30) So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. (Exodus 32:31) But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!” (Exodus 32:32)

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6) I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:7)

And he said, “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession.” (Exodus 34:9)
just as he does with the bull offered as a sin offering for the high priest. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:20) Then he must burn all the goat’s fat on the altar, just as he does with the peace offering. Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the Lord, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26)

Then he must remove all the goat’s fat, just as he does with the fat of the peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar, and it will be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31) Then he must remove all the sheep’s fat, just as he does with the fat of a sheep presented as a peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar on top of the special gifts presented to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people from their sin, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:35)

The priest will then prepare the second bird as a burnt offering, following all the procedures that have been prescribed. Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord, and you will be forgiven. (Leviticus 5:10) Through this process, the priest will purify those who are guilty of any of these sins, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the flour will belong to the priest, just as with the grain offering.” (Leviticus 5:13)

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