Far from something to be avoided, bacteria can be embraced in some cases, and the microscopic critters living in your intestines can tell a lot about your probability of contracting diabetes, obesity, depression and colon cancer, doctors say.
As many as 500 kinds of bacteria live in your digestive system, and when paired with viruses and fungi they are known as microbiota or the microbiome, and each person’s microbiota comprise a unique sort of internal fingerprint.
“The bacteria live throughout your body, but the ones in your gut may have the biggest impact on your well-being,” reports WebMD. “They line your entire digestive system. Most live in your intestines and colon. They affect everything from your metabolism to your mood to your immune system.”
While much of this bacterial signature comes from your mom and the environment you were exposed to in the womb, others come from your diet and your lifestyle – and those factors are malleable, nutritional experts say.
Time to Start Eating Asparagus, Garlic and Leeks
Asparagus, garlic, artichokes, onions, leeks and whole wheat all contain the types of fiber that act as prebiotics. Don’t care for onion breath? Some manufacturers can add prebiotic fibers (typically in the form of inulin, fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides) to packaged foods. While natural prebiotics are preferred by doctors, healthcare professionals also note that too much prebiotic intake can lead to digestive distress—i.e., gas and bloating.
“It is best to focus on getting prebiotics from whole foods, which offer multiple types of beneficial fiber, plus valuable nutrients, in one tasty package,” notes the Washington Post. “Plus, it is not as easy to overeat FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) naturally occurring in food as it is when they are in additive or supplement form.”
Experts also note that you don’t need probiotics and prebiotics in the same meal to get their yin-and-yang benefit—although the two can often blend deliciously, such as a banana and yogurt smoothie or a yogurt-based curry with garlic and onion.
Prebiotics and Probiotics Are Having Their Moment
Both probiotics and prebiotics are being touted for their health benefits and are cited as a defense against irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, allergies and obesity. Although doctors temper some of the enthusiasm around the biotics, their use is on the upswing. A survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that between 2007 and 2012 use of probiotics and prebiotics by adults in the United States rose by 3 million.
Probiotics or prebiotics were among the top three natural products used by children in 2012, the report added. “Prebiotics may also help prevent infections and allergies in otherwise healthy children, but research needs to confirm this,” the report said. “Parents should be aware that many complementary health approaches have not been tested for safety or effectiveness in children.”
Global Prebiotic Market to Grow 11.1% Annually Through 2022.
Led by development in the Asia-Pacific, Latin American and Middle East regions, the probiotic market is expecting significant growth, with a global annual growth rate of 11.1% forecast between 2017 and 2022, according to an industry report by BCC Research. In North America and Europe, market saturation and product maturity means growth will be slower but still brisk, with annual expansion through 2022 at 9.4% and 10.8% respectively.
“In North America, the prebiotic market in the U.S. and Canada is on the verge of reaching maturity, caused by a steady supply of nutritional products over demand, and the stagnant growth of the food processing industry,” said report author Sinha G. Gaurav. "On the other hand, the prebiotic market in Mexico is growing due to the rising demand for nutrified health food products and dietary supplements and animal feed, caused by an increase in per capita disposable income and increasing obesity and cardiovascular diseases.”
For more detailed information, forecasts and 5-year CAGRS, download the free report overview.