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Learning All About Probiotics

Sharon Palmer

Did you know that probiotics and our gut microbiome have a big impact on our digestive and immune health? From balancing good bacteria to reducing stress, the rewards are plentiful. That’s why I’m a huge fan of incorporating gut-friendly foods into my daily diet through plant-based yogurts and supplements. However, with so much information floating around, it can be hard to know what advice is good and what isn’t.

That’s why I’m excited to sit down with dietitian Kara Landau to talk about probiotics. She has some really practical advice on all things relating to the gut microbiome and health. Kara is answering your top questions, including the benefits of probiotic supplements, how to nourish a healthy gut microbiome, and tips for creating a healthy diet pattern. We are so lucky to have her with us to share her words of wisdom.

Kara Landau, RDN

Learning All About Probiotics with Kara Landau, RDN

Sharon: What are prebiotics?

Kara: According to the Global Prebiotic Association, “Prebiotics refer to a nutritional product and/or ingredient that is selectively utilized by beneficial host microorganisms providing a health benefit.” As you can see, in order for an ingredient to be classified as a prebiotic it must both be able to be utilized by the bacteria in (or on) our bodies, and result in a benefit to us, the host. Prebiotics can be found in the form of prebiotic fibers, resistant starches, and more recently, as polyphenolic compounds.

Sharon: What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Kara: According to the international scientific association for probiotics and prebiotics (ISAPP), probiotics are live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Prebiotics on the other hand are not live, and rather act as the fuel for the probiotics.

Spicy Lentil Tacos

Sharon: What types of prebiotics are found in foods? 

Kara: Prebiotics come in different forms inside different foods, for example soluble dietary fibers that act as prebiotics can be found inside vegetables such as dandelion greens, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and onions, as well as a range of legumes and lentils. Resistant starches on the other hand can be found naturally inside unripe green bananas (or green banana flour), cooked and then cooled starches and grains such as cold potato or pasta salad, as well as uncooked oats such as those used in overnight oats. Polyphenolic prebiotics have been discovered inside some citrus fruit peel extracts and kiwi fruit powders.

Overnight Spiced Oats with Figs and Walnuts

Sharon: What are the benefits of adding probiotic supplements to your diet? 

Kara: Adding a probiotic and prebiotic supplement into your routine can support a healthy makeup of good bacteria in your gut. Poor dietary habits, stress, medications, and toxins in the environment, such as those found in cleaning and skin care products, can negatively impact the gut bacteria and result in what is known as dysbiosis. This imbalance of good to bad bacteria can lead to inflammation in the body and myriad of associated health conditions. As a result, consuming a probiotic supplement to help boost the good bacteria, together with a prebiotic supplement to support all the bacteria that you already have inside of you be able to thrive and strengthen in number, will ultimately help your gut health and overall wellbeing improve.

Sharon: How is the gut microbiome and brain connected? 

Kara: The gut microbiome is directly connected to the brain via the vagus nerve; These two parts of the body have a bidirectional relationship whereby a poor diet that can aggravate gut health can lead to inflammatory markers being released from the gut, which have been shown to lead to stress signals going to the brain. On the other hand, stress and anxiety can stimulate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which leads to an over production of cortisol, which too negatively effects the gut bacteria make up, leading to dysbiosis in the gut, and more inflammatory markers being released. Considering 90% of our mood calming serotonin is found within the gut, it makes sense to try and look after our gut health in order to support our mental wellbeing.

Smoky Lentil Chili

Sharon: How does a gut-healthy diet help with reducing anxiety and depression?

Kara: When we consume a gut healthy prebiotic rich diet, the probiotics in our gut are able to ferment them, and the by-products of this fermentation, also known as Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA’s) are able to stimulate the release of serotonin from the gut, as well as reduce the inflammatory stress signals going to our brain, helping reduce the likelihood of developing any associated anxiety and depression. Good gut health also strengthens our gut lining, leading to improved nutrient absorption required for proper hormone production.

Sharon: What are some of the other benefits of a healthy gut microbiome?

Kara: There are an abundance of health benefits that result from a gut healthy diet beyond the mood supportive benefits, including improved nutrient absorption, reduced inflammation in the body that is associated with a number of lifestyle diseases, together with other associated benefits of prebiotic consumption such as improved blood sugar regulation, improved blood lipid regulation, good digestive health, strengthened immune health, as well as increased feelings of fullness that can support weight management.

Confetti Potato Salad

Sharon: What tips do you have for creating a diet pattern that nourishes a healthy gut microbiome? 

Kara: Find ways to incorporate gut healthy foods that you actually enjoy! Be it selecting to have your oats uncooked rather than as oatmeal to retain the prebiotic resistant starch, roasting and then cooling your potatoes in order to develop prebiotic resistant starch, adding in some asparagus and onion into your breakfast dish for some extra prebiotic soluble fiber, or selecting to blend through your morning smoothie a prebiotic powder booster, the options are there as long as you know what to look out for! Try and avoid lots of added sugars, artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, saccharin and aspartame, as well as additives and preservatives such as maltodextrin that have been shown to negatively aggravate the gut; Instead, make a concerted effort to add a wide variety of plant based foods that you will look forward to going back to for years to come.

Here is one of Kara’s favorite gut-friendly, plant-based recipes for Gut Healthy Prebiotic Brownie Bites.

About Kara Landau

Kara, known as the “Travelling Dietitian”, is a highly respected Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Author, and Founder of the prebiotic gut health brand – Uplift FoodGood Mood Food, based in New York City, USA.

A previous spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, and now the nutrition advisor and media representative for the Global Prebiotic Association, Kara confidently engages with the media globally, presents publicly, as well as provides nutrition strategy, healthy new product development, and media spokesperson services to clients in the food and retail industries.

Specializing in the connection between diet, gut health and mood, and the vital role of prebiotic fibers and resistant starches; Kara is regularly requested to provide expert opinion on gut health in the USA & Australia. Digital and traditional media covered, include: Shape, Elle, Elite Daily, Bustle, Women’s Health, Readers Digest, MSN, Yahoo, and more.

Founding Uplift FoodGood Mood Food: The world’s first dietitian created functional food brand to focus exclusively on the mood supportive benefits of gut healthy prebiotic fibers and resistant starches.  The first signature product, the Daily Uplifter, has been designed as a 100% natural plant based organic powder with nutrients at levels supported by science to have a positive effect on both gut health and mood.

Kara’s mission it to continue to educate, inspire, and make eating a prebiotic rich diet easy and enjoyable to all those that she can encounter. Connect with Kara on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

For more information on probiotics, check out these blogs:

Probiotics’ Potential
Gut Check–Feed Your Gut Microbiota for Good Health

Image: Creamy Peach Yogurt Parfait, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

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