How probiotics and prebiotics can boost women’s health
Some women spend hours deciding what to wear or watching YouTube makeup tutorials when most may not know that what’s on the inside can also lead to beauty. Yep … a healthy gut can improve your skin, enhance your mood, and leave you feeling more energetic. Women can work towards that healthy gut with probiotics and prebiotics.
The gut environment or ‘microbiome’ sets the stage for our immune defense, digestion, and can even impact the function of other organs like the skin and the brain. So it’s not something to take for granted. Yet so many women fail to prioritize gut health. But with greater knowledge, women can optimize their gut health and intestinal health pretty easily.
Let’s put it this way, slugging back a kombucha once a month while you’re in the checkout line at Whole Foods isn’t going to cut it. We need a consistent dose of good bacteria and we need to prime our gut for the arrival of that bacteria so it actually hangs out for a while. We often hear women talking about doing a juice cleanse to lose weight but how often do you hear about a “gut cleanse”? Let’s dive into a brief explanation of what probiotics and prebiotics actually are!
Probiotics and Prebiotics: What’s the difference?
We could spend hours or maybe even days discussing the key differences between the PRO and the PRE. But let’s cut to the chase:
-Living strains of good bacteria in the digestive system that offer a health benefit. Example strains: Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
-Indigestible fiber that feeds the good bacteria. This stimulates growth among the pre-existing good bacteria.
The human microbiome is a complex community of different bacteria that has co-evolved with humans to be beneficial to people and to the bacteria. The best way to modulate gut bacteria is with whole foods - getting enough fiber, avoiding high-sugar foods and carbohydrates, etc. But, the diversity of good bacteria in your gut can be jeopardized for a multitude of surprising reasons, like antibiotics a doctor prescribed for you, or fruits/vegetables contaminated with pesticides.
Perhaps you eat too many processed foods and the good bacteria get starved out. The crazy part is that it could all be happening without you having any clue about what’s going on.
Foods that are rich in probiotics and prebiotics or a strong supplement with both can help fill in the gaps or even help to restore a damaged gut microbiome. Think of your gut like a home. Probiotics live there but they won’t just stay there. They’re kind of picky. To stay, they need food (prebiotics) and a good environment to stick around, grow, and populate. If you keep stuffing it with junk foods, they will probably leave. The probiotics simply won’t stick around unless they have the prebiotics available.Probiotic Foods
Look for a minimum of eight strains and 5 billion CFU. Try to find enteric coated probiotics or delayed release, which are less likely to be destroyed by stomach acid. Make sure your probiotic is micro-encapsulated.
- 8 strains
- 5 billion CFU
- enteric coated
- delayed release
Best probiotic supplement:
GOS is found naturally in fermented dairy products like yogurt or kefir. Legumes and beans are also rich sources of soluble oligosaccharides. A more recently discovered and studied prebiotic is found in food … for babies.
Human Milk Oligosaccharide is a component of breast milk and credited with encoding the gut and immune system of infants. Companies began putting it in infant formula in 2016 because of the immense health benefits.
The hope was that formula fed infants would reap some of the same health benefits that breast-fed infants get from human milk oligosaccharides in breast milk.
Some of the more researched human milk oligosaccharides are:
The abbreviation 2’FL for example, represents an HMO called 2’-fucosyllactose and 6'SL represents 6´Sialyllactose Sodium Salt. Researchers agree that a person’s uniquely encoded microbiome is established within the first 1,000 days of life, but there are things adults can now do to alter their gut environment.
Some companies are now making HMO specifically for adults in capsule and powder form, that’s proven to positively impact the adult gut, immune system, and even cognitive function.
Best prebiotic supplements available:
Good for women, good for men
There’s a sort of rumor out there that probiotics and prebiotics are important specifically for vaginal health. But that rumor has largely been debunked.
While probiotics have incredible benefits such as soothing diarrhea, constipation, and acid reflux, which plague 70 million people (mostly women), there’s little evidence to support their effectiveness when it comes to specifically aiding the vagina. The reality is that probiotics and prebiotics are good for all humans, including women.
That’s why they are made and marketed towards women, men and children.
So, the next time you're considering your beauty routine, don't neglect the inside. Women should think of their gut and consider probiotic and prebiotic foods and supplements in order to revitalize their microbiome.