What foods really improve intestinal microflora?
Microbiome – a community of diverse bacteria that live in our intestines – has long been a hot issue of a healthy lifestyle. I am very interested in this topic and recently I found an article that may be useful to us all. I offer its translation to your attention.
Scientists are trying to figure out how a microbiome can affect our health, weight, mood, skin, and the ability to resist infection. And the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies abound with all kinds of probiotic products containing live bacteria and yeast, which, we are assured, can improve intestinal microbiome.
To test this, the British BBC team Trust Me, I‘m A Doctor, organized an experiment. It was attended by representatives of the Scottish National Health System (NHS Highland) and 30 volunteers and scientists from across the country. Dr Michael Moseley says:
– We divided the volunteers into three groups and for more than four weeks we asked participants from each group to try different approaches to improving the intestinal microflora.
Our first group tried the ready-made probiotic drink, which is in most supermarkets. These drinks usually contain one or two types of bacteria that can survive the journey through the gastrointestinal tract and exposure to stomach acid to settle in the intestines.
The second group tried kefir, a traditional fermented drink containing a lot of bacteria and yeast.
The third group was offered foods rich in prebiotic fiber – inulin. Prebiotics are substances that feed the good bacteria that already live in the intestines. Inulin is found in abundance in chicory root, onion, garlic and leek.
What we found at the end of the study is fascinating. The first group that consumed the probiotic drink showed slight changes in the number of Lachnospiraceae bacteria that affect weight management. However, this change was not statistically significant.
But in the other two groups significant changes were indeed noted. The third group, where they consumed foods with prebiotics, demonstrated the growth of bacteria that were beneficial for overall bowel health.
The biggest change occurred in the “kefir” group: the number of bacteria Lactobacillales increased. Some of these bacteria are good for general bowel health and can help with diarrhea and lactose intolerance.
“So,” continues Michael Moseley, “we decided to explore the fermented foods and drinks further and find out what you should look for in order to get the most out of bacteria.”
Together with Dr. Cotter and scientists from the University of Rohampton, we selected a number of home-made and store-bought fermented foods and drinks and sent them to the lab for testing.
One significant difference was immediately apparent between them: home-made products prepared by traditional methods contained a large number of bacteria, and in some commercial products, bacteria could be counted on the fingers.
Dr. Cotter explains this by saying that, as a rule, store products are pasteurized after cooking to ensure their safety and extend their shelf life, which can kill bacteria.
Therefore, if you want to improve intestinal health with fermented products, it is better to choose those that are made by traditional methods, or cook them yourself. So you provide your intestines with beneficial bacteria.