What should I eat when I have tummy troubles?

Constipation, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. None of these are pleasant symptoms, but unfortunately, we have them way too often. There could be many factors that explain these symptoms: IBS, chronic indigestion, stress, and poor diet. Although some of these conditions would benefit from specific recommendations such as following a low-FODMAP diet for IBS (even then, it’s just a maybe), some foods can benefit most conditions: pre and probiotics.

What’s the difference between pre and probiotics?

Prebiotics are foods that improve the health of our gut bacteria, while probiotics are healthy bacteria we consume to add to our gut bacteria. Ideally, we would include both in our diets as they work together and are equally important.

Prebiotics come from the fiber found mainly in chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, and leek. Probiotics on the other hand can be found in fermented foods such kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the two most common probiotics.

Why do we care about our gut bacteria?

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Did you know we have more bacteria than human genes in our body? They aren’t just helpful for digestive issues (although that’s already a big plus), but more and more studies are linking the health to our gut bacteria to almost every health condition out there: heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, etc. It may even help against the common cold!

Because most of the foods including pre and probiotics are found in plants, these go in line with the recommendations we already have to prevent and manage the conditions mentioned above. 

Supplements vs food

Go to any grocery store and you’ll find a TON of probiotic supplements; some in pills and others in liquid form. Some examples include Bio-K, Align, etc. Now, I can’t tell you which is better – food vs supplement- because it’ll depend on what you are using them for, and even then, research if still ongoing for every condition out there. Still, as we know, most nutrients work together, meaning we need to eat different nutrients together to get the most potential. For this reason, I would suggest EATING vs supplementing (same is true for all nutrients, with the exception of vitamin D, as we don’t get enough sun here in Montreal between the months of October to April).

How do I include them in my everyday life?

It’s difficult to say how many pre and probiotics we need, but there’s no harm adding as many as we can as they are found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy (unless you have a condition that makes it difficult to eat these). So eating a mostly plant-based diet is the first step. Once that’s done, you can use these ideas to add even more:

  • Sauerkraut – Crunchy and sour, add 1 tbsp to your salad, sandwich, or soup. Look for refrigerated varieties as the bacteria is still preserved (compared to the cooked versions)
  • Kimchi – This fermented and spicy cabbage can be added to tacos, scrambled eggs, and your favorite stir-fry
  • Jerusalem artichoke – Not to be confused with the common artichoke, the Jerusalem artichoke (also called sunroot, sunchoke, ortopinambour) resembles ginger root. Simply slice and roast in the oven!

Try to have fun with these foods as they aren’t usually used in a North American diet, but add unique flavors!

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