Prebiotics + Probiotics: Warriors in the Battle for your Body
You don’t have to look far to see that there is a buzz around prebiotics and probiotics at the moment. It is part of the cultural shift towards an understanding of the importance of the gut in our immune system and of the role like microorganisms play in keep it healthy. But do you know exactly what they are? And did you know that they work just as well on the outside of your skin as they do on the inside?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in yeast, fungi and bacteria. When taken in large doses they can help to maintain and even improve the health of your gastro-intestinal system. The value of these tiny warriors was first discovered by Bulgarian Nobel prize winner Elie Metchnikoff who saw that the local peasants who consumed a lot of yoghurt lived longer than those who didn’t. He studied this yoghurt in 1907 and declared that it is possible to use diet to modify the flora in our bodies. In other words – we can put more good things in, and have a better result in terms of health.
Prebiotics are slightly different. Prebiotic foods create an environment in which probiotics thrive. They are non-digestible food fibres that help the good bacteria to stick to the walls of the intestine and bowel and stimulate their growth. This allows the gut to work at maximum efficiency, which means your immune system will be doing its valuable thing, your digestion will flow smoothly and your mental health, which is linked to both of these systems, is more likely to achieve equilibrium. If you don’t have enough probiotics or prebiotics you will probably feel it in your gut first. Symptoms include bloating, flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea and general discomfort. You are more like to get general ailments like colds and allergies if the gut system is out of kilter.
So – obviously it is worth your while getting both of these specialists into your diet as often as possible. And it isn’t very hard. You can find probiotics in yoghurt (make sure it is good quality pot-set Greek yoghurt), kefir, kombucha, miso and fermented veges like sauerkraut. And you can help these out by adding prebiotic rich foods like soy, bananas, oats, barley, legumes and green veges.
The exciting thing is that prebiotics and probiotics don’t just heal from within. A medical study published by US National Library of Medicine studied the role of pre and probiotics with respect to improving ski health. The study describes the skin as a complex environment with a diverse microorganism community some of which may be there temporarily, and others that live on the skin. Of these some are beneficial and others are pathogens which might cause illness or inflammation. Exactly what is on your skin will vary according to your environment. Pre and probiotics can be delivered topically (rubbed onto your skin) to optimise and restore the microbiota (the microorganisms that live in a certain place) of the skin. They can enhance natural defence barriers and can produce antimicrobial peptides that help to eliminate potential pathogens. They can also help the good microbiota to flourish. In other words they help to clean out things that could cause harm to your skin and body and then they help to nourish the skin and keep it working at optimal levels.
Let’s look at an example. When we developed our Prebiotic and C Brightening Exfoliator, we wanted to create an exfoliator that did all the usual things – cleared the skin of debris and revealed the new fresh layers – but we also wanted it to nourish the skin as it did this. For this we turned to a prebiotic called Inulin, a vegetable fructose polysaccharide derived from chicory that reduces the growth of pathogenic bacteria and promotes that of friendly micro-organisms that are naturally present on the epidermis. It is gentle and also comes with a dose of vitamins and minerals. Of course, we didn’t stop there. We also added grapefruit peel powder which is high in Vitamin C (ascorbic powder) which helps to break down dead skin and retexture the skin. It’s the sort of product that feels wonderful the first time your use it, but actually shows positive results the more regularly you use it.
There you have it – Your body is home to millions of tiny creatures, both inside and out. Some are working hard for you, others are plotting against you. Feeding the good ones and wiping out the bad ones is an on-going battle that you are in charge of and pre and probiotics are your weapons of choice. Now that you understand the process – it might be time for a tub of yoghurt, an iced kombucha and exfoliation.