You’re going to have heard of probiotics because they’re really 2015, which I remembered as the year everyone began talking about gut health (the term “gut fauna” came into popular use a little later). The short version is that you want to be as diverse and exciting as possible with your gut bacteria and the best way to ensure that fermented foods are eaten: yogurts, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut.
Cultures that, when you eat them, are alive. Prebiotics are different: they are indigestible fiber sources.
Fiber is, by and large, a plant or legume element that does not dissolve in water and thus passes intact through your body, not releasing calories, but doing other useful things, such as maintaining regularity. However, the bacteria in your gut will digest a subcategory of indigestible fiber: almost always raw and most often odd – dandelions, acacia gum – and this will improve your overall bacterial ecosystem. If it benefits you, consider your gut a city rather than an organ, full of creatures that need fascinating feasts to survive.
So, first and foremost, you increase the probiotics to increase bacterial diversity – and then you put in prebiotics to feed them. Tim Spector, now best known for his Covid tracker, is the master of probiotics, who beautifully describes the gut in his book Spoon Fed. Since you are searching for the indigestible, what it is generally has to be raw, unless it’s an onion.
But the first thing I went through was getting a mandolin. If it’s cut thin enough, you can eat something raw; if I had more time to slice, I might get rid of my furnace.
Raw asparagus is an acquired flavour – it tastes like an accident at first. It tastes like itself finally, only fresher. And finally, a surprising source of prebiotics is underground bananas, and it’s very easy to eat more of them.
I saw it all as a supplement, not a substitution, to my previous diet; I have never stopped consuming cooked vegetables.
It’s much better in the long run if you look at it as a method of inclusion rather than exclusion. Fit at 40: I’m not running anymore – so why does it look like I’m running? It’s because a good gut environment has an effect on so many things-sleep, mood, inflammation, and everything from those basic pillars of health-that it’s hard to point a finger at what you can actually test. The major unknown is whether it makes a difference. From a design perspective, you have to look at it: “Do I feel absolutely incredible from every angle?” And if the answer is “not quite,” it might not actually be because I don’t have enough leeks.
I felt more energized after a month, but I should note that this coincided with the return of the children to school.
I would say the biggest advantage is that you are going in a positive direction with your attitude. You treat your gut with a little more respect until you humanize your bacteria: less like a normal gadget you were born with and more like a Tamagotchi, something to be taken care of. What I learnedA meta-study found 25 different conditions that prebiotics improved, from allergies to immune function to IBS to bone health.