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Holidays are a tough time to keep tight, muscular, and toned, and stomach issues can arise from stuffing your face with the fatty and less fibrous foods common on the holiday plate. But you can beat a bad gut by feeding it the good stuff, like probiotics and prebiotics.
Evidence is growing that the “good” bacteria that live in your gut may play a role in your health. Yogurt and other fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi, have significant levels of good bacteria that may help promote the right balance of gut bugs.
One of the keys to making probiotics work for you is to eat the types of foods that nourish them, also known as prebiotics. Good bacteria flourish on the cellulose and pectin that make up plants’ cell walls. As that fiber passes through our GI tract, bacteria use enzymes to break it down into simple sugars and ferment it into short-chain fatty acids that our cells can easily absorb. This type of fiber is considered prebiotic.
Prebiotics and probiotics work together synergistically, so if you down gallons of yogurt, but don’t fill up on fruits and vegetables with good levels of dietary fiber, you may not give the good bacteria what they need. Similarly, if you fill up only on fiber, you may not be introducing potentially beneficial bacteria to your gut.
Pomegranate may be a new ally in the pursuit of a balanced gut environment. Not only are fresh pomegranate seeds a good way to add fiber to your diet, but early in vitro studies on pomegranate extract have explored how naturally occurring plant compounds in pomegranates called polyphenols may also help to provide an environment for good gut bacteria to thrive. A small preliminary study of 20 healthy individuals who took pomegranate extract suggests, but does not prove, that these poly- phenols may work as prebiotics, which feed the microbes in our gut to promote the right balance of beneficial bacteria.
This is a new way of thinking about polyphenols. Right now they are mostly talked about as antioxidants. Although the early scientific findings are promising, the impact of pomegranate extract on the gut microbiota hasn’t yet been adequately studied. Future clinical research is needed to establish causation and the potential of pomegranate extract and pomegranates as a prebiotic.
For a convenient option during the busy holiday season try POM POMS Fresh Arils, a good source of fiber at 4 grams per half-cup serving.