Did you know that an infant cannot digest about 30% of the nutrients in mother’s milk? Wasted calories. But in nature, nothing goes to waste; there is a reason for everything. Recent studies have shown that mothers produce this nutrition not for the infant, but the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the infant’s gut. This is the first fertiliser that the infant’s gut bacteria get- its first prebiotic shot.
The microorganisms in the gut control most functions in animals, not just humans. They control the brain, the lungs and probably many other organs systems.
More than a hundred years ago, Bulgarian scientist, Metchinkof, noticed that those that ate fermented products such as pickles and yogurt, tend to live longer, had greater protection from diseases, and if infected, would recover faster.
Part of what we eat goes to our human cells and is used for our growth and repair. The other part is used by the gut microbes. One must wonder why ‘waste’ this food on them, and why eat it to begin with. The reason is that these gut microbes do way too many things for us, human beings. To start with, if their numbers are high, then other ‘bad’ microbes (pathogens), that accidentally find their way into our bodies cannot grow. They are simply crowded out by these ‘good guys’.
Another benefit they provide is by metabolizing food into compounds that we as humans cannot produce. A primary example of this is vitamin B12.
A third important function they do is, be the gatekeepers of what comes in contact with our gut cells, so that it can be properly absorbed. This helps keep the gut lining intact and does not lead to what is now known as the ‘leaky gut’ phenomenon. Leaky guts are the primary cause of tiny pockets of inflammation.
Finally, these microbes produce – neurotransmitters and immunomodulators – just fancy words for chemicals that control some of our nervous system, our brain functions and our immune system.
These foods are what we call prebiotics. Simply put, prebiotics are the food that gut bacteria thrive on. Feed them right, and they will help us fight infections like Covid-19.
Probiotic: These are the actual gut bacteria taken in capsule, liquid or even spray form.
How do we know that these microbes are the ‘right’ ones?
Instead of trying to grow these bacteria, we can now sample our gut, and look for genetic sequences to identify what bacteria they belong to. It is like having a wet dog in a dark room with you. From the smell, you know, there is a wet dog in there somewhere, but you can’t catch it. Similarly, we can now ‘smell’ these bacteria out, even if we cannot catch all of them.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that we have some beneficial bacteria that we have grown that are certainly found in our gut. These have already been put into capsules, gels and liquids to be taken as a probiotic supplement to add to what we already have. Think of this process as adding new friends into our gut.
The question is, if we already have these in our gut, why are we adding them?
Antibiotics are like little bombs going off in our system. Contrary to popular belief, they wipe out not just the pathogens, but all other bacteria that are very similar. Some studies have shown that after a single dose – not just a set of tablets – after a single tablet, the time taken for our gut to completely come back to the original state is – One full year.
The best way to avoid this is not to take antibiotics for trivial things such as a viral infection; for antibiotics work only on bacteria, and secondly, if the bacterial infection is mild, we should allow our body’s defense mechanism to do the job so that it learns.
Fruits and vegetables (for meat, dairy and fish do not carry the compounds that these microbes need), that have the highest compound that the gut microbes love. Their results show that garlic, onion, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, citrus fruits, watermelon and all types of berries will probably be superfoods for the gut microbes.
Right from birth, we learn that our mothers are always right! Eat those prebiotics and take probiotic supplements as needed and you have your secret weapon to fight any infection, including Covid-19.