The Prebiotic-Probiotic Prescription for Healthy Travel

probiotics2Most meeting planners at one time or another have been blindsided by the event peril that dare not speaketh its name: gastrointestinal party time!

This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. After all, what part of late nights, early mornings, hotel coffee, conference buffets and meals on the fly at sketchy diners in strange ports of call would lead one to believe that digestive health is somehow one of the benefits of the profession?

If you’ve suffered, or hope to avoid suffering, Dante’s third level of event distress, you may want to incorporate two proactive preventatives – probiotics and prebiotics – into your health regimen.

The use of probiotics, a Greek derivative meaning “for life” (as opposed to, say, antibiotics), dates back some eight millennia to 6000 BC, when Ayurvedic texts noted that “fermented milk leads to a long and healthy life.”

Since then, science has figured out that our gastrointestinal tract contains 20 times more bacteria than we have cells in our bodies. It’s a battle down there; one that takes a certain army of resident good living bacteria – probiotics – to fend off the bad bacteria and maintain a GI tract we can stomach, so to speak.

In order for a beneficial bacterium to be classified as a probiotic, it must be resistant to gastric, bile and pancreatic juices and reach the colon alive. The probiotics then attach themselves to the intestinal wall to help increase the number of beneficial bacteria, fight against harmful bacteria and maintain a healthy balance.

Best food sources for probiotics include yogurt (look for brands that contain live bacteria), miso, kefir, tempeh, kim chi (fermented cabbage), sauerkraut and other fermented foods – and beer and wine, yay! Bananas, garlic and onions can help repopulate levels of good bacteria in the intestine as well.

How do you keep your living probiotics happy? Feed them prebiotics, of course!

probiotics3Prebiotics are not living; instead, they’re forms of fiber. And because your body does not digest fiber, they’re able to reach the probiotic troops in your colon that do.

Best prebiotic food sources include oatmeal, flax seeds, barley, greens (especially spinach, kale, collard and mustard greens), berries (particularly blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries) and legumes.

While probiotic and prebiotic supplements work well and can be especially handy on road trips, the troops tend to absorb more from food sources, if they suit your palate.

To get started down a healthier dietary path, try to incorporate probiotic and prebiotic foods into your meals three to four times a week.

And don’t forget to toast a glass of bright Beaujolais to your good health!

Photo credits:

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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