Growing a Healthy Gut Garden

It hits tens of millions of people right in the gut, literally. Chronic intestinal distress, like irritable bowel syndrome, can make life miserable.

In Thursday's Medical Moment, one doctor says food, instead of pharmaceuticals, could help tame your tummy.

"They're a garden and we need to be good gardeners," Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff, MD, an Integrative Medicine Physician at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Integrative Medicine Physician Gregory Plotnikoff says what happens in your stomach can impact your entire body.

"Gut health is the foundation for all health,” says Dr. Plotnikoff. “Our gut bacteria regulate our mood, our energy, our immune system, even our metabolism."

Bad gut bacteria can lead to all sorts of problems.

"It can cause gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea,” explains Dr. Plotnikoff. “The things that no one wants to talk about."

A gut full of good bacteria, called pro-biotics, can help prevent those problems.

The doctor says they're like seeds in your gut garden that flourish with the help of pre-biotics-a special form of dietary fiber.

"These are like Miracle-Gro for our internal garden,” says Dr. Plotnikoff. “I prescribe foods that are actually going to support the friendly bacteria in our gut."

He says cultured products, like tofu and yogurt, are great for your gut and so are fermented foods like kimchi, miso, kefi and kombucha, are a few other fermented foods that stimulate growth of good bacteria. Asparagus, artichokes, and carrots are packed with pre-biotics.

Plotnikoff believes these foods are a low-cost, side-effect free alternative to medications for gut problems.

"Don't take my word for it,” says Dr. Plotnikoff. “Trust your gut."

While some swear by pro-biotics and pre-biotics, others are skeptical about the benefits. Supplements containing pro-biotics and pre-biotics are not regulated by the FDA.

Growing a Healthy Gut Garden
REPORT #2025

PREBIOTICS VS. PROBIOTICS: Many people get confused about the differences between prebiotics and probiotics. Not only do the words differ by only a single letter, but they target similar benefits-improving overall health by improving digestive health through nourishing a healthy colon. However, they are not the same. (Source:

PREBIOTIC: Prebiotic is a specialized plant fiber that beneficially nourishes the good bacteria already in the colon or large bowel. The body does not digest the plant fibers, but instead the fibers act as a fertilizer to promote the growth of the good bacteria in the gut. Both, prebiotics and probiotics, accomplish important health benefits for the gut, but before deciding between a prebiotic or probiotic regimen consider these facts:

* Prebiotic powders are not affected by heat, cold, acid, or time.
* Prebiotics nourish thousands of good bacterial species already living in the colon.
* Prebiotic fiber is a naturally-occurring substance, found in thousands of plant species.
* Prebiotics may be helpful or preventative for irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis), colon polyps, cancer, and people with a leaky gut. (Source:;

PROBIOTICS: Probiotics are live bacteria in yogurt, other dairy products and pills. Even though probiotics have been shown to effectively manage some gastrointestinal conditions, they do not have the same power that prebiotics do.

* Probiotics are live bacteria found in fermented foods, like sauerkraut or yogurt, dairy products, and pills. There are hundreds of probiotic species available.
* Probiotic bacteria have to be kept alive. They can be killed by stomach acid, heat, or simply die with time.
* Probiotics may impact bad bacteria by crowding them out.
* Certain probiotic species have been proven to be helpful for irritable bowel disease and for recurrence of certain bowel infections, like C. difficile. (Source:;

For More Information, Contact:

Gregory Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP
Integrative Medicine Physician

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