The Core Diet Blog

“I consume 3-5 servings of high-fiber food choices such as vegetables, fruits, or whole grains.”

It is well-reported that during periods of heavy training and racing, athletes are more susceptible to, and may experience, an increase in upper respiratory infection (URI).  A “window of altered immunity” following prolonged or heavy exertion exists (that may last between three and 72 hours), wherein many components of the immune system exhibit change. This window is an opportunity for viruses and bacteria to gain a foothold. In addition, factors such as travel, low energy availability, and high levels of stress and anxiety also put athletes at risk. So, what can we do from a nutritional and lifestyle standpoint to combat getting sick?

The Core Diet Immunity Scorecard provides an opportunity to check in with yourself and your coach to ensure you are taking all steps possible to stay healthy.  Prebiotics (which are different than probiotics) are a piece of the immunity puzzle.  Read below to find out more.

  • Prebiotics are typically non-digestible fiber compounds that pass undigested through the upper gastrointestinal tract, to the large bowel where they, among other roles, serve as “food” for probiotics.  

  • Probiotics may positively affect gut microbiota and this microbiota exerts a strong influence over the immune system.  Mechanisms include reinforcing the intestinal barrier and competing with pathogens for both attachment to the gut epithelium and for available nutrients.  Because prebiotics stimulate the growth and activity of probiotics, both play an important role in gut health and therefore immunity!

  • Prebiotics are frequently equated with dietary fibers, but only a subset of dietary fibers actually qualify as prebiotics.  Oligosaccharides (specifically fructans and galactans) are a main source of prebiotics. Others include resistant starch, pectin, beta-glucans and xylooligosaccharides.  

  • The above prebiotics can be found in foods such as apples, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, bananas, barley, berries, chicory, cocoa, dandelion greens, flaxseed, garlic, green vegetables, leeks, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), oats, onions, tomatoes, and wheat.  You can also take prebiotics in a supplemental powder form.

  • There is no recommended daily intake for prebiotics, however a general guideline is 4-8 grams/day for general digestive health.  As an example, a 3.5 oz serving of asparagus has about 2-3 grams of the prebiotic inulin.  A good goal is to eat several prebiotic containing foods a day to keep you and your gut healthy and happy!
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