Gut Health Series: What are probiotics and prebiotics

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Our gut is home to trillions of different bacteria that research has increasingly shown, play an important role in digestive and mental health including anxiety and depression, skin health, immune function and weight management to name a few. An imbalance in gut microbiota can lead to a reduction in ‘good’ bacteria and an overpopulation of ‘bad’ bacteria which could contribute to numerous conditions including IBS, autoimmune conditions and obesity. The inclusion of prebiotics and probiotics in our diet has been shown to support the numbers of good bacteria and promote gut and overall general health. So, what they are and where you can find them ? What are prebiotics? If you haven’t already, make sure you’re adding these foods to your daily diet or at least three times a week. All can be purchased at a natural grocery and I also include a simple recipe for my homemade kimchi! Simple to make and pennies compared to what you pay for it in the store! Prebiotics are non-digestible types of fibre found in food which your gut bacteria feed off. Prebiotics are fermented by gut bacteria and can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, enabling ‘good’ bacteria to thrive, multiply and colonise within the gut. They can be found in various plant-based foods as well as supplements. Prebiotic rich foods include:

  • Vegetables: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, green peas, snow peas, savoy cabbage

  • Fruit: grapefruit

  • Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans

  • Grains: oats

  • Nuts and seeds: cashews, pistachio nuts

Getting enough in your diet will Improve digestive function and bowel regularity, improve your body’s natural immune system, improve nutrient absorption, and improve your energy and blood sugar balance, and balance out cravings and overeating. As with dietary fibers, some gas or bloating can result from too much prebiotic. So start with small amounts and allow your gut to adapt. What are probiotics? Probiotic rich foods are not only delicious and a part of most traditional diets around the world, naturally fermented foods are an important part of rebuilding a healthy microbiome, improving natural detoxification and elimination, restoring immune system health and reducing inflammation, making weight loss easier, improving mood and mental clarity, and reducing stress. Probiotic rich foods include:

  • Coconut yogurt or coconut kefir

  • Water or brine-cured olives

  • Lacto-fermented sour dill pickles

  • Kimchi (get one that is unspicy or see the homemade kimchi recipe in the downloads)

  • Sauerkraut

  • Pickled vegetables

Including prebiotic and probiotic foods can be helpful in supporting our gut microbiota, other factors such as sleep, nutritional diversity, fibre intake, exercise and stress are equally important in maintaining optimal gut health. For more info or if you would like to discuss further get in touch.