Confused about Probiotics and Prebiotics? Here's what you need to know!

Confused about Probiotics and Prebiotics? Here's what you need to know!

Probiotics and prebiotics - you’ve probably heard of them before as they are quite big in the nutrition space, particularly in relation to gut health. There’s a lot of confusing information around so we thought we’d help you understand their roles and how you can include them in your diet. 

What are PRObiotics?

Probiotics are the good, live bacteria found in certain foods and supplements. When consumed in adequate amounts, research suggests they help maintain a healthy gut microbiota (the variety of microorganisms in our gut). This positively impacts many aspects of our health, including our brain, immune and digestive function, particularly useful with the management of IBS.

Primarily found in fermented foods, it is important to consider the FODMAP content as some ingredients may be poorly tolerated. Additionally, if you’re going to eat fermented foods purely for their probiotic effects, make sure they’re unpasteurized (this process tends to kill the good bacteria so you’re unlikely to experience any benefit).

Probiotic Rich Foods

Low FODMAP

High FODMAP

  • Lactose free or coconut yogurt
  • Lactose free kefir (we like this one)
  • Sauerkraut (20g)
  • Kimchi (45g)
  • Pickled gherkins or beetroot
  • Miso paste
  • Tempeh
  • Regular dairy yogurt or kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut (75g)
  • Kimchi (75g)
  • Other pickled vegetables

What are PREbiotics?

Prebiotics are the foods that fuel the probiotics to keep us and our guts happy. They essentially act as a fertiliser to nurture and help the good bacteria grow - so if probiotics were the flowers, prebiotics would be the soil. 

Prebiotics can be found in a range of fibre-rich foods, which is great because it means you’re likely already getting some in without even knowing. However, one of the main prebiotics that is added to food products is inulin, which is high FODMAP. If you cannot tolerate fructans, just be mindful of this sneaky ingredient when reading food labels. 

Prebiotic Rich Foods

Low FODMAP

High FODMAP

  • Canned chickpeas (¼ cup)
  • Canned lentils
  • Unripe banana
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Oats
  • Almonds (10)
  • Canned chickpeas (½ cup)
  • Baked beans
  • Ripe banana
  • Garlic 
  • Onion
  • Cashews 

Should I take probiotic or prebiotic supplements?

With so many supplements on the market it can be quite overwhelming to find the right one, particularly when some even make false claims. It’s important to note that not everyone requires supplementation but if you do, there are multiple factors that impact the effectiveness - the type of bacteria, condition or symptom you’re trying to treat, concentration and quality of the product. So, if you are considering taking one, we recommend consulting a healthcare professional to help find the supplement that will be most beneficial to you. 

Tips to keep your gut happy:

1. Eat the Rainbow

Both probiotics and prebiotics are essential to keep your gut healthy, so try to eat as many fermented and fibre-rich foods as possible. Our guts also thrive off variety so try and include as many different foods and colours in your diet as you can!

2. Exercise Regularly

Several studies have shown an association between physical activity and levels of good bacteria in the gut, which is just another reason to get that body of yours moving!

3. Get Enough Sleep

I know you’ve probably heard it many times before but good sleep is vital for our overall health. Sleep deprivation has been shown to disrupt the circadian rhythm which can cause changes to our gut microbiota.

4. Manage Stress Levels

Research shows that stress can increase gut sensitivity, reduce blood flow and actually alter our gut bacteria - increasing the bad gut bugs and reducing the good gut bugs (which is not what we want). See one of our recent blog posts for some tips on how to manage stress

5. Limit Alcohol and Smoking

Generally speaking, alcohol and smoking have detrimental effects on almost all organs in the body. In terms of gut health, both will have harmful effects on our microbiota so try and limit them friends!

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