Many people switch off when reading or hearing about probiotics and prebiotics. Maybe they sound too scientific to be relatable or assume they are things you buy from the chemist. Probiotics and prebiotics are ABSOLUTELY essential for good gut health and are found naturally in some of the foods we eat. Maintaining good gut health with IBS is really important as it can help to reduce the severity of gastric symptoms. Here is a very simple guide to how these special things work in our bodies.
Imagine your gut is a garden. The plants are the good bacteria that live there – also known as probiotics. Fertiliser feeds the plants and helps them to grow and survive. This fertiliser is the prebiotics.
The Plants (Probiotics)
What is a garden without plants? The more the better. To get those plants into the garden we need to eat the foods that contain them. This also helps to decrease bloating, gas and discomfort caused by an overgrowth of weeds (yeast or ‘bad’ bacteria). Here is a list of some common (and yummy) ones below:
- Yoghurt – you want to look for the ones with long shelf lives. This means they have lots of great living bacteria in them. Its also best to choose yoghurts containing 1 billion probiotics per serve (often written as 1×10^9 CFU/G).
- Kefir (fermented milk) – great in smoothies or you can also get kefir cheese.
- Kombucha – Beware though many today on the supermarket shelves contain lots of sugar and no probiotics! If it says ‘pasteurised’ on the label, pick another as this is a technique that kills the good bacteria. I recommend Remedy Organic Kombucha.
- Kimchi – If you are ever in South Korea (or at a South Korean resteraunt) gobble this up! At some poke bowl cafes they also have it as an optional side.
- Miso – Fermented soybean, salt and koji and the perfect healthy entree at Japanese restaurants. It is also a great snack as you can buy the paste easily from supermarkets. Just mix with boiling water and some shallots.
The Fertiliser (Prebiotics)
Food for the plants. Without it they will die. This fertiliser is special as it is a certain type of fibre that can pass through the whole digestive system intact and reach the lovely plants (bacteria) down in the large intestine – giving them energy and stimulating growth of new plants! See below for some foods naturally high in prebiotics. A quick note – many of these are high FODMAP so I recommend using your Monash FODMAP app to check appropriate serving sizes of each or speak to your Dietitian to find out which ones are suitable for you.
Vegetables – Onion, garlic, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, green peas, sweet corn, jerusalem artichokes, fennel, savoy cabbage
Legumes – Chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soy beans
Fruit – Custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranates, dates, figs
Breads/cereals – Barley, rye bread, pasta, wheat bran, multigrain bread, oats
Nuts/seeds – Cashews, pistachio nuts
***If you pair probiotic and prebiotic foods together you have what is called synbiosis. This will make your gut bacteria very happy 🙂
By: Sarah Gulliver
Dr Joanna McMillan, Gut Reactions – Diet, Health and the Microbiome, Dietitian Connection, https://dietitianconnection.com/product/gut-health-webinar-2/
Monash University, High fibre, high prebiotic diet for healthy individuals, Department of Gastroenterology, https://www.monash.edu/medicine/ccs/gastroenterology/prebiotic