Long ago, yoghurt manufacturers realised that probiotics are in demand, which is why we’ve seen such an increase in availability of probiotic products.

There’s plenty of interest in both probiotics and prebiotics but, while they’re similar, probiotics and prebiotics aren’t the same:

  • Probiotics are friendly bacteria that can be found in specific foods
  • Prebiotics are substances that come in some carbohydrates. You can’t digest them, but they make good food for friendly bacteria.

Eating both pro- and prebiotics is a great way to ensure your gut health.

So just what are the benefits?

When your gut is full of probiotic bacteria, you’ll be well protected from potential harmful bacteria and fungal infections that find their way into your gut. That’s a rough summary of how they work… but either way, scientific research has found probiotics correlate with good immune health, decreased depression and decreased obesity to name just a few.

As well as these benefits, it’s also known that some types of gut bacteria help produce short-chain fatty acids, which become a nutrient source that lines the colon. They also help reduce inflammation by supporting the gut barrier that helps block viruses.

How can we feed good gut bacteria?

The foods that you eat help decide whether your gut is filled with good bacteria or harmful bacteria. A high sugar and fat diet is likely to help bad bacteria flourish and can also lead to other health conditions such as diabetes. One of the biggest problems is that the more you feed gut bacteria, the faster they grow, so it’s easy to get yourself into an imbalance without realising it.

What are some prebiotic foods?

There are a range of prebiotic supplements although chances are they’re more expensive than foods that naturally contain prebiotics. Prebiotic fibre is found in vegetables, fruits and legumes; we can’t digest them but our friendly gut bacteria can.

Prebiotic foods include:

  • Berries and bananas
  • Peas, beans and legumes
  • Garlic, onions and asparagus

Prebiotic foods are a vital part of your diet because they help to produce butyrate, which in turn helps fuel the cells within our gut and support the immune system.

What are some probiotic foods?

Probiotic foods contain the healthy bacteria we need, and you’ll find them in fermented foods such as yoghurt because the bacteria thrive on the sugar and fibre in that food.

Examples of probiotic foods:

  • Kefir
  • Kimchi and sauerkraut
  • Kombucha tea
  • Cheese
  • Unpasteurised pickles and pickled vegetables

Kefir, cheese and sauerkraut are rich in both the bacteria themselves and the prebiotic fibre that feeds them.

Are probiotic supplements a good source?

Many supplements offer live bacteria or yeast and promise to improve the balance of your gut bacteria but not all of them are a good bet. Supplements also wouldn’t come with the fibre that provides food for the probiotics, which means that real foods would still be superior.

Are probiotics good for everyone?

There are conditions where people should stay away from probiotics as it may worsen their symptoms. With a condition such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, a person might have to be particularly careful and should talk to a healthcare professional before changing their existing diet.

In a nutshell

The balance of your gut’s bacteria is an important aspect of your overall health and there are many unprocessed foods available that can help you achieve that. Talk to our personal training team about how to change your diet to achieve your goals.