Probiotics and Prebiotics, A Guide to Gut Health
When you have anything “off” with your gut health you need to intervene. Using probiotics and prebiotics in foods as well as in pill format will help with gut health.
The probiotics are either contained in foods or you can take them as supplements. The probiotics themselves are the actual bacteria. The gut thrives on them such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Prebiotics are foods that nurture and foster growth of the healthy gut bacteria.
What I’m going to go over here for you are several lists of foods. Some to avoid, and others to eat for different reason. You should know your gut health is at risk when we continue to consume things that don’t agree with us. And there are plenty of things that can bring about gut disagreements in most people.
Here’s an example; Almonds, which people tout as amazing, can cause gut sensitivity issues! WHAT!!! That sucks. Yeah it does and guess what, I’m sensitive to almonds. Which I used to eat several times a day. Overeating certain foods can cause sensitivities – rotate your foods!
How did I find out I was sensitive? I took a food sensitivity test via my Naturopath called the Immuno Bloodprint 155. It was great! Although, now I can’t eat a bunch of stuff.
So what do we do? What do we do when we have gut problems?
If you want to take the test, go ahead, I recommend it and that will definitely help and be super eye opening. For now, here’s a pretty comprehensive list of foods and food types that are both good and bad for the gut. And I say good and bad because you will see some that are on here to which my gut is sensitive.
Your gut might be sensitive to them as well. And without testing or removing them and testing yourself, you will never know. And that’s a horrible thing because then you’ll be a little or a lot sick for a long time without reason!
Great Foods for the gut, both probiotcs and prebiotics (for the most part, depending on the gut):
YES, it depends on the gut. So make sure to keep track of what foods make you feel great, which are neutral and which cause gut outcry. Be careful with this as you go.
If you can, it will help to keep track while introducing or removing a single food at a time. This makes it easier to feel and understand the effect it has on your gut health. Whether it’s probiotic, prebiotic or a more neutral food.
And remember, food is fuel, you and I should be eating for health, longevity and optimal performance. If our guts are bubbly or sloshy, who does that help? No one!
So make sure to eat consciously, make good choices and go for healthy over easy access or pleasure. Choose from the lists below and nurture your gut health as much as possible!
Probiotic Containing Foods
The Low Down: Probiotics are ingested microorganisms believed to provide health benefits when consumed. They can be in foods or taken separate in pill or powder format by the billions or trillions. And try not to mix strains together, they are not friendly to one another.
Fun Fact from Wikipedia:
“Nobel recipient Élie Metchnikoff postulated that yogurt-consuming Bulgarian peasants lived longer lives because of this custom. He suggested in 1907 that “the dependence of the intestinal microbes on the food makes it possible to adopt measures to modify the flora in our bodies and to replace the harmful microbes by useful microbes“.“
Probiotics are more well known now and purchasing has been on the rise in recent years. From 2010 to 2014, there has been a global sales increase of 35% from US$23.1 billion to $31.3 billion.
Some regions have increased their use by even more than the average.
Eastern Europe (67%)
Asia Pacific (67%)
Latin America (47%)
These comprise nearly half of probiotics sold globally in 2014 
By geographic region, the leading consumers of probiotics in 2014:
Western Europe ($8.3 billion)
Asia Pacific ($7 billion)
Japan ($5.4 billion)
Latin America ($4.8 billion)
North America ($3.5 billion)
Eastern Europe ($2.3 billion)
That’s a significant billion dollar industry. With this much increase in the last 6 years, we have to think that science is onto something. So, you and I can agree that probiotics will help your gut. Let’s eat them and enjoy happier healthier bodies!
List of Probiotic Containing Foods:
- Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut, carrots, green beans, beets, lacto-fermented pickles, traditional cured Greek olives)
- Fermented soybeans (miso, natto, tempeh)
- Cultured dairy products (buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, cheese)
- Cultured nondairy products (yogurts and kefirs, coconut, etc.)
- Fermented grains and beans (lacto-fermented lentils, chickpea, miso, etc.)
- Fermented beverages (kefirs and kombuchas)
- Fermented condiments (raw apple cider vinegar)
All these foods are mainly fermented, and that is what fosters the healthy bacteria in the food.
Fermentation is the “process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms—yeasts or bacteria—under anaerobic conditions.” (Wiki) A common practice with alcohol creation, the leavening of bread, and the preservation of sour foods with the production of lactic acid, such as in sauerkraut and yogurt.
I like this list because it covers a wide range of food types and let’s you pick. Kefir is pretty tasty, although I was afraid to drink it at first. Yogurt is great, just don’t get sugar loaded junk and make sure your gut can handle dairy and it’s derivatives.
There’s a lot of fiber in beans, pickles are awesome, and you’ll notice many of these foods are from the “old days”. Amazing how original nutritious and readily available foods and production methods are coming back.
I want to include this awesome chart I found to show the simple difference between these two types of consumables.
Prebiotics are substances that help the growth or activity of microorganisms (e.g., bacteria and fungi). In turn that growth or activity contributes to the well-being of the host.
Roberfroid offered a refined definition in the March 2007 Journal of Nutrition stating: “A prebiotic is a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-being and health.”
These are the foods that help us nourish and foster good bacteria in the gut aiding gut health. Eat these and the good bacteria strains will grow more plentiful for you. All the while antigens in the blood and gut will be choked out and kept in check.
The over abundance of good bacteria will help you keep a good grasp on your vitality and health. Keep your skin healthy, keep colds away and just give you many extra benefits beyond a healthy gut.
Prebiotic Foods List:
- Burdock root
- Cereal grains (whole wheat, barley, rye)
- Chicory root
- Greens (especially dandelion greens)
- Jerusalem artichoke
From Wikipedia – Top 10 Prebiotic Foods
Raw, Dry Chicory Root,
Raw, Dry Jerusalem Artichoke,
Raw, Dry Dandelion Greens,
Raw, Dry Garlic,
Raw, Dry Leek,
Raw, Dry Onion,
Raw Wheat bran,
Whole Wheat flour, Cooked,
I don’t know about you, but most of that looks good. But Wheat? What the heck! Yeah we all know that gluten is not the greatest! And in my opinion, should be avoided.
What you should take from this list is: Eat lots of greens and veggies that are not sensitive foods for your gut. Long story short, pile on the fiber and give the bugs on board in your gut something to chew on.
Foods To Avoid For Good Gut Health
Why avoid these foods? They put strain on the gut, hard to digest and process, or create a lot of unnecessary waste for the body to unload. Some can be great, depending on what you are consuming with them (meaning vegetables).
Also the quantity is a crucial element here. You have to be wary of moderation. Anything over abundant in the gut can cause some havoc to a degree. Reason being many of us have some form of leaky gut and too much of the same food can agitate the leakiness.
Avoid these foods until your gut is at 100%, then moderation and a careful eye. Be careful not to backslide and get unhealthy slowly and only notice onces it’s too late!
- Red Meat – super fatty and super dense nutrients that can be hard to digest and pass through the colon.
- Fatty Foods and Hydrogenated Oils – High fats in your foods can cause issues with stool formation.
- Gluten and High Carb Foods – Avoiding the gluten protein works wonders for many. High carb foods can cause a multitude of gut reactions or antagonistic bacterial overgrowths in the colon.
- Lactose – Dairy, avoid in order to lose weight and temper your gut issues. Many people are lactose intolerant to some degree without knowing.
- Artificial Sweetners – These are just horrible, don’t ever use them!
- Sugars – can cause all sorts of problems in the gut, with insulin sensitivity, and mood swings. Cut it out!
- Chocolate – OMG! I’m sensitive to chocolate myself! Sucky but true. The theobromine can cause issues.
- All Processed Foods – Anything processed is just hard on the gut. Chemicals, preservatives and dehydration. Go for fresh and healthy!
- Spicy foods and spices – they irritate the gut lining. Many spices that are in powder form contain fillers and starches/gluten.
- High Fiber Foods – Raw/Fresh Fruits and Veggies – that raw veggie deliciousness can deliver a disruptive amount of fiber to the gut.
- Coffee – OMG! I’m sensitive to coffee. No bulletproof for me. Not to mention its the most heavily treated with pesticides.
- Acidic Foods – anything too high in acid will create discomfort that starts in the stomach and travels down. Know your body
- Beans and Nuts – Beans can be great, unless they cause gas and bloating. If you have sensitive intestinal lining or diverticulitis, the nut fragments can scrape the intestine.
The list above might have you scratching your head. There is some overlap and some foods that are just so ingrained in our diets. Changing your food intake will change your life.
Start slow and celebrate your wins. As you change and your gut feels better, you’ll see the rewards from altering not just your diet but your lifestyle. The gut will affect everything else in your body. Be ready for a big win with a better diet.
Bacteria In The Food
Good bacteria vs bad bacteria. That’s what we are talking about, and your body is holding about 3 pounds of bacteria at any given time. There are around 100 Trillion bacteria microorganisms that make up your gut flora. And flora is a fancy way of saying your microbiome or gut biome.
Located mostly in the large intestine, or colon, that bacteria actually ferments the food. This is where when the bacteria is out of whack we get gas, bloating and pain. Other results are constipation, diarrhea, and leaky gut. Leaky gut is gut permeability where foods pass from your intestine into your blood stream. All are potential results of gut issues.
Where many gut issues start is with your bacteria being out of whack. Food may not be processed properly.
So what do you do?
Eat healthy and get lots of fiber. You’ll see that most prebiotic foods are loaded with fiber and the average person needs 40-60 grams a day. We usually get less than 10 with all the processed stuff we consume.
Increase your fermented foods to incorporate more healthy bacteria in your diet. Nourish the gut bacteria and give it all the opportunity you can to replenish on the helpful side. Processed sugary starchy foods will not assist in your healthy bacteria surviving any better. The overly processed foods actually feed bad gut bacteria.
Be cognizant of what works best for you. If you don’t like the taste, either grin and bear it if that’s who you are or go ahead and find an alternative. If you feel sick after eating it, then stay away. If it makes you feel great, don’t overdo it, but keep it in your diet.
Listen to your ND, Naturopathic Doctor, and when they say:
Don’t eat something, don’t.
If they say eat the herbs, eat them.
If they say rest, REST!
When they say avoid stress, avoid it!
When they say “check back in, in 2 weeks”, do it! (this one is for me as well 🙂
When your doctor says no, YOU SAY NO! And I mean this about food, DO NOT disobey your doctor. They are trying to help, although an MD vs a Naturopath is something to understand and incorporate into your medical care.
The key is to put in place these interventions for your holistic health. Your entire body, being something that you are taking care of, nurturing and looking after.
You’ve only go one body and one gut! Treat it like that and never forget it. Once your health has slipped away it can be hard to get it back.
Hold on tight to your health. Value it like gold or your children or whatever. Pay yourself with health foods, nourish your body and live an awesomely healthy life!!!