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Discover the benefits, and foods to help keep your gut microbiota healthy


The foods we eat combined with our our modern lifestyle delivers a “gut punch” of health issues…

From the consistently high stress levels and poor sleep habits to the ultra-processed and highly-refined foods that are low in fiber and lacking in micronutrients; these all play a role and create a gut microbiome that is unbalanced and unhealthy.

As a result, we see these manifest as complications with our health such as unintentional weight changes, fatigue, skin irritation, autoimmune conditions, and food sensitivities/ intolerances…. and the list goes on.

When you know better, you do better. So let’s take a moment to discuss the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics, why they are so good for your body, and what foods you should eat to keep your gut microbiota healthy.


What are Probiotics & Prebiotics?


Are “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Put simply: Probiotics are the “good” bacteria (and sometimes yeasts) that offer health benefits.

💡 Within the human gastrointestinal tract exists a complex ecosystem of approximately 300 to 500 bacterial species, comprising nearly 2 million genes (the microbiome)!

So how do probiotics work?

The main job of probiotics, or good bacteria, is to maintain a healthy balance in your body.

Think about maintaining your body in neutral. When you are sick, bad bacteria invades your body and increases in number. This makes you feel out of balance or sick.

Now the good bacteria work hard to fight off the bad bacteria to bring back the balance within your body and make you feel better again – Well done probiotics!

💡 The antibiotics you are given when you are sick are designed to kill off bacteria. Unfortunately, they do not discriminate. While they are very effective at killing off harmful bacteria that makes you sick, they also kill off your good bacteria. It’s not a bad idea to supplement with a probiotic if you have recently been on antibiotics. 


Prebiotics are special plant fibers that help the healthy bacteria grow in your gut. This makes your digestive system work better.

Think of it this way, PRObiotics are like seeds you can plant in your garden that will sprout and grow into beautiful plants. PREbiotics are like the fertilizer that you feed the plants to help them thrive.

Prebiotics are found in carbohydrates that your body cannot digest. So they go to your lower digestive tract, where they then act like food to help the healthy bacteria grow.

Bottom line: Without prebiotics there’s no food for the probiotics. That means the probiotics can’t do their job effectively, which leads to problems in your gut microbiota.


Why are Probiotics & Prebiotics so important?

Probiotics and prebiotics can provide your body with powerful benefits

The probiotics may improve digestive health, mental health like reducing depression for example, gastrointestinal health and heart health.

Plus, evidence suggests they may even give you healthier-looking skin.

The prebiotics have many links to the benefits of probiotics.

They may support a healthy gut, offer better digestive heath, and help to lower antibiotic-related health problems. They may also improve your body’s absorption of calcium and can help process foods faster, so they spend less time in your digestive system, which help avoid constipation.

💡 Did you know: These gut microbiota can actually “taste” food. They can also communicate with your brain to influence your decisions with food choices and much more. There are several studies that have shown changes in ones hunger, food cravings, food likes and dislikes based on the diversity of their gut microbiome. Specifically, highly processed/ refined foods as well as those high in sugar seem to create an environment that begs for more of these foods. 


Foods To Keep Your Gut Microbiota Healthy

Maintaining a healthy gut can sometimes be difficult. But there are many healthy probiotic and prebiotic foods that you can eat, to help your gut.

Prebiotic: Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes

Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes are great sources of micronutrients nutrients for a healthy microbiome. They are high in fiber, which your gut microbiota loves!

Here a few specific foods to add to your shopping list that are high in fiber and great for your gut bacteria:

Apples Rich in pectin fiber
Asparagus Rich in prebiotic fiber & antioxidants
Garlic Great for flavoring foods & gives prebiotic benefits
Onions Rich in inulin & fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
Bananas Good source of fiber
Oatmeal Rich in beta-glucan fiber


Probiotic: Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods have undergone a process in which the sugars they contain are broken down by yeast or bacteria. Fermented foods are packed with probiotics and may therefore improve your gut health.

Here’s 5 fermented foods to add to your shopping list.

💡 Be sure to buy only those in the refrigerated section of your grocery store to ensure you get live friendly bacteria. Also look for items with “no added sugar” on the nutrition label.

Yogurt Yogurt is a great source of probiotics. It is made from milk that has been fermented by friendly bacteria, mainly lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria. Plant-based yogurts, such as coconut yogurt, also contain added friendly bacteria. Unfortunately, not all yogurt contains live probiotics because they have been killed during processing. Therefore, look for yogurt with active or live cultures.
Kimchi Kimchi is a fermented, spicy Korean side dish usually with cabbage as main ingredient, but it can also be made from other vegetables. Kimchi contains the lactic acid bacteria lactobacillus kimchi and is also high in vitamin K, vitamin B2 and iron.
Sauerkraut Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It is a traditional and old food very popular particularly in Europe. In addition to its probiotic qualities, sauerkraut is rich in fiber, the minerals iron and manganese and the vitamins C, B and K. Make sure to choose unpasteurized sauerkraut, because pasteurization kills the live and active bacteria.
Kefir Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to milk from cows or goats. Kefir grains are cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast that look a bit like a cauliflower.
Tempeh Tempeh is fermented soybean. It is normally served as a popular, high protein substitute for meat. Due to fermentation tempeh also contains vitamin B12. This makes it a great choice for vegetarians as well as anyone looking to add a nutritious probiotic to their diet.

Remember: there are many, many more out there.

The Outcome

Your gut bacteria consist of hundreds of species of bacteria which all are extremely important for many aspects of your health. The best way to maintain a healthy gut microbiota is to eat a varied diet with a range of fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and fermented foods.

Bonus tips…
• Try trading milk for kefir or yogurt in a smoothie!
• Add tempeh to your favorite stir-fry recipes!
• Serve sauerkraut as a side dish or try adding it in a soup!
• Experiment with kimchi. Add it to your rice or make delicious fritters or pancakes out of it!


Sources & Further Reading

Prebiotics and probiotics: Creating a healthier you. (2018, February 27)

Scott, K. (n.d.). Prebiotics

Rather, I. A., Bajpai, V. K., Kumar, S., Jeongheui, L., Paek, W. K., Park, Y.-H (2016, April 12). Probiotics and atopic dermatitis: An overview. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7, 507

The Health Benefits of Probiotics and Prebiotics. G. R. Gibson,R. A. Rastall,R. Fuller,

Basic Definitions and Concepts: Organization of the Gut Microbiome. Eamonn M M Quigley

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 3/9/2020. Probiotics: What You Need To Know

American Gastroenterological Association. . Accessed 3/9/2020. Probiotics

Probiotics and Prebiotics in Pediatrics: Dan W. Thomas, Frank R. Greer and Committee on Nutrition; Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

Probiotics and prebiotics in dermatology. Katherine L Baquerizo Nole , Elizabeth Yim, Jonette E Ker

Resistant Starch Alters the Microbiota-Gut Brain Axis: Implications for Dietary Modulation of Behavior. Mark Lyte, Ashley Chapel, Joshua M Lyte , Yongfeng Ai, Alexandra Proctor, Jay-Lin Jane,
Gregory J Phillips

Formation of B-vitamins by bacteria during the soaking process of soybeans for tempe fermentation. J Denter, B Bisping

Analy Machado de Oliveira Leite, Marco Antonio Lemos Miguel, Raquel Silva Peixoto, Alexandre Soares Rosado, Joab Trajano Silva, Vania Margaret Flosi Paschoalin Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: a natural probiotic beverage

Effects of Dietary Yogurt on the Healthy Human Gastrointestinal (GI) Microbiome. Daniel J. Lisko, G. Patricia Johnston, and Carl G. Johnston

Probiotic bacteria in fermented foods: product characteristics and starter organisms. K J Heller