Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods To Boost Good Gut Bacteria
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Probiotics are healthy live bacteria that are sometimes prescribed to treat IBS. The aim is to provide the gut with more helpful bacteria to push out the bad bacteria that may be causing issues, bulk up stools, improve the barrier layer of the intestines, and help excrete toxic substances. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that ferments in the large intestine and provides fuel for the healthy bacteria allowing them to flourish in the gut.

One of the great benefits of learning about probiotics and prebiotics is that it has helped me understand why some foods cause me issues. Have you ever noticed how gassy you can be after eating garlic and onion, or beans! Some of these foods affect me more than others and it took some trial and error before I figured out what foods and quantities were right for me, but I’m glad I did as it now helps me manage my IBS symptoms.

How to consume probiotics

In addition to probiotic supplements, probiotics are also found in fermented foods including:

  • tempeh (soy beans)
  • sauerkraut (cabbage)
  • cashew cheese
  • pickled vegetables
  • yoghurt (dairy or non-dairy based)
  • kefir (milk or water based)
  • kombucha (tea)

This article 5 ways to get more probiotics into your day provides tips on how I consume probiotic foods on a daily and weekly basis. When buying these products also check if they have been pasteurized as this process will destroy any bacteria, both harmful and helpful.

How to consume prebiotics

Prebiotic foods travel through the gut undigested. Once in the large intestine, they start to ferment. This fermentation process can cause issues for many people with IBS. Excessive gas can be a big one, particularly when it causes abdominal pain. The intake of prebiotics is limited in the low FODMAP diet due to the fact that they ferment and can cause IBS symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you can’t consume these foods. It may just mean that the serving size needs to be smaller, or you may need to limit your intake to those foods that don’t cause your symptoms to flare up.

Sources of prebiotics include:

  • garlic
  • onion
  • asparagus
  • beets
  • green peas
  • snow peas
  • chickpeas
  • baked beans
  • lentils
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • pomegranate
  • dates
  • rye bread
  • rolled oats
  • couscous
  • cashews
  • pistachios

According to The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app, if you are following the diet then these amounts of some prebiotic foods are considered low in FODMAPs and suitable to eat while in the elimination phase:

  • beets – two slices
  • snow peas – 5 pods
  • chickpeas, canned – ¼ cup
  • lentils, canned – ½ cup
  • pomegranate seeds – ¼ cup
  • rolled oats – ½ cup

Do you need professional advice?

If you are thinking about trying to add probiotics and prebiotics to your diet, it is worthwhile discussing this with your healthcare provider. Consuming probiotics may make your symptoms worse and decreasing the amount of prebiotic foods to avoid symptoms may reduce the growth of beneficial bacteria.

If you are thinking about consuming probiotics in a supplement form, or you have been prescribed them, it can be beneficial getting expert advice on what to buy because the strains of bacteria and the quality of the product can vary between brands.1-7

view references
  1. Gropper, S & Smith, J 2013, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th edn, Wadsworth, Belmont.
  2. Monash University 2016, Dietary fibre and natural prebiotics for gut health: FAQs, http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/prebiotic/faq/
  3. The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app 2016, https://itunes.apple.com/app/monash-university-low-fodmap/id586149216?mt=8
  4. Murphy, K 2011, ‘Management of IBS’, Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 188-9.
  5. Sanders, M et al. 2014, ‘Probiotics and prebiotics: prospects for public health and nutritional recommendations’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1309, pp. 19-29.
  6. Yoon, J et al. 2014, ‘Effect of multispecies probiotics on irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,’ Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, vol. 29, no.1, pp. 52-9.
  7. Zeng, J et al. 2008, ‘Clinical trial: effect of active lactic acid bacteria on muscosal barrier function in patients with diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome’, Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, vol. 28, no. 8, pp. 994-1002
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