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The Symbiotic Relationship of Probiotics and Prebiotics

If you want to improve your gut health or maintain the good gut health you already have, there are two things you must do. Consume probiotic foods and prebiotics foods and they are best consumed together, creating what is now being called “symbiotic” foods. This is easier than it may sound and can actually be fun!

When I was first learning about fermented foods I never even thought about pickles, but they are included in that list of good gut foods. Thankfully my gramma makes the best dill pickles on the earth!

Probiotic foods contain beneficial organisms that help our gut perform its duties and have amazing health benefits for us. Prebiotics are types of fibre like inulin, resistant starch, GOS and FOS that help feed our good bacteria.

We have two types of bacteria strains in our gut: residential and transient. Residential bacteria strains are the bacteria that live in our gut naturally and we must have them re-populate to stay healthy. Transient strains of bacteria pass through us (usually within 3 days) but while they are there, they help the gut do its work and keep us healthy.

Probiotic foods contain transient bacteria. We need prebiotics to help us feed and increase our residential bacteria.

Getting some prebiotic and probiotic foods on a regular basis is the key and that is quite easy to do. Some examples of probiotic foods are sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, miso, natto, pure apple cider vinegar (with mother), true balsamic vinegar, wine, unpasteurized beer, crème fraiche. In order to deliver beneficial organisms from fermented foods to the gut as well as the enzymes these foods also contain, do not heat past a temperature of 118 degrees F (48 C).

Prebiotic foods are Jerusalem Artichokes, chicory, garlic, onions, beans, lentil, citrus fruits, pears, apples, bananas, berries, almonds, broccoli which contain soluble fibres like inulin and FOS. Resistant starch found in legumes, potatoes (when cooled this resistant starch is higher), wheat, corn, rye, barley, rice, spelt, kamut, and other grains and GOS is found in dairy products. The list of foods that are prebiotic is going to expand as research continues to discover more foods containing elements that are probiotic. It could turn out that all whole foods have some prebiotic benefit but we do not know that yet.

Prebiotics are not just food for good bacteria. They also enhance the absorption of calcium and magnesium and are involved in appetite regulation as well as lipid metabolism. As research continues, it is even more fascinating how these simple substances in food, and together with our good bacteria, are involved in a complex relationship to help us be healthy.

Consuming prebiotics with probiotics can be as simple as mixing banana slices into your yogurt or serving sauerkraut with a meal that contains garlic and onions. Maybe this is why we traditionally constructed meals as we did.

Here is a great breakfast recipe

Fermented Oats

1/2 cup steel cut oats (rolled oats can be used but not quick-cooking oats) 1/2 cup spring water 1-2 tbsp full-fat yogurt or kefir or coconut yogurt

To cook the oats: 3/4 cup spring water* 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon Pinch sea salt 1/2 cup of whole milk (can be mixed with 1 tbsp yogurt or kefir as an option) or coconut milk 1 tbsp raw pistachio nuts 1 tbsp maple syrup 1 chopped banana 1/4 cup blueberries


Place the oats, 1/2 cup water, and yogurt or kefir in a bowl. Mix and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap placed loosely on top. Let sit in a warm place for at least 7 hours.

To cook the oats, transfer the fermented oats to a saucepan and add the 3/4 cup water*, the cinnamon, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Transfer to a bowl, and top with milk, pistachios, maple syrup, bananas, and blueberries. Serve.

*If using rolled oats, only a 1/2 cup of water is needed.

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