Prebiotic vs. Probiotic: Which Is Right for Me?

By now, you probably know a bit about the enormous benefits probiotics provide for the body (especially if you follow this blog!). But if you’re not sure why you should be eating prebiotic foods, or have never heard of such a thing, let’s clear up the confusion.

Prebiotic foods are carbohydrates that feed your gut bacteria. They are grouped into 3 types: non-starch polysaccharides, soluble fibre, and resistant starch. Non-starch polysaccharides include things like guar gum, inulin and pectin; soluble fibre includes flaxseed and cruciferous vegetables; and resistant starch is found in items like plantains and white rice.

Things like guar gum are often used as thickeners in ingredients like canned coconut milk, and if you eat plenty of vegetables, you’re probably getting adequate soluble fibre. But what about resistant starch?

The Scoop on Resistant Starch

If you’ve been following a low-carb diet for a while, you may want to consider adding resistant starch back in to encourage good bacteria growth in your gut. Low-carb diets usually limit or exclude sources of resistant starch. But rather than adding inches to your waistline, these special starches get eaten by the beneficial bacteria. Just make sure you limit your intake to a small portion each day, and don’t go overboard.

Here are my favorite sources of resistant starch:

  • Potato starch

  • Green plantains

  • Green banana flour

  • Starchy vegetables like carrots, beets and sweet potatoes

Can I Take a Prebiotic Instead of a Probiotic?

The short answer? No.

You need both prebiotics AND probiotics for a healthy gut bacteria balance. Prebiotics will just feed the bad bacteria if the good bacteria from your probiotics isn’t present. And if you’re not taking a prebiotic supplement like inulin and you and don’t eat many vegetables, you’re in danger of the bad bacteria growing out of control and causing health problems.

More About Prebiotic Foods

More and more research about prebiotics is released every day, and it’s all part of a larger conversation about optimal gut health and supporting your beneficial bacteria. If you’re interested in learning more, read this article by respected researcher Chris Kresser about prebiotics and resistant starch.

And if you’d like some personalized guidance in incorporating more prebiotics and probiotics into your diet, get in touch to schedule a Breakthrough Session with me.

Gut Health & Cancer: The Surprising Correlation

I was at both of my mom’s doctors’ appointments when she was given the dreaded news: you have cancer. This has been a summer of appointments, hospital visits, and sheer worry. It’s only been 10 days since she had surgery, which was followed by a bad bacterial infection.

Thankfully, she’s starting to feel better. But her gut flora is still messed up. Stress, medications, antibiotics, processed foods, and surgeries are all factors that cause the gut’s balance of good and bad bacteria to break down. Simply put, when the gut’s bacteria is out of whack, inflammation sets in, leading to many diseases.

A healthy gut flora can help prevent and fight cancer and other illnesses. Scientists and researchers are currently conducting studies to confirm this and further educate us on this important connection. In fact, Daniel Chen, head of cancer immunotherapy research at Roche’s Genentech division, had this to say in a phone interview:

"Five years ago, if you had asked me about bacteria in your gut playing an important role in your systemic immune response, I probably would have laughed it off. Most of us immunologists now believe that there really is an important interaction there.”

I’m grateful for the work I do, so I can help my mom recover by increasing the beneficial bacteria through pro and prebiotic-rich foods. Her appetite is still quite weak, and I can’t get her to have green shakes and sauerkraut yet, but I’m filling her plate with as many nutrients as I can.

Gut Healing Foods & Supplements

  • BioK mixed with chia seeds and banana

  • Homemade gluten-free “Focaccia Bread”, made with Italian probiotic spice, slathered with organic peanut butter (stay tuned for the recipe!)

  • Bifidobacteria tablets, plus a 5-billion count probiotic

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, feel free to contact me with questions or concerns about your gut flora. I’m here to help.