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What are Pre and Probiotics?

What are they and what do they do?

The gut is lined with over 1000 species of bacteria that play a much greater role in our overall health than you might expect. This complex ecosystem of bacteria forms what is known as our gut microbiome.

The health of our microbiome directly affects our mental and physical health. So, the healthier we can keep our microbiome, the healthier we are likely to keep ourselves.

The best way to maintain a healthy gut is to nourish the existing bacteria with the right foods that they like to eat, which can be referred to as prebiotic, and by adding new bacteria to our gut in the form of probiotics.

By feeding the microbiome effectively and maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria, our overall health is likely to benefit.

Let’s look a little more closely at pre and probiotics…


Prebiotic are found in certain foods, including many fruits and vegetables.

They are a type of plant fibre that serves as an excellent source of food for the bacteria in the gut.

Foods containing fibre and resistant starch can’t be broken down and digested by the body, so they become a food source for bacteria once they reach the gut.

Increasing prebiotic in your diet can not only promote the growth and activity of your gut microbiome, but it has also been shown to improve nutrient and mineral absorption in the gut, reduce the risk of bowel cancer, improve blood glucose control and prevent gut infections.

Prebiotic foods include:

  • Garlic and onion
  • Artichoke and asparagus
  • Legumes (such as beans and lentils)
  • Nectarines and peaches
  • Oats and whole grains


Probiotics are foods that contain living organisms that can contribute to the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut when ingested.

Probiotics can be taken in the form of food (such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha) or a supplement.

The quality of supplements available on the market vary significantly in the amount and types of bacteria they contain. Some supplements contain a single strain of bacteria, while others contain several different strains.

Yogurt is one of the most common probiotic foods. It is made by allowing milk to ferment after certain bacteria are added. The bacteria cause the milk to ferment and become slightly sour to create yogurt.  

Other foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir are all great bacteria-fermented probiotic foods.

When to take probiotics

Probiotic foods are great to eat as part of a healthy, balanced diet. They can be consumed daily or weekly, depending on your taste preferences and lifestyle.

Supplements are a bit more complicated, as there are so many different strains of bacteria and several different types of probiotic supplements available.

Symptoms associated with certain conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be improved when taking probiotics, however, it can be best to speak with the Dietitian, Nutritionist, Naturopath or GP if you are thinking of taking probiotic supplements.

In summary…

Pre and probiotics are essential for the gut as well as to maintain overall health and wellbeing.

Incorporating pre and probiotic foods into your regular diet is an excellent way of optimising and maintaining your overall health, as well as potentially reducing unfavourable gut symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort.

Written By Esther Rijk, Dietitian
Do you want to know more? Contact Esther at