Importance of Eating Prebiotic Foods for Optimal Digestion

Written by Sheridan

May 23, 2017

Eating a whole food diet which includes a variety of organic seasonal vegetables, probiotics from fermented foods and avoiding inflammation causing foods is critical to your optimal health.

Cultures all over the world eat a variety of fermented foods depending on what is available to them; they are often consumed with every meal. However, no matter how beneficial these fermented foods and probiotics are by themselves – they turn into something a lot more powerful when you combine them with prebiotic foods.

So what are prebiotics?

You’re probably already familiar with probiotics, which are types of good bacteria similar to what is found in the digestive tract. Consuming fermented foods and probiotic supplements help introduce good bacteria to the gut, while prebiotics essentially ‘fertilize’ or feed this bacteria. Basically, prebiotics are special types of plant fibre that nourish the good bugs!

There are three different categories of prebiotics. Each of these categories contain sub categories, which all feed different types of gut microorganisms:

  1. Non-starch polysaccharides (eg inulin and fructooligosaccaride)
  2. Soluble fibre (eg psyllium husks)
  3. Resistant starch (eg cooked and cooled rice, cooked and cooled potatoes, green bananas/green banana flour)

The following criterion needs to be met in order to be classified as a prebiotic food by this review:

  • ‘Resists gastric acidity, hydrolysis by mammalian enzymes, and absorption in the upper gastrointestinal tract;
  • Is fermented by the intestinal microflora;
  • Selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of intestinal bacteria potentially associated with health and well-being.’

Basically, all prebiotics are a form of fibre which enters the digestive tract, passes through the small intestine and stimulates the growth of microbes.

Examples of prebiotics:

  • Cooked then cooled rice
  • Potato cooked and cooled
  • Green banana
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Leeks
  • Acacia gum
  • Chicory root
  • Asparagus

Examples of probiotics:

The preparation and/or state of a food determine the level of prebiotics that are within the food. For example, rice that has been cooked and cooled for 24 hours contains a powerful amount of resistant starch compared to rice that has just been cooked. It is best not to ‘supplement’ with these foods every day. Instead it is better to rotate them in your diet, to ensure you feed all different types of bacteria in your gut.

For even more health benefits, you can combine these prebiotic foods with probiotics from fermented foods. Prebiotics will allow the probiotics you consume to colonize your gut, making the fermented foods more effective. This is why the Changing Habits Probiotics contain both pre AND probiotics.Changing Habits all natural probiotics in continerTop benefits of consuming prebiotics:

  1. When bacteria digest resistant starches, they produce short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. Butyrate is the preferred food for the cells in the colon and therefore can begin the healing process of the gut lining.
  2. Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  3. Resistant starch may not effect blood sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity, so can even be beneficial for diabetics.
  4. Resistant starch reduces the pH (increases acidity) which is essential to digest your food and ward away pathogens. High pH levels are linked with several illnesses such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
  5. Stimulates the growth of Bifidobacterium which is an extremely beneficial bacteria.
  6. Boosts stool frequency and consistency.
  7. Boosts your immune system, as 80% of your immune system lies in your digestive tract.
  8. Increases the absorption of nutrients.

Are you feeding your gut with the right prebiotic?

Although we know that all prebiotics have the potential to be highly beneficial, resistant starch (a form of prebiotic) is becoming more favourable for feeding beneficial bacteria.  This form of prebiotic can be safe for most people, although this still depends on the microbial balance in the gut. If you have an overgrowth of pathogenic microorganisms living in your gut, such as a parasite, bacteria or yeast, you will have to be extra diligent with the type of foods you are consuming. In this case we recommend you consider a comprehensive stool test through your preferred practitioner first, to discover what is living in your gut.

Stool testing can be beneficial to ensure you are feeding the right gut bugs with the right prebiotics. Alternatively, you can slowly introduce foods—such as half a cup of cooked then cooled rice or a tablespoon of green banana flour—and monitor how you feel. If you develop a bloated stomach, constipation or diarrhoea, then your gut may need some extra attention OR you need to reduce the amount you are having and slowly, slowly increase the amount.

By including prebiotics in your diet, you can gradually rebuild your gut flora. So, along with fermented foods, I encourage you to also consume more prebiotic foods.

Happy changing habits.

Sheridan Williamson
Changing Habits Nutritionist

 

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24 Comments

  1. Sandy Tetreault

    Hi Sheridan. Can you reheat the cooked and cooled rice or do you eat it cold? Thanks. Sandy

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Sandy,
      I recommend you leave them cool or only slightly warmed, for example you can have the cooked and cooled rice cold, but put your hot curry sauce on top so you’re not affected the resistant starch much, simply warming it through. You can also enjoy potato salad as another example.

      Reply
  2. Tracey

    Hi Sheridan. What course did you do to become a holistic nutritionist

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Tracey,
      Both Sheridan and I studied at the University of the Sunshine Coast and we are both GAPS Practitioners too.
      If you’re after something Holisitic there are many courses out there, such as Endeaver in QLD and a few others in Sydney. I hope that helps 🙂

      Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    Hi Jordan. Does wild “rice” come in the category of a prebiotic, even though it is not a rice as such.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Fantastic question! I’m not 100% sure on this, perhaps we could do some more research on this and get back to you 🙂

      Reply
  4. Leanore Woods

    Hi Sheridan. I did a food safety course about 18 months ago and cooled rice turned out to be pretty nasty. Specifically it grows some nasty bacteria quite quickly and we were advised to always reheat it thoroughly. It should not be used after 3 days at all but thrown away. A rice salad made and eaten within 24 hours is ok but dodgy after that. I’ve left my own cooked rice and salad longer than that in the past but the idea particularly relates to take away food which may have been left to keep warm for long periods- perfect conditions for breeding bacteria. Recent research indicates that it is better to put hot foods into a fridge straight away and not let it cool down.

    Reply
    • Changing Habits

      Hi Leanore, absolutely awesome. I do recommend to not consume the rice 3 days later, and instead just between 24-48 hours later for the same reason. I recommended this out of caution and the ability of bacteria to thrive though it is great hearing from someone that has actually seen it! Thanks so much for this.
      Sheridan Williamson

      Reply
  5. LJ

    Hi I’ve just come across the recipe for Berry Banana Probiotic Yogurt…
    It is currently sitting in my cupboard for the required 2-4 fermentation days. What I would like to know is how long it will last in the fridge once I add the fruit?

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi LJ,
      We ate ours within 2 days at the CH office, however because it contains pro-biotoics I would say it could last a week, or even a little more. It will slowly continue to ferment and feed off the sugars in the fruit, even when placed in the fridge. So over time will become a bit more tangy.

      Reply
  6. Josie

    Hi
    Could you please clarify about the cooked and cooled rice. Is the rice cooled in the fridge or left out for the 24 hours.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Josie, you cool the rice in the fridge.

      Reply
  7. Matthew Martin

    Hi Jordan
    No mention of Kombutcha, where does it fit in the pre/pro picture?

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Matthew, I don’t recommend Kombucha for to those with gut dysbiosis as Kombucha is a ‘wild’ ferment and some of the specific bacterial strains/ yeast can aggravate some peoples symptoms, leaving them feeling worse. However people with great gut health may be able to handle Kombucha quite well.

      Reply
  8. Margaret

    Where can I get a copy of the gaps ketonic eating plan?

    Reply
    • Margaret

      Where can I get a copy of the gaps ketogenic eating plan

      Reply
      • Changing Habits

        Hi Margaret, not sure what you are referring to as there is no version of GAPS ketogenic available that I know of, though I work with clients through gut healing regimes that integrate GAPS and ketosis, if this is what you are thinking of. A good place to start maybe the GAPS book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. All the best, Sheridan

        Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Margaret, I’m sorry I’m not sure what you mean? The GAPS diet is separate from a Ketogenic diet. Did you see these 2 diets combined on perhaps another company’s website?

      Reply
  9. Todd

    How can I,purchase Changing Habits Organic Probiotics in the USA? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Todd, you can choose your country option when you’re placing your order online. If you have any issues please email enquiries@changinghabits.com.au for additional support.

      Reply
  10. Jenny Nixon

    Hi Sheridan/Jordon
    I generally don’t eat white potato, is sweet potato ok? Thanks

    Reply
    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Jenny, if you don’t eat white potato that completely fine, just choose something else that was listed in the blog 🙂

      Reply

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