All you need to know about pre and probiotics

By Sue Bedford MSc Nutritional Therapy

All health starts with the gut. If nutrients cannot be digested and absorbed from our food correctly then this will impact on all of the body organs and systems in some way, including the reproductive system.

It is important to ensure that the gut is full of healthy bacteria at least three months before conception for a variety of reasons. These reasons include: for the effective absorption of vital nutrients, enhancing the immune system, and also to reduce inflammation in the body. The health of a mother’s gut is vital prior to conception as it has been linked to reduced eczema, asthma and coeliac disease risk, along with improved immune function in children (to name a few).

How can healthy gut bacteria be improved?

Consume a good variety of prebiotic foods as these will help to support probiotic bacteria.
Consume some fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kefir to support gut flora.
Consume foods containing probiotic bacteria.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement

What are prebiotics and probiotics?

Prebiotics are important in our gut as they help the growth of good bacteria (Probiotics). They come mostly from carbohydrate fibres called Oligosaccharides. As they are not digested, they remain in the digestive tract and encourage the good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus to grow.

Prebiotics are naturally found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Good sources are garlic, onions, leeks and bananas.

Probiotics are useful live bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus which help to maintain the balance in the digestive system and help to keep it healthy.

Probiotic sources are: yoghurt containing live bacteria culture, cheese that is not baked, sauerkraut, miso and fermented milk. Some foods also have probiotics added to them.

Why not try making your own sauerkraut? (soured cabbage)


1kg organic green cabbage chopped small
One tbsp good quality sea salt
One tbsp of either caraway seeds or chopped dill
Chop the cabbage very finely and place into a large bowl. Add the salt. Next, using a rolling pin bash the cabbage for up to 10 minutes. Add the spices and herbs and mix thoroughly. Place the mixture into a large lidded jar and as adding it, try to push the air out with the end of the rolling pin to remove excess air. Place the lid onto the jar tightly and leave for three to four weeks (remember to open the lid every few days to remove any gas formed for the week.). Enjoy.
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