Here's an introduction to help you get to know some of the main players that are making an impact on your gut health.

Chances are, you’ve heard about the importance of the bacteria in your digestive tract. Get to know some of the main players that are making an impact on your gut health.


You’ve probably heard of these trendy little guys called prebiotics and probiotics at some point or another – possibly at a yoga class or a juice bar. Yes, they are good for you, and yes you should try to incorporate them into your diet. But did you ever stop to wonder what all the fuss is about? And what about antibiotics? Are those good, too?

Well folks, it’s gut health.

Let’s start with the facts. Microflora lines our digestive tract, which helps prevent the spread of infections and bacteria. It basically acts as a barrier for the gut, fighting off infection, and maintaining balance in the digestive tract.

Key takeaway here? We like this bacteria, we need this bacteria, so treat it well! Let’s do a quick rundown of some of the key players.

  • Claim to Fame: Probiotics are live cultures or “good bacteria”  in foods, which help keep your digestion in check and provide other numerous health benefits. By eating probiotics from food, you are helping build that gut microflora to fight off infections.
  • Where do I find them?  They’re a little tricky to spot at first, until you know what you’re looking for. Probiotics will not be highlighted on a nutrition facts panel (although kudos to you for reading the labels – keep it up!) Sometimes you’ll see them listed as live or active cultures, but as a rule of thumb, they can be found in yogurts or other foods that are naturally fermented. You can also find them in foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses (like gouda), tempeh, kefir, kombucha, and even sourdough bread.
  • Claim to Fame: Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that help promote the growth of healthy or “good” bacteria already in the gut. The microflora in your gut feeds off prebiotics to grow.
  • Where do I find them? Unlike probiotics, these are found in fibers of plants only (vegetables, fruits, and legumes). Major sources include garlic, bananas,  artichokes, asparagus, onions, leeks, soybeans, and whole wheat products.

In essence, probiotics and prebiotics are the ultimate power couple. Powerful alone, no doubt, but they really shine when they’re together! Some great probiotic & prebiotic combos include: sourdough bread and hummus, whole wheat crackers & gouda cheese, or a fruit smoothie with banana and yogurt.

  • Claim to Fame: When all else fails and you are already sick, antibiotics help nurse you back to health by fighting off infection or “bad bacteria” in your body. While they certainly do the trick in making you feel better, they often times end up stripping us of that “good bacteria” as well in their efforts to fight infection.
  • Where do I find them? You guessed it – doctor’s orders only. These are a treatment method rather than prevention, used when you already have the bug. To prevent sickness, focus on building up that good bacteria, practicing good hygiene, getting your vitamins and minerals… all that good stuff your mom taught you when you were a kid.

So what’s the bottom line?

Probiotics and prebiotics are important for good gut health and may be linked to other health benefits outside of digestion. Antibiotics are important to nurse you back to health when you’re sick, but should not be used as a preventative measure. Eating probiotics and prebiotics on a regular basis can help contribute to a balanced diet and healthier gut.

So eat on, friends. Gouda cheese is calling your name!

Adapted from the original article.

Marissa Thiry, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Orange County, CA with a passion for health, wellness, and delicious food. With her love of innovating in the kitchen and testing unique flavors from different cultures, Marissa helps others understand that eating should be an experience, not a task. Make a visit to read more from Marissa.

  1. Hi there. I have a question regarding antibiotics. I’ve read a lot of this Web site and although very informative it does not talk about what really happens during a round of antibiotic treatment. Let’s say I have been practicing healthy eating for years (including probiotics and prebiotics), but then a diagnosis of Lyme disease hits me. The body has been fighting the disease for months on its own unaided by antibiotics. Once diagnosed the patient goes into self-defense mode loading up on probiotics, prerbiotics, pineapple juice, selenium, chlorella & spirulina, etc. The question is is it a futile attempt to try to keep these organisms alive in the gut if the antibiotics are just going to destroy them anyway? Should one just allow the antibiotic to do it’s job and kill everything and THEN begin to work at rebuilding the micro-flora? And one other question, why doesn’t the body attack the antibiotic which itself is a foreign invader? Thanks for your time.