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Healthy Gut Trinity: Prebiotics, Probiotics & Symbiotics

Ashley Koff R.D., internationally-renowned registered dietitian discusses Symbiotics with Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Andrea Donsky and health expert Lisa Davis hosts of Radio MD’s Naturally Savyy radio show.

Koff is widely sought after for her knowledge and ability to translate nutrition science into practical and motivating messages and appears regularly in the National Media, has authored two books and speaks frequently on the topic of better quality choices for better health.

Listen in as Koff joins Lisa and Andrea to share more about probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotics and why it’s so essential to incorporate them into your daily regimen:

Probiotics, prebiotics, and symbiotics… oh my!

You may have heard plenty about probiotics, those “good” bacteria that you naturally have in your digestive tract but often don’t have enough due to excess bad bacteria and yeast, overuse of antibiotics and other considerations.

Since probiotics became a “trend,” there are many foods that have probiotics added to them that really shouldn’t… ice cream, chocolate, cereal, etc. This has led people to believe that they don’t have to supplement with probiotics because they’re getting sufficient amounts in these “fortified” foods.

It doesn’t work that way, says Registered Dietician, Ashley Koff.

In fact, attempting to get your probiotics this way is actually working against you, because many of these foods have added sugars or artificial ingredients that are unhealthy.

Prebiotics are the preferred “food” that probiotics need to thrive. A few years ago, many manufacturers tried to make prebiotics as big of a trend as probiotics, which was really concerning to Koff.


First a little back-story… probiotics thrive the most on fiber; such as that found in vegetables, fruits, grains and beans. The great thing about this is that you can get these prebiotics from your diet; you don’t need to supplement.

There is another class of fiber that does a bit better when it comes to feeding probiotics, found in things like chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, and inulin. The problem is, these fibers are not readily digested in the body and can cause discomfort to your digestive system.

The key thing to keep in mind is that when incorporating prebiotics and probiotics, you want to get the best quality of probiotics — whether that is in supplement form or via cultured foods — and for prebiotics, try for those that come in a whole food matrix. Essentially, aim for getting them both in their most authentic form.

And, remember, the bacteria is meant to be alive and active… so you want to try to get that bacteria in the forms that preserve that state.

What sort of dosage should you be getting on a daily basis?

The answer is not clear cut. There are specific strains that do different things, and the point is not to just get “more” into your system, but rather get the right amount of the right kinds of strains.

So, for instance, you might see a label that only has one million CFUs (colony-forming units) and think that’s not enough; but, it could be an extremely effective strain.

What about symbiotics?

Symbiotic, in definition, means “working together.” So, in a digestive concept, symbiotics help to repair the gut lining, which is one of the most critical things in terms of digestive (and overall) health. Many people find that probiotics don’t work well for them, and it’s because their gut lining isn’t healthy. The lining of your gut is where your nutrients are absorbed and it also helps to keep the good bacteria in and the bad bacteria out.

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