Saturday, 8 April 2017

April 2017: biotics: pro or anti, pre or syn?


Pro, pre, antibiotics, even synbiotics: you feel tired even before you start to read. So I’ll keep it simple.

Biotic means: to do with life.
Antibiotics kill or slow down the growth of bacteria. 
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for us, especially for our digestive system. 
We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. However, our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. (So what did the antibiotics, mentioned above, do? Correct, they killed them, both the good and the bad. Pity.)
Prebiotics are themselves indigestible, but they stimulate the activity of micro-organisms which are good for us: they are food for the probiotics. Probiotics introduce the good bacteria; prebiotics act as a fertilizer for those good bacteria that are already there [1].
Synbiotics contain both pro- and prebiotics.

Antibiotics kill, and this is the defining word. They fight infections caused by bacteria, but they kill indiscriminately. They are not effective against viral infections like colds, most sore throats, and flu. Not only are they not effective: they kill the good guys, the ones who’d HELP us fight them. 
And almost all important bacterial infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
The misuse of antibiotics has contributed to one of the world’s most pressing public health problems today [2]. See also the article in the New Scientist, on the right hand side. 
However, there are alternative ways to fight infections, ways which will not damage all of us in the process. Garlic, onions, quality honey and ferments, cider vinegar, cabbage, fruit and veg in general, achieve the same results without doing any damage - on the contrary [3]. 
If there really is no other way, here is a list with the best foods to have after taking antibiotics: [3a].

Probiotic supplements are fashionable and easy to get. They have shown benefits in treating IBS, constipation, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and many other digestive issues. Probiotic foods however, offer a much wider variety of beneficial bacteria. Ferments like live culture yoghurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, kefir, pickles and unpasteurized cheeses are, in the long run, far better for us than the pills [4].

Prebiotics: natural prebiotics are in: whole grains, garlic, onions and leeks, peas, beans, leafy greens and asparagus, bananas, berries and quality honey [5].

Synbiotics: when probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a synbiotic. To get your synbiotics the natural way, you could have yoghurt with honey or fruit, beans with pickles, or greens sautéed with garlic and sour cream [6]. Kefir has them both on its own.


I know I'm always on about FAT - trying to rid it of its bad name. Look at this webpage, where you should find a BBC podcast which explains how the latest research has overturned all the 'expert' advice we have been fed for decades:


purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.

direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, carrots. Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets (early), potatoes, cabbage, leeks. Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale.



60g fresh young nettle tops (4 big handfuls), 400g cooked white beans, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2-3 cloves chopped garlic, 750ml water, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil. 
Wash nettle tops, put into a pan along with the water that is clinging to them, and cook slowly until wilted (5 mins). Drain, (keep drained juice and add to soup), chop. Heat oil, add garlic and cook very gently for 1-2 mins, taking care that it doesn't colour. Add beans and water, simmer for 5 mins. Mash with potato masher, stir in nettles. Taste, season generously, simmer. This is meant to be a thick, coarse soup. Spoon into bowls, swirl oil over the top. Serve with nice bread.
450g white cabbage, 1 onion, 2 tblsp olive oil, 2 tsp garam masala or curry powder, 25g sunflower seeds, salt. 
Shred cabbage and onion finely. Heat oil, add both, mix. Add masala, turn down the heat. Cover and leave to cook for 10 mins, stirring occasionally: you may need to add a tiny bit of water so it doesn't burn. Season with salt, sprinkle with seeds, serve.

Mix well-cooked broccoli or other greens with minced garlic and olive oil while still warm. Spread toast with (peanut)butter and put the veg on top. Add lots of chillipowder. 
You can replace the peanut butter with cheese if you like. 

4 medium potatoes, 4 tblsp flour, mixed herbs, 4 tblsp dripping, pepper, salt.
Grate the potatoes, add flour, herbs and plenty of seasoning. Heat the fat, drop in heaped tablespoons of the mix. Fry 4 minutes on each side. With chutney for instance. 

For more recipes, see April former years (right hand side, click on 2017 and then on April).

Next month: how to get out of the SUGAR habit. If you want to have a look at this now, go to

See also the September 2015 issue about antibiotics, and its attendant article ‘Microbe City’ (
In the case of garlic, the best way to use this is leave it for 5 minutes after chopping, before you heat it up. And don’t cook for longer than 15-30 minutes (
[4] Wholefood shops are the best places to find proper pickles. Seek out varieties that are brined in water and sea salt instead of vinegar. Vinegar brine won’t allow the beneficial bacteria to grow.