140: Do's + Don't's For Prebiotics (Especially If You Have Rashes) w/ Kelsey Kinney, MS, RD

Gut Power

This episode is made possible by our partner Gut Power Drinks! They're a food-focused way to incorporate prebiotics (even safe for those with SIBO) that mixes in both hot + cold water without clumping. Free of gluten, dairy, soy, and nuts. AND the mixes are vegan and free of all sweeteners so you can add whatever works best for you!

My sister is in love with their Matcha while I enjoy the Chocolate mix (which I make into hot cocoa or add to smoothies).

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Most of us know about why we need probiotics to help optimize our gut health. But have you ever heard of prebiotics? My guest is going to tell us all about them. 

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

My guest today is Kelsey Kinney MS, RD, a registered dietitian in private practice specializing in digestive and hormonal health.

She completed her Bachelor's degree in Nutrition at New York University and holds a Master's degree from the University of Western States in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine.

Kelsey works with her clients to address all aspects of chronic digestive and hormonal disease, including balancing the microbiome, optimizing motility, regulating the HPA axis, enhancing the gut-brain axis and, of course, encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle. In doing so, she brings her clients from daily discomfort to full, vibrant health.

Join us as we talk about all things prebiotics.

Do you incorporate prebiotics? Let me know in the comments!

In this episode:

  • What are prebiotics and what do they do?
  • Instances when you may want to add prebiotics to your diet (and when NOT to add them!)
  • Some prebiotic foods to test out
  • How to understand prebiotic supplement labels
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and prebiotics
  • What are Gut Power Drinks?


“A prebiotic is essentially, really the easiest way to think about it is like food for your probiotics, food for good bacteria that are hanging out in your gut.” [2:58]

“Apples, for example, would be something that's got some prebiotics in there. But things like chicory root, blueberries, blackberries, garlic, leeks, onions, all of those kinds of foods have prebiotics in them.” [10:14]


Find Kelsey online

Gut Power Drinks

Healthy Skin Show episode 002: Wait, What Does My Gut Have To Do With My Chronic Skin Condition?! w/ Kelsey Kinney

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140: Do's + Don't's For Prebiotics (Especially If You Have Rashes) w/ Kelsey Kinney, MS, RD FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer: Hi everyone. Welcome back. Today I'm joined by a guest who was on the show about a year ago. Her name is Kelsey Kinney, and she's a registered dietitian in private practice specializing in digestive and hormonal health. She completed her bachelor's degree in nutrition at NYU and holds a master's degree from the University of Western States in human nutrition and functional medicine. Kelsey works with her clients to address all aspects of chronic digestive and hormonal disease, including balancing the microbiome, optimizing motility, regulating the HPA axis, enhancing the gut-brain axis, and of course encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle. In doing so, she brings her clients from daily discomfort to full vibrant health. And one other piece of the puzzle that you might not know about her is that she is the founder of a really amazing company called Gut Power Drinks.

Jennifer: And some of you may have seen me talk about them. They do matcha and chocolate and I'm hoping secretly for some chai, or a turmeric latte, one of these days. But Kelsey, I really appreciate you being back on the show.

Kelsey: Yeah, I'm so happy to be here.

Jennifer: And so you, I feel like are one of the most knowledgeable people I know about probiotics and prebiotics and you're just a nerd when it comes to research. Which is a good thing.

Kelsey: I do love me some PubMed.

Jennifer: You do. You do. And so we talked a lot about the gut and we talked about the gut issues that can be involved in skin health the last time you were here. But a lot of people are afraid now of adding prebiotics, or FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols) foods to their diet. So I figured, let's talk about what prebiotics even are first and what exactly they do.

Kelsey: Yeah, great question. And it's certainly a point of confusion I think for a lot of people because we hear all this information about probiotics. But prebiotics, even though they're not necessarily newer to the scene, they've been talked about a lot less than probiotics. But in my eyes, I see them as at the very least, equally as important as probiotics, if not sometimes more important than probiotics to incorporate for a really good gut health.

Kelsey: So we might want to start here by just talking about the differences between prebiotics and probiotics. So most of us know that a probiotic is a live organism that we can take, whether it's through supplements, or through food, something like yogurt or a kombucha that has actual bacteria in there that we're ingesting. It's making its way down to our microbiome and hanging out there for a little while and then it's typically leaving as well. It's a transient organism that takes up space for a while and then leaves.

Kelsey: So the difference between that and a prebiotic is a prebiotic is essentially, really the easiest way to think about it is like food for your probiotics, food for good bacteria that's hanging out in your gut. And so the definition very technically is just anything that is selectively utilized by good bacteria in our microbiome. And that's been tweaked over the years, that definition. And so we used to really only think about prebiotics as usually like types of fiber, or types of carbohydrates that we find in our food naturally that feed and are selectively utilized by good bacteria in our gut.

Kelsey: But lately we've been figuring out that things like, for example, polyphenols, which are the components in our food that we think of usually as antioxidants, but that give our food it's vibrant color. So like the red of a red apple, or the green of matcha, the dark brown color of your coffee. Those all are made by what are called polyphenols. And we've discovered that polyphenols themselves, even though they're not really a type of fiber necessarily, they also act as prebiotics, or food for our good bacteria in the gut.

Jennifer: And so, one of the things I want to clarify here for everybody listening and thinking like, “Wait, why are we talking about prebiotics?” Is that prebiotics are important because if it's the food, then there's a waste product, right? And those waste products tend to be short-chain fatty acids. And we know that from research, some of the short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate are important for proper skin health. And in some instances they can even help anchor the skin microbiome based off of what the gut microbiome is doing. So it's almost like the gut microbiome sets the tone for what can then end up happening on the skin.

Jennifer: And to some degree, at least just from a clinical perspective, I see that in working with clients, if they've got a lot of dysbiosis on the skin, it's not uncommon to see dysbiosis in the gut as well. So that side prebiotics are important. But I think there's probably some do's and don'ts here as far as they're concerned, just like with anything in life. So what would be some instances of when you may want to add them into your diet and when might you not want to?

Kelsey: Yeah, it's funny to ask do's and don'ts, because me personally, I think of prebiotics as something almost everyone should take. And that is not necessarily an opinion that you hear a lot I think. Because a lot of practitioners, and a lot of patients who maybe are dealing, especially with gut issues, they tend to hear like, “Oh if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), you shouldn't take prebiotics.” Or, “If you have gut issues already, prebiotics are just going to exacerbate those issues. You're going to get more bloated. You're going to have more diarrhea, more constipation.”

Kelsey: And while there is definitely a transition period when someone starts to take prebiotics, as long as you do it right you start really at a low dose, you build up slowly, if it's done right then prebiotics in my opinion pretty much across the board are going to be beneficial for 90% of people. That said, there are definitely some people who are going to have negative reactions to taking prebiotics. And usually there are people with digestive issues where like I was just saying, there can be an exacerbation of some of the symptoms they experience.

Kelsey: But typically that happens because they either started at too high of a dose of a prebiotic, or they ramped up really, really quickly even though they started at a low dose. Not giving their bacteria enough time to really understand, “Oh we're getting a lot more fuel. That's cool. We like that.” Sometimes if you just feed a lot of probiotics to your bacteria, they go a little crazy. And they produce a lot of gas as a result of having so much food to utilize. So there definitely can be some side effects I would say of taking prebiotics. But as long as you do it right, you start low, build up slowly, typically they're really, really well tolerated.

Kelsey: And then there's also just something to consider with the type of prebiotic that you're taking. So for example, I've had clients in the past who for whatever reason, they really just do not tolerate fructooligosaccharides, or FOS, but they do awesome. I know it's quite a big word.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Kelsey: But they do awesome with something like SunFiber, which is partially hydrolyzed guar gum. Or they might do really awesome with GOS galactooligosaccharides, but maybe they don't do well with SunFiber. So just because maybe you've tried one prebiotic in the past, even if you did it correctly, you started low, you built up slowly and you didn't do well with it, doesn't mean that you're not necessarily going to do well with another prebiotics.

Kelsey: So it's always, in my opinion, worth trying something else to see how your body responds to that. Because pretty much across the board, they're really, really beneficial for the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the gut. And the only reason I would say not to take a prebiotic, is if you try, let's say three prebiotics, you do terrible with all of them. You've got really severe dysbiosis going on in the gut that would be best dealt with, with things like anti-microbials, or potentially even antibiotics, if you're working with a doctor on that. So, that's the only situation I would really say that you need to think less about prebiotics. But even for someone with like mild dysbiosis or even severe dysbiosis, and just to clarify, that means the imbalance of good and bad bacteria, that word, dysbiosis.

Kelsey: If someone's got mild, moderate, or severe dysbiosis and they're doing something to fix that. And typically that's going to be antimicrobials, or antibiotics on the severe side. On the mild side, you could just do something like prebiotics and probiotics. But if you've got severe dysbiosis and you're doing antimicrobials and you're tolerating the prebiotic, it's still 100% in my eyes, a good idea to do it. So long as you feel good while you do it. Does that make sense?

Jennifer: It does, it does. And it's interesting because you mentioned the SunFiber, which is a supplement for anybody who's like, What is that?” It's a supplement. And obviously there are prebiotics in food, so could you just share-

Kelsey: Yeah.

Jennifer: … a short list of some of the prebiotic foods, which by the way they would be on the FODMAP list, right? They'd have FODMAP's in them.

Kelsey: Yeah. A lot of them. A lot of them would be, yeah. So, pretty much anything on that FODMAP list, like apples for example, would be something that's got some prebiotics in there. But things like chicory root, blueberries, blackberries, garlic, leeks, onions, all of those kinds of foods have prebiotics in them. And then you can also just think about, like we were talking about polyphenols before. So anything that's got color, which is pretty much all your fruits and vegetables.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Kelsey: All plant foods essentially are going to have some coloring and white does count as a color and brown too. Even though we associate those with not really counting as health food. So, a potato, it is going to have some polyphenols in there. It may not be super high, but pretty much all plant foods contain some degree of polyphenols and it's just a matter of some are a lot higher than others. Like berries, for the most part, are really, really high in polyphenols. Whereas maybe some other fruits or are lower on that list.

Kelsey: But if you think about it from a polyphenol aspect, it's pretty much any plant food is going to have some degree of polyphenol prebiotics in it. But then there are other things that have those more fibrous, or carbohydrate-based prebiotics. And those are going to be the things that we think of as FODMAP foods, typically.

Jennifer: Okay. And so when it comes to supplements though, it's interesting, I will tend to see things listed and maybe others have noticed this too. Like it'll say the prebiotic name plus FOS, plus MOS. So you gave it away a little bit about FOS, when we see those… How are they listed? I'm sure you're familiar with that. And what does mean? It just means that they've added prebiotic to either supplement or mixture?

Kelsey: Yeah, so if you see something the more common ones that you'll see in supplements these days are FOS, like we talked about, GOS. And then there's newer ones like XOS is what I call it. I don't know if you could say it. XOS doesn't have a nice ring to it with that one. But MOS also, there's a lot of different newer ones as well. But GOS, FOS, SunFiber is the brand name of a partially hydrolyzed guar gum ingredient. So there's quite a few and you'll see them listed like that as their trade name or brand name of the ingredient.

Jennifer: And inulin is another one?

Kelsey: Inulin as well.

Jennifer: Okay.

Kelsey: Yep. Yep. And so there'll be listed usually if it's a supplement like that. But if you think about foods and even some food products, the way that you'd see it, at least not on an ingredient label, but on a nutrition label, it would be counted as fiber content in that case. So it's a little hard to tell if you're just looking at a nutrition label. But you should see it listed obviously in the ingredients, on the packaging elsewhere. But the thing to look out for with supplements in particular when it comes to prebiotic content, especially if it comes in a capsule, you're generally not getting enough of a prebiotic to what's considered like a therapeutic dose. Something that's really going to actually increase counts of good bacteria in your gut. Which is essentially why we're taking a prebiotic in the first place.

Kelsey: So that's something to look out for. Pretty much across the board you're going to want to take prebiotics in powdered format, because otherwise you'd be taking so many capsules to get a therapeutic dose, typically, depending on the prebiotic. And a lot of companies unfortunately to hop on the prebiotic bandwagon, will throw milligrams into a capsule. So they can say that it's a symbiotic. It's got both prebiotics and probiotics. But really when you think about it and when you look at the research, including milligrams of prebiotics doesn't do anything. It's only when we start to get to the gram level that we see that that makes a big difference in good bacteria counts.

Jennifer: So it's interesting, you also mentioned this whole thing about SIBO, how people are afraid of fiber. Some doctors still suggest complete avoidance of FODMAP foods. Even if you go to the GI doctor, I've had friends and family members who've been told, “Oh we'll try a low FODMAP diet.” And they don't actually even feel any better. So what happens if you do react to prebiotics, or you have a concern because you've been told have SIBO, you believe you have SIBO for example. So small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Is there a particular rule of thumb to try out with prebiotics, or should you just not do them at all?

Kelsey: I would say it's definitely still worth doing for most people with SIBO. It's at least worth trying. I guess I should put it that way. Because again, anything that we're doing for our large intestine microbiome to balance that better is going to just have an overarching good impact on pretty much everything else. And there is research showing that prebiotics can be very useful in SIBO. So that said though, if it's coming with a lot of symptoms and exacerbations, that often is not worth it to someone. But again, going back to what we were talking about before, just about doing it in the right way, and as long as you tolerate it, all good. Definitely a good idea to do.

Kelsey: That said if you're like, “I have SIBO, and I want to try a prebiotic”, and obviously we've talked about quite a few that are on the market right now. One of your best bets is going to be SunFiber. That partially hydrolyzed guar gum that I was talking about before. That has been shown to be much more well-tolerated than other prebiotics across the board. So if you're worried about taking prebiotics because you do have, let's say SIBO, or really any other digestive concern and you're worried about those side effects that can happen, SunFiber is where I usually start people.

Kelsey: And pretty much 90% of my clientele is gut health patients. So when I work with them, I'm pretty much always starting them on SunFiber. And occasionally I'll add other prebiotics on top of that if that makes sense for the particular client. But typically we're starting with SunFiber these days, just because I've found it to be so, so well tolerated with that group of people.

Jennifer: And what's fascinating about SunFiber is that it just dissolves. It's not gritty.

Kelsey: It's great.

Jennifer: My husband is always like, “Your shakes taste so gritty.” And I'm like, “Well it's the ground flaxseed I don't know what to tell you. It doesn't dissolve.” But when you use SunFiber, there's no grittiness. And this is the other reason I know this is that…. And so you guys listening, you guys know that I really, really love Kelsey's Gut Power Drinks products. I'm not a big matcha fan just in general, but my sister is and she really loves the matcha flavor. And I'm a big fan of the chocolate. And I keep nudging Kelsey to add more flavors.

Kelsey: It'll come eventually.

Jennifer: But one thing that's really fascinating is you have this powdered stuff that just completely dissolves in even water.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Jennifer: And there's no grittiness or anything. That was how I was like, “Whoa, this is amazing stuff.” It's just so cool. Is there a reason why this gum… People get freaked about gums too.

Kelsey: Yeah. And especially guar gum. People get very freaked out about that name. But again, the reason I knew as soon as I wanted to start this company to make these products that I was going to use SunFiber, is because I had been using it for years with clients. And they all really just did very well with it, pretty much across the board. Again, that's been my go-to for a long time. And it wasn't always my go-to.

Kelsey: If you listen to my way back when podcasts, you'll hear me talking a lot about FOS, you'll hear me talking about GOS. rust me, I've tried a lot of them with my clients and over the years I've determined that, at least right now with what we have available, SunFiber tends to be the most well-tolerated. And we see that in research too about SunFiber, so that was one piece of it. Of course, I wanted something that was super effective and well-tolerated. But also like you mentioned it, it dissolves beautifully. And a lot of the other ones do too. But with SunFiber it's also like completely tasteless. It does not alter the taste of what you're drinking, or putting it in in any way, shape or form. Which I just thought was really remarkable.

Kelsey: Because with other products like you were talking about, all the sorts of stuff we tend to put in smoothies, they either add some sort of weird taste or a different texture. It's never the full experience of maybe what we wanted that food to be. And for me, yes, I'm a dietitian and I care a lot about healthy food, but I'm also a foodie at heart. I love food. And so I wanted to create something that was really enjoyable for people to consume. And would be a no-brainer for someone who's interested in making their gut health better, but who also really just wants to enjoy that and not have to think about taking all these pills every day, just adding that extra, I like to call them a chore. Taking your supplements I think shouldn't be a chore. It should be something that's actually enjoyable.

Kelsey: And I know you don't take pills. And there's a lot of people like you out there.

Jennifer: Me and pills are not friends. Can't swallow them.

Kelsey: Yeah. And for kids too, prebiotics and probiotics are so great for kids and if you can get that into your kid's diet in like a chocolate milk, or something like that, that they actually really want to consume how much easier is that than trying to like sprinkle some weird, broken up capsule like onto their food, that adds a taste, or a texture.

Jennifer: Or trying to get your kids to transition to eating a healthier diet when they're used to chicken fingers and fish sticks and all sorts of stuff and you're like, “Oh well we're going to add some Jerusalem artichokes to this.” And your kids like, “What?”

Kelsey: Exactly. What? Yeah. Really. Yeah, no. So, ultimately I wanted something that was really enjoyable to consume, was something that people didn't have to think twice about. And they could just put it straight into their routine they had already. And the reason I created it in the first place was because I was drinking matcha at the time and I was also thinking a lot about prebiotics and probiotics and I was like, “I'm just going to start mixing this in.” And it was such an easy way to incorporate those supplements into my everyday life that I was like, “Okay, I need to create this. This is too easy.”

Jennifer: Yeah, and it's also great because there's no sweetener.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Jennifer: So there are people who don't like Stevia. I'm not one of them. I like Stevia, but I don't like monk fruit. And some people love monk fruit. So you can add whatever you want, and if you have blood sugar issues, then you choose Swerve, or something like that. Because maybe honey for example, or maple syrup, or sugar is not going to be the best bet for you. So you get to control the sweetness and what type of sweetener you use. You can add that yourself. Which I thought was so brilliant, because so many people who really care that much about their gut health have concerns about different sweeteners and the taste profiles, et cetera. And the fact that it's super clean, so easy, blends well even in cold liquids. It's just so great.

Jennifer: So I'm really glad that you brought this to market. I'm excited for some of those new flavors I keep asking you about. Hopefully it will come to fruition. And I just want to make sure that if everyone wants to grab a bag, or two, or three, they also make great gifts, by the way, I gave some for the holidays. We'll have a coupon code for you guys in the show notes so that you can go and grab yourself a stash. Because Kelsey is doing great work and I love what she's doing. But Kelsey, I want to thank you, because like I said, for me, there's always this tie between gut health and skin health. There has to be. And we can't just fixate on food. You and I both know that. And it's not always just about food. Sometimes you need a little helping hand.

Jennifer: And prebiotics are one of the things I feel like a lot of times, they have caught a lot of flack lately because it's a FODMAP.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Jennifer: And there's a lot of people are like, “Oh, go FODMAP free. They're really bad for you.” I'm like, “Come on man.” We got to try to expand the diet and incorporate in as much food diversity as possible. And I love the fact that you're offering that opportunity for somebody to add in the SunFiber, which is very well tolerated for most people.

Kelsey: And it is actually low-FODMAP by the way, I should say that too. Of all the prebiotics, a lot of them contain FODMAP's to some degree, or are a FODMAP and SunFiber is not. So even if you're on, this is a story for another day basically, but low-FODMAP should be used short term. So if you're on a short term low-FODMAP diet, just to see if it works for you. Taking SunFiber can absolutely fit within that plan too.

Jennifer: And it is approved. SunFiber is what approved by Monash University, I think.

Kelsey: Yep. Yep. As being low-FODMAP. And they are the go-to on that research and that database. So yeah. And just one other to think about too, because we've talked about polyphenols a lot today as well is, at least with the current flavors that we have, I have made those flavors high polyphenol foods. So matcha for example, high in polyphenols, Cocoa, really high-quality cocoa, high in polyphenols and maybe eventually again this turmeric idea also would be high in polyphenols. So not only are you getting a little more scientific, things that are made in the lab that is a prebiotic that's more concentrated, but you're also getting that natural source of polyphenol prebiotics from these drinks as well.

Kelsey: So we're covering all the bases, the probiotics, the prebiotics that are more concentrated. And then also the natural food prebiotics that we typically get from our diet as well.

Jennifer: Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us. And as I said, your links for everything, it's gutpowerdrinks.com?

Kelsey: Drinks.com. Yep.

Jennifer: Yes. And we'll put all of your other links in the show notes. But you guys can find Kelsey… how can they find you? What's your regular website name?

Kelsey: Kelseykinney.com.

Jennifer: Super easy guys, kelseykinney.com, and gutpowerdrinks.com. But I hope to have you back sometime, Kelsey, as always, I appreciate it. And I'll see you guys the next time.

Kelsey: All right. Take care, Jen. Always fun.

“A prebiotic is essentially, really the easiest way to think about it is like food for your probiotics, food for good bacteria that's hanging out in your gut.”

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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