Posted by Casey Thaler on Sep 16th 2019
Without prebiotics, the probiotics and good bacteria in your gut, will have nothing to fuel them. This is why nature packages prebiotics and probiotics together, in foods.
These days, most people in the health and wellness community know about probiotics. Those beneficial microorganisms are good for your gut, as well as your brain. But prebiotics - while related - are ultimately quite different than probiotics. The beneficial microorganisms that are probiotics, often feed on prebiotics. The ‘pre’ in the name partially refers to the fact that these organisms are used by probiotics, to further improve your health. They can be found in food, supplements, and - of course - your digestive tract. So without further adieu, let’s dive deeper into the world of prebiotics.
What Are Prebiotics?
To put it simply, most prebiotics are essentially dietary fiber. Fiber is basically any carbohydrate, which we are not naturally able to process, or digest. Prebiotics are no different. But there are two different types of fiber - soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is fermented by gut bacteria, while insoluble fiber is not. Prebiotics are soluble fibers, which are eaten and metabolized by probiotics. They work synergistically with probiotics to improve your intestinal and neurological health.
Prebiotics also have benefits on their own, besides just fueling probiotics. They act as carbon sources for fermentation pathways in the colon, as well as supporting digestive health. Some scientific research has also shown that prebiotics may also improve immune system defense, which will help lead to better health in other areas of your body - not just digestion.
Do I Need Prebiotics?
This, of course, brings us to the question of how essential prebiotics actually are. Does everyone need prebiotics, or are they simply a ‘nice to have’? This writer would argue that they are essential - especially resistant starch, which is a special type of fiber. These prebiotics help probiotics do their job, as well as helping to stop us from eating more, by signaling satiety to our central nervous system.
Without prebiotics, things would turn ugly, quickly. The bad bacteria in your gut would likely start to outnumber the good, and then a whole host of downstream negative effects would start to accumulate. Blood sugar would go out of control, possibly leading to diabetes. Inflammation would start to reign supreme, leading to inflammatory-based diseases, like arthritis, metabolic syndrome, and even neurological issues. In short, yes, you definitely need prebiotics, and the more - the merrier.
How Do Prebiotics Work?
Prebiotics are actually fairly complex, and work in a variety of ways. Your small intestine does not process prebiotics, and the two types of prebiotics with the most research behind them are inulin and oligofructose. The gut contains over 20,000 different strains of bacteria, and prebiotics feed many of them. They fuel probiotics, to help them grow and multiply. Just like gasoline powers your car, prebiotics power the probiotics in your gut, for better gastrointestinal and neurological health.
One of the other underlooked benefits of prebiotics, is how they help to solidify the intestinal wall. This makes an impervious barrier, which keeps intestinal-related problems from developing. This barrier is directly protective against conditions like Celiac disease, which allows food (and other) particles to permeate through into the gut, causing an inflammatory response.
How Can Prebiotics Impact Digestion?
Prebiotics impact digestion in a number of ways. Most directly, they feed probiotics, which aid in your digestion. Prebiotics themselves are not digested by us, but rather consumed by the beneficial bacteria that we also house. Prebiotics directly impact bifidobacterium, another beneficial bacteria. In essence, over time, prebiotics aid in your digestion, by helping to repopulate the beneficial good bacteria in your gut. They also help with eating less, as they provide a sense of satiety and fullness, after eating foods with prebiotics.
Prebiotics also help to keep a healthy intestinal barrier intact, meaning food and other particles cannot get through your gut lining, and cause an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response is closely related to nearly every gut-related health issue. With the release of zonulin, the body enacts an inflammatory response, when gliadin passes through the intestinal barrier. It’s not supposed to. Without fiber, your digestion will break down, and you will start experiencing a whole host of unpleasant problems.
What Foods Have Prebiotics?
There are a large number of foods which contain prebiotics. To start with, vegetables and fruits commonly contain prebiotics. The foods with the most prebiotics are: chicory root, wheat bran, jicama root, dandelion greens, yacon root, flaxseeds, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, burdock root, cocoa, konjac root, leeks, apples, asparagus, barley, oats, and bananas. Since our guts have over 100 trillion bacteria, there needs to be a constant supply of prebiotics and probiotics. Apple cider vinegar, avocados, and peas are some of the other foods that also contain prebiotics.
Truthfully, almost all vegetables have some level of prebiotics in them, and those with other nutritional benefits (like kale, collard greens, and spinach) will give you the most bang for your buck. That’s because these leafy greens contain tons of micronutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and bioactive compounds. We all likely know how damaging free radicals can be, and spinach and other leafy greens help to control these. In fact, they scavenge reactive oxygen species and prevent macromolecular oxidative damage. In short - they keep our skin and brains looking and feeling young (amongst many other benefits).
What Are The Scientific Benefits Of Prebiotics?
There are many scientific benefits of prebiotics, such as research which shows that prebiotics help to provide possible protection from stress, and may even help to improve your sleep. Some scientific research also shows that feelings of satisfaction and fullness are improved after a meal containing prebiotics. Like other types of fiber, prebiotics may help with lowering the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as well as glycemic control, and lowering the risk of developing type II diabetes.
Scientific research has also shown prebiotics may benefit calcium absorption, reduce diarrhea likelihood and severity, help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), help to prevent allergies, and may help reduce body weight. Two of the biggest benefits of prebiotics are the increases in bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. These beneficial bacteria have been linked to increases in gut health, as well as neurological benefits - and even improvements in moderate depression symptoms.
Prebiotics also release short chain fatty acids, which go into the bloodstream, and can provide benefits to organs and other areas of the body. When it comes to fat, it is important to intake beneficial and healthy fats, and avoid inflammatory and poor quality fats. An example of a bad fat, would be trans fats - which were routinely put in many processed foods, until very recently. Examples of beneficial fats include avocados, extra virgin olive oil, MCT oil, and many others.
Since the main energy source of our gut bacteria is what we feed ourselves, it is critically important to maintain a healthy diet. Since a poor balance of gut bacteria leads to a weakened immune system, prebiotics also help to support our defense against illness and disease. Resistant starch has been shown to scientifically have even more benefits than we can possibly go into here - and they are only one type of beneficial prebiotic. Essentially, prebiotics help provide a solid wall of support, not only against poor health - but in defense of optimal health.
Should I Take Prebiotics?
Prebiotic supplements are commonly sold, but you may not need them. In fact, prebiotics are most beneficial when consumed as part of food. This is because food also has many other nutrients and micronutrients, as well as more substance. This means that it requires a lot of chewing, which in turn produces saliva and other beneficial salivary enzymes. These all lead to a greater feeling of fullness, and lower the risk of overeating. That being said, supplementary prebiotics likely will only help provide more digestive support and fuel for probiotics, so they may be worth experimenting with.
Prebiotic supplementation is best done when it is closely monitored. Starting a new regimen (after discussing with your doctor) should be kept up for about 30 days, and any changes in your health or wellness, can easily be written down in a log or journal. Make sure to eat as well as possible during this time frame, so you see the maximum benefits from the prebiotic supplementation. Increasing your healthy fats, your vegetable consumption, limiting or eliminating processed foods, and eating plenty of healthy proteins - will all lead to much better gut health.
How Can I Use Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are generally best consumed when eating, as they fuel probiotics. Taking them on an empty stomach may not lead to optimal outcomes, and could instead lead to gastrointestinal distress. It is a good idea to roughly balance your intake of prebiotics and probiotics, so they are in a ratio of 1-1. This will ensure that you are getting enough nutrients, as well as providing your gut with plenty of good fuel.
You can also make a regimented meal plan, which incorporates more prebiotic-rich foods. This will provide the secondary benefit of also getting the health benefits of consuming more vegetables (since most foods with lots of prebiotic content, are vegetables). Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new meal plan, as well as documenting your progress closely. After just a few short weeks, you should see substantial benefits from eating more vegetables and prebiotics, and may even see a small reduction in weight (assuming you are also properly exercising and sleeping enough).
Do Our Products Contain Prebiotics?
Yes, That’s it. makes an entire line of products that contain prebiotics. They also contain probiotics, leading to improved gut health, with regular consumption. Additionally, our products are non-GMO, vegan, paleo, and Whole30 compliant. Since all of our products are made from fruits and vegetables, there are also additional nutrients and micronutrients, in each.
While you may love the portability of our products - they are exactly like eating real, unprocessed foods. While some companies claim they only make products with real ingredients - we actually do.
The Benefits Of Prebiotics
The benefits of prebiotics are numerous. Without prebiotics, the probiotics and good bacteria in your gut, will have nothing to fuel them. This is why nature packages prebiotics and probiotics together, in foods. Prebiotics also have numerous benefits on their own, besides just fueling the good bacteria in your microbiome. They act as carbon sources for fermentation pathways in the colon, as well as supporting digestive health.
Increased calcium absorption, better insulin response and control, as well as a stronger intestinal wall, all can result from regular prebiotic consumption. This does not even begin to cover all the benefits that come from properly fueling the good bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. There are numerous scientific links between good gut health and reduced rates of depression, as well as many other conditions. There are over 39 trillion bacterial cells inside your body, and prebiotics work to keep them all happy.
Your gut flora does not want to become overrun with bad bacteria and yeast, so a constant supply of not only probiotics - but prebiotics - is essential to overall good health. For example, our gut bacteria produce vitamins B and K, and good bacteria help to offset the damage done when we take antibiotics (these powerful drugs wipe out all bacteria - good, along with the bad).
Interestingly, probiotics and prebiotics both have been shown to possibly influence other inflammatory conditions, like skin conditions (dermatitis, eczema, acne, etc.) Some scientific research has also shown that prebiotics may also improve immune system defense, which will help lead to better health in other areas of your body - not just digestion. Prebiotics are crucial to your overall health, so be sure to get plenty, in your daily diet.
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