With a wealth of information and learning available at the touch of a few buttons, we are more closely connected to our physical health than ever before, and similarly, with the wellbeing of our gut microbiome. One of fastest-rising new technologies in nutrition is the prebiotic category, also known as dietary fibre. Awareness of prebiotics has accelerated over recent years and continued to grow significantly during 2020. According to an annual 2020 Consumer Survey1 awareness of prebiotics amongst consumers was at 81%. The message is clear – prebiotics are here to stay!

Showing the surging global appetite for gut microbiome support, it is thought that the prebiotic market will surpass a global value of $7.2 billion2 by 2024 as more of us switch on to the benefits. With continued scientific studies and developments in the field of prebiotics, it's essential that we fully understand its role within gut health, and how by supporting the essential ‘good bacteria’ in the gut, we can help to promote physical health and wellbeing. The success in developing prebiotic awareness is in some part thanks to the continued consumer interest in the related probiotics category and its role in digestive health, which has been a sustained trend in the food and drink sector for several years. This expanding interest has unfortunately created confusion amongst many consumers on what the difference is between prebiotics and the similarly named probiotics.

What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

In essence, probiotics are good bacteria which we can ingest and are beneficial for the body. The live bacteria and yeast cultures found in probiotics populate the gut with good bacteria and support the digestive system. In contrast, prebiotics are inert non-digestible fibre, found in food and developed in supplements, to act as fertiliser for the good bacteria in the gut, encouraging them to thrive in the gut.

Prebiotics act as a source of food for good gut bacteria and when fermented by the good gut bacteria, produce short-chain fatty acids in the gut. Altering the composition of the gut microbiome by increasing levels of good gut bacteria supports overall digestive health and satiety, builds stronger gut resilience, enables the body to maintain bowel regularity, drive immune health and manage blood sugar and lipid levels.

What foods contain prebiotics?

Prebiotic fibre can be found in a number of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, so you may be including these in your everyday diet already! However, prebiotic fibre found in these food sources can tend to be in smaller amounts, which means individuals would need to consumer high quantities to get a measurable ‘prebiotic effect’. For those individuals that cannot easily increase their intake of dietary fibre through diet alone, a prebiotic supplement can support and nourish the complex bacterial culture in the gut.

Great examples include:

  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Berries
  • Chicory
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Leeks
  • Legumes (peas and beans)
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat

What are prebiotic supplements?

The recent 2020 Consumer Survey showed that 35%1 of individuals that regularly include supplements as part of daily routines were including prebiotics as part of their regime. Supplements such as Bimuno® can be used to introduce more prebiotic fibre to the diet, to feed and stimulate the growth of the good bacteria, in particular, Bifidobacteria. Bifidobacteria is the superhero of the gut, as it plays an important and varied role in the digestive process. It is believed that Bifidobacteria helps modulate the body's immune response and produce some of the essential vitamins that help our body perform at its best. Through a balanced diet of prebiotic-rich foods and the additional support of supplements, the gut microbiome can operate effectively in maintaining homeostasis, or normalised gut composition and function, enabling us to live better and healthier lives.

For further information on prebiotics and the role they play in supporting the gut microbiome, please visit the Bimuno learning resources. The Bimuno website breaks down the fundamentals of gut health and you can discover how the trillions of microbes in the gut play a part in physical and mental health. Discover more here.

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