Discover the significance of prebiotic in terms of what they are, how they work and what they do in the digestive system. Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are classified as non-digestible food ingredients that can be utilised by probiotics. Prebiotics are selectively utlilised in the gut to increase healthy bacteria. They aid digestion and enhance the production of valuable vitamins. They also promote growth of beneficial bacteria (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria), without feeding the ‘bad’ types. The good bacteria play a significant role in regulating your immune system, inhibiting the growth of pathogens (disease causing bacteria) and digesting food. Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are the most advanced form of prebiotics. They belong to a group of particular nutrient fibres that feed and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics alter the colonic microbiota in favour of a healthier composition
Source of Prebiotics
The major source of prebiotics is dietary fibre. They occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, but you can also take them in the form of nutritional supplements for maximum health benefits. The soluble dietary fibre inulin, for example, is found in garlic, asparagus, onion, Jerusalem artichokes, and leeks. However, you’d have to eat a huge amount of these natural prebiotics — preferably raw — to gain any benefit from them.
While all prebiotics are fibres, not all fibres are prebiotics. The common forms of dietary fibre present in the majority of plant based foods and grains are less selectively fermented by the bacteria in the gut and lack some of the health benefits demonstrated by prebiotics. However, they are still of benefit to our health and their consumption is to be encouraged as they help maintain regular toilet habits as well as promoting the health of the gut itself.
It is possible to find prebiotics in some everyday foods including onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and bananas. However, in order to experience any meaningful health benefits from these sources, you would have to consume unrealistically large portions.
Most of us wouldn’t relish the thought of eating two large onions a day to get a decent ‘dose’ of prebiotics. Consuming large amounts of these foods wouldn’t make you very popular with your dinner guests either!
That said it is still a good idea to consume prebiotic foods when you can.
While all prebiotics are classed as fibre not all fibre is classed as prebiotic. Common forms of dietary fibre present in the majority of plant based foods and grains are less selectively fermented by the bacteria in the gut and lack some of the health benefits demonstrated by true prebiotics. However they are still of benefit to our health and their consumption is to be encouraged as they help maintain regular toilet habits as well as promoting the health of the gut itself.
Prebiotic supplements can be taken regularly to help increase and drive the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Due to the low levels of prebiotics in foods, an effective route to achieve the required dose is to fortify frequently consumed foods with prebiotic ingredients and/or use them as supplements.
The unique, insoluble fibres that comprise prebiotic supplements provide the ideal food for beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Prebiotic supplements differ from probiotic supplements in that they are highly stable and reach your gut intact. In addition, not all prebiotics are the same and some are more selective for good bacteria than others, thereby providing them with unique properties.
Prebiotics have numerous benefits and it's easy for you to incorporate them into your daily nutritional plan. Since they are heat resistant they are versatile enough for use in a range of applications, including cooking.
Are There Any Health Benefits Using Prebiotics?
Scientific Research has shown that prebiotic supplements work naturally in your gut to feed existing good bacteria, helping them to grow and multiply. Important benefits can include the following:
- Boosting overall digestive health
- Improving the barrier function of the gut
- Strengthening the immune system
- Reducing the inflammation and symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Minimising the risk of developing diarrhoea
- Enhancing your body’s nutrition by allowing better mineral and nutrient uptake
- Contributing positively to your mental health
- Increasing absorption of calcium to improve bone density
- Lowering some risk factors for cardiovascular disease
Advantages of Taking Prebiotics
One of the biggest advantages of prebiotics is that they are highly stable, being unaffected either by temperature or long-term storage.
Prebiotics are also resistant to the body’s enzymes and gastric acids, which means that they are not destroyed, digested, or absorbed as they travel through your digestive system. Prebiotics reach the colon intact and unaltered.
Consequently, they can be added to almost every type of food, drink, or supplement without compromising their effectiveness.
For more information about prebiotics and how they work, click here to watch Professor Glenn Gibson, international expert in gut health, explaining the importance of prebiotics in digestive health and immune function.
Are there any side-effects using prebiotics?
When taking prebiotics for the first time some individuals may find that it takes a few days for their system to adjust.
Symptoms such as tummy gurgling, if they do occur, are an indication that the gut bacteria are in the process of being re-balanced. We call this the ‘Bimuno® Effect’ and your that body is telling you that Bimuno® is getting to work.
Large amounts of prebiotic fibre provide an abundance of food for a range of gut bacteria and when utilised this can result in an excess of gas in the intestine.The most common side-effects of prebiotics are abdominal bloating and discomfort, occurring when large doses are consumed.
The latest generation of prebiotics such as B-GOS®, have a optimised dosage which target non-gas producing beneficial bacteria (Bifidobacterium) and are more selectively metabolised in the gut, thereby reducing this problem.
In all cases it is still advisable to adhere to the recommended dosages of any product.
Prebiotics and Sleep
New research suggests that the answer to a good night’s sleep may lie in the gut. Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder conducted a study to find out if sleep can be improved by prebiotics.
Prebiotics Vs. Probiotics
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are non-living, non-digestible fibres that work in your gut, feeding the good gut bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in a supplemental or nutritional way.
What are Probiotics
Probiotics are live, active bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli that are exogenous and enter the gut by ingesting foods and supplements.
What do Prebiotics Do?
Prebiotics feed and increase the friendly probiotic bacteria in your gut, without feeding bad microorganisms or pathogens. They play a role in immune system function and keep your digestive system healthy.
What do Probiotics Do?
Probiotic bacteria help to regulate the immune system, aid the digestion and absorption of food, producing essential vitamins, and contributing to digestive health.
How Do Prebiotics Work?
Prebiotics can be added to any food as are resistant to heat, oxygen, stomach acids and enzymes. When ingested and reach the lower gut intact and selectively nourish the good bacteria once there.
How do Probiotics Work?
Probiotic bacteria must be kept alive. They must be kept alive and reach the gut in sufficient numbers. Those reaching the lower gut must compete with over 1,000 bacterial species.