What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are classified as the non-digestible food ingredients that probiotics can feed off. They are used in the gut to increase populations of healthy bacteria, aid digestion and enhance the production of valuable vitamins.
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 which belong to a group of particular nutrient fibres that feed and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Sources 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.
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 large portions.
Prebiotic supplements can be taken regularly to help increase and drive the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotic supplements contain fermentable fibre which provide food for beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Prebiotic supplements differ from probiotic supplements in that they are not live bacteria, are highly stable and are unaffected by heat and acidity and reach your gut intact. It’s important to note that not all prebiotics are the same and some are more targeted in the type of bacteria they feed.
Advantages of Taking Prebiotics
One of the biggest advantages of prebiotic supplements 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 unlike many probiotics. 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.
Are there any side-effects using prebiotics?
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. If you find you are experiencing abdominal discomfort and bloating, you should reduce the dose of prebiotics you are consuming.
If you are taking a supplement its important to adhere to the recommended dosages of any product. More is not always better.
Prebiotics and sleep
New research suggests that the secret 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 and encourage them to grow.
What do Prebiotics Do?
Prebiotics can be found in carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables and increase the friendly bacteria in your gut, without feeding bad microorganisms or pathogens. Prebiotics can be added to any food as they are resistant to heat, oxygen, stomach acids and enzymes. When ingested, they reach the lower gut intact and selectively nourish the good bacteria once there.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live, active bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli that enter the gut by ingesting foods and supplements. As they are live bacteria, they can be affected by heat and acidity and can be destroyed on their way to the large intestine.
What do Probiotics Do?
Probiotic bacteria are live strains of bacteria which are found in fermented foods. Probiotic bacteria must be kept alive and must also reach the gut in sufficient numbers. Those reaching the lower gut must compete with over 1,000 bacterial species.
Can you take prebiotics and probiotics at the same time?
Yes, you can take prebiotics and probiotics at the same time. By taking probiotics, you are adding live bacteria into your gut. By also taking a prebiotic you are encouraging the good gut bacteria already in your gut to grow as well as encouraging the growth of live bacteria added to your gut through the consumption of probiotics.
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