Prebiotics were first identified and named by Marcel Roberfroid in 1995; he defined prebiotics as follows:
“A prebiotic is a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal micro-flora that confers benefits upon the host’s well-being and health.”
In simpler terms, prebiotics are healthy non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of bacteria as well as increase their activity in the digestive system. This growth and increased activity has an extremely beneficial effect on the body especially in terms of the digestive and the immune system. Prebiotics are the essential helpers of probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract; together they ensure a balanced system of digestive health
Avoid Confusion – Pre or Pro Biotic
Be careful not to get confused between ‘probiotic’ and ‘prebiotic’. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the bowel; they are not a replacement for probiotics. As such prebiotics supplements can be taken on their own or along with a probiotic supplement.
However, prebiotics have an edge over probiotic supplements; unlike probiotics they cannot be destroyed in storage or by stomach acids and digestive enzymes, on their way to the intestines.
Prebiotics are usually carbohydrates, but at times the definition may include non-carbohydrates as well. The most prevalent forms of prebiotics are nutritionally classed as soluble fibers. Prebiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut mostly come from carbohydrate fibers called oligosaccharides.
Oligosaccharides are found naturally in certain fruits and vegetables such as; bananas, asparagus, garlic, wheat, tomatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, onions and chicory. But considering that food sources are themselves often less than optimal in nutrition due to soil depleting agricultural methods, adding prebiotics supplements to your daily diet would be a healthy practice.
Prebiotics Strains Available In Supplements
The most common types of prebiotics available in supplements are fructooligosaccharides (FOS), inulin and galactooligosaccharides which are also the most advantageous prebiotics as well.
FOS has been shown to increase intestinal Riga, the body’s first line of defense against harmful pathogens.
German research has shown that inulin is effective in improving the composition of the gut flora and was found to have a beneficial effect; reducing bad bacteria and chance of infection.
Galactooligosaccharides have shown very promising results for increasing populations of both lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Both bacteria are excellent for combating a number of diseases.
Benefits Of Prebiotics
Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactic acid in the gut and increase resistance to invading pathogens. Prebiotics can deliver the following benefits:
- Reduces intestinal pH
- Reduces Hypertension
- Reduces of colorectal cancer risk
- Restores intestinal bacterial balance
- Reduces inflammatory bowel disorders
- Provides better intestinal flora in infants
- Alleviates symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
- Alleviates symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
- Alleviates symptoms of blood cholesterol level
- Helps with the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium
- Helps with the absorption many other minerals
A dose of 4 to 8 grams a day serving of prebiotics provides general health benefits and 15 grams or more are necessary for those with digestive problems. But a majority of people fail to meet these requirements by consuming just fruits and vegetables alone.
In order to combat this problem prebiotic supplements are needed, and these supplements can be added to drinks, to foods or taken in a capsule or powder form. Foods such as bread and cereal to yogurt, baby milk and flavored water are available with prebiotic supplements. Consuming these supplements will ensure that the ‘good bacteria’ in your gut is properly stimulated and maintained to keep you digestive and immune system in top-shape.
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