How Prebiotics Benefit Your Health + Top Prebiotic Food Sources

Most people know that probiotics are good for health. They’ve been linked to lowering inflammation and healing leaky gut.

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that confer a health benefit to the host.

Yet here’s the thing most people still aren’t aware of: to reap the benefits of probiotics, you need prebiotics.

Unlike probiotics, however, prebiotics are not considered living organisms.

Together, prebiotics and probiotics are considered synbiotics due to their combined effect of synergy.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics can be defined as a non-digestible fiber that can beneficially impact the host by stimulating the growth or activity of bacteria in the colon1.

This fiber makes its way undigested to the large intestine where it provides beneficial effects. This fermentable fiber then can be broken down by water in the colon and fermented by microbes. Fermentation generates short chain fatty acids (like butyric acid), which become fuel, or food, for probiotics.

Typically, foods that are high in soluble fiber are considered prebiotics.

The importance of prebiotics is that they have the ability to change the composition and the activity of the gut microflora. The more prebiotics (fuel) these good microbes have, the better they function and the healthier your gut is.

There are some researchers that went so far as to define specific criteria that must be met in order to be classified as a “prebiotic”. They said that prebiotics must a.) have a resistance to stomach acid or digestive enzymes, b.) have an ability to be fermented by the intestinal bacteria, and c.) be able to selectively enhance the growth and function of gut microbes2.

Prebiotics include non-digestible carbohydrates (large polysaccharides like inulin, resistance starch, pectins and gums), fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides and lactulose.

The importance of prebiotics can be seen in human breast milk. Oligosaccharides, a type of prebiotic, are the third-most abundant nutritional compound in breast milk3. They are responsible for forming the baby’s gut microbiome and facilitating proper immune system development.  Breast fed babies have found to have a better composition of beneficial bacterial species while more harmful bacterial species have been found in formula fed babies3.

Prebiotics are needed for a healthy and happy gut and body!

Why do you need prebiotics?

They are required to boost the function and composition of good bacteria in the gut.

When good bacteria flourish, this changes the pH of the gut (the pH less desirable for the bad bacteria). This pushes the inflammatory, bad bugs out and allows the good ones to grow.

A healthy gut microbiome as a result of diet rich in pre- and pro-biotics is linked to an improved health and a lower risk of disease.

What are the health benefits to consuming prebiotics regularly?

  1. Improved gut health
    • Research published in Future Microbiology in 2017 revealed that prebiotics can significantly improve the structure and function of the gut barrier lining, regulate glucose and lipid metabolism, decrease systemic inflammation and improve immune system function4.
  2. Lower risk of Cardiovascular Disease
    • Atherosclerosis is considered an inflammatory vascular disorder that is now linked to the gut microbes you have5. In fact, research has found that infectious, bad microbes found in the immune cells of the heart results in increased adherence of them to the vessel walls5.
    • Respiratory tract pathogens such as Chlamydia pneumonia as well as harmful oral bacterial species have been detected in atherosclerotic lesions and have been found to play a role in the inflammation of the blood vessels that results in atherosclerosis5.
    • Prebiotics can help to normalize cholesterol levels. One study found that when they treated patients with inulin fiber the result was decreased serum LDL and increased serum HDL6.
    • Due to decreasing levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol they also lower inflammation in the heart1.
  3. Lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes and other chronic diseases
    • Prebiotics are associated with lowering chronic inflammation along with improvements insulin signaling1.
    • Prebiotic consumption is linked to a reduced risk of GI disorders, CVD and cancer because these compounds can decrease inflammation stimulate bacterial cell death7.
  4. Increased immune function and decreased inflammation
    • Prebiotics can stimulate the immune system through a few mechanisms. First, they can change the function and composition of beneficial bacterial, which decreases the presence of harmful bacteria8. Additionally, prebiotics have been found to increase anti-inflammatory, immune proteins and decrease the pro-inflammatory ones8.
  5. Better weight management
    • Low-grade systemic inflammation is associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.
    • Research has found that prebiotics are associated with the increased growth of beneficial bacteria and the production of short chain fatty acids. SCFA’s are linked to weight loss, regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism, increased level of satiety, and decreased inflammation9.
  6. Regulation of mood
    • There is an established brain-gut connection in which our gut health influences our brain/ mood health. This connection is responsible for the link between digestion and anxiety. Stomach and intestinal problems can be a direct result of stress.
    • Research has revealed specific biological changes in gut mircrobial compositions that occur with neurological disorders such as autism, depression or anxiety3.
    • A study that looked at mice fed with prebiotics found that they had a decreased amount of stress-induced anxiety3.

What are some of the best prebiotic foods?

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Raw dandelion greens
  • Avocados
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Bananas- the greener the better
  • Jicama
  • Seaweed
  • Chicory root
  • Radicchio- one of my favorites to eat raw like an apple
  • Endive
  • Flaxseed
  • Peaches/ Apricots

It should be noted that you reap most of the benefit when you consume prebiotic foods in their raw state. Cooking can breakdown some of the fiber content. The fiber breakdown with cooking is likely minimal, however, and any consumption of prebiotic foods has proven beneficial.

Additionally, avoid diets high in fat and sugar as they can influence the growth of harmful bacterial species10. Instead, focus on a Paleo diet rich in prebiotic and probiotic foods, as well as supplements.

In order for probiotics to have the greatest impact on gut health, you need prebiotics!

Do I need a supplement?

Yes.

If you’re not able to consume an adequate dose of prebiotics regularly or you’ve got leaky gut (most of us do), you should look into supplementation. Often, diet alone isn’t enough and nutritional supplements are needed.

We have a great product called Gut Fuel.

Gut Fuel is aimed at increasing the amount of food in the gut for healthy bacteria to feed on. This fuel is butyric acid and it helps decrease intestinal permeability and help promote the growth of good bacteria. Gut Fuel also contains other important nutrients to aid in absorption and repair of the gut lining.

Leaky gut is a serious issue and nutritional therapy is needed.

Recipes for incorporating prebiotic foods:

Also, try adding dried dandelion to your soups and salads for an extra boost. Or throw some raw garlic, onions or leeks into all your recipes!

Summary of information:

  • You want to keep your gut bacteria balanced. The way to do that is with prebiotics and probiotics, along with other supplements that aim to heal leaky gut syndrome.
  • Focus on prebiotic rich foods and Gut Fuel supplementation for overall health.
  • Prebiotics are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity and other disorders. They also are associated with reducing inflammation, increasing immune system function and healing leaky gut syndrome.

 

References:

  1. Yoo et al., 2016: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808900/
  2. Gibson et al., 2004: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19079930
  3. Cerdo et al., 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707719/
  4. Esgalhado et al., 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29027814
  5. Slingerland et al., 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5388779/
  6. Causey et al., 2000: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531799001529
  7. Wong et al., 2006: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16633129/
  8. Shokryazdan et al., 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27704207
  9. O’Connor et al., 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28923170
  10. Moschen et al., 2012: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3493718/

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