What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that serve as good food for good bacteria- probiotics, which are already present in our gut. Prebiotics feed the intestinal microbiota, and their degradation products are short-chain fatty acids that are released into blood circulation, consequently, affecting not only the gastrointestinal tracts but also other distant organs. Fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides are the two important groups of prebiotics with beneficial effects on human health. Since low quantities of fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides naturally exist in foods, we must try and incorporate them through various sources.
How are they different from probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria usually consumed through foods or supplements. They can provide numerous health benefits too but are dependent on prebiotics to promote comprehensive health benefits.
Prebiotics and probiotics both support our health in building and maintaining a healthy colony of bacteria and other microorganisms, which support the gut and aid digestion. Prebiotics are mainly soluble dietary fibers used as a food ingredient for health benefits. Prebiotic soluble fibre is selectively fermented by good bacteria in the gut and thereby promotes overall well-being like improved gut health, greater absorption of minerals such as magnesium and calcium leading to improved bone density, better immunity, cardiac health, weight management and reduction in total cholesterol etc.
Prebiotics Vs Probiotics in daily diet:
As we try and incorporate good, nutritious food in our daily diet for health, prebiotics do the same for healthy bacteria in our gut without creating an overload of gut bacteria. So, we must prefer adding prebiotics to our daily diet and probiotics can be used as therapeutic supplement for added needs like in diarrhoea, when on prescription antibiotics or as prescribed by a nutritionist or a doctor for any other treatments. There are some individuals who should not take a probiotic, or who may experience worsened symptoms if they do, such as people with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or people sensitive to ingredients in the supplement.
Health Benefits of Prebiotics
- Glucose metabolism and Diabetic Health implications:
Since prebiotics do not get hydrolysed in the gut, it tends to have a very low GI. Also being the soluble dietary fiber it flattens the peak response of blood sugar and therby reduces the fast release of sugar in our blood, preventing “sugar rush”.
Simple Sugar (SS) With and Without Soluble Fiber (SDF)
- Gut Health Improvement
Since prebiotics do not introduce (or exterminate) any bacterial species in the intestine but only alter the relative populations of the species, there is no permanent change to the gut microflora. Studies have shown better digestive health with regular consumption of prebiotics.
- Effect on Mineral absorption:
Studies have shown significant increase in mineral absorption, especially calcium and magnesium. Most of the vitamins and minerals are absorbed through intestines and prebiotics keeps the good bacteria happy to keep our gut healthy.
- Effect on Immunity and cancer
Several studies have reported that good bacteria in our gut have various effects on the immune systems such as promotion of macrophages (fights diseases) and stimulation of antibody protection. There by providing greater immunity and Probiotic supplements are designed to deliver very specific species of bacteria to the human gut. However, not all probiotic supplements are of the same quality or contain the same quantity of bacteria.
The bottom line, keeping your gut bacteria balanced is important for many aspects of health. To do this, eat plenty of prebiotic rich foods, as they will help promote the most ideal balance between good and bad gut bacteria. Try our range of prebiotic chocolates here.
Pictures from The Biome Clinic