What are Prebiotics?February 26, 2020
Prebіоtісѕ аrе fibers which are used as “food” by helpful bacteria to promote healthy gut function. We learn more and more about the delicate balance of power between “good” and “bad” gut bacteria and as we do we recognize that helping “good” bacteria thrive is an essential element to gut health.
Prebiotics are a group of fibers. Here’s the official World Health Organization (WHO) definition:
“a non-viable food component that confers a health benefit on the host associated with modulation of microbiota.”
Translated: “food” for the “good” bacteria in your gut – but not food for you.
Fructans, such as inulin and oligofructose, are considered the most effective. According to a research article published by Wang in 20091, there are five selection criteria for these prebiotics:
- Resistance to digestion in the upper GI tract
- Fermentation (use for “food”) by intestinal bacteria
- Beneficial effect on host’s health
- Selective stimulation of growth of probiotics
- Stability in various food processing conditions
Some claim that you must take a wide variety of prebiotics, however, the number of prebiotics needed is not known. Some people can take 2-3 and have positive effects. It is not necessary to take as many as you can find (some products use over 10 different fibers).
What are the Pros and Cons?
By definition, these prebiotics are NON-digestible to you, but help your “good” bacteria win their war in your intestine. As with anything, results may vary from case to case, but with a risk profile that is relatively safe. They are worth a try in almost every case. Since prebiotics are non-digestible, there are no calories gained. They simply feed the bacteria in your gut, which helps your digestion.
The concurrent use of PREbiotics (“food” for PRObiotics) is also recommended in order to maximize the effectiveness of the bacteria.
ALWAYS tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other healthcare providers about any and all dietary supplements that you take, including prebiotics. Some supplements can interact or interfere with prescription medications. It is very important to let them know *all* of the supplements that you take – even if you don’t take them regularly.
- Wang Y. Prebiotics: Present and future in food science and technology. Food Res. Int. 2009;42:8–12.