There is a lot of hype recently about probiotics, but what about prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds/ high-fiber foods that help stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. The human body cannot break down prebiotics, so they pass undigested from your small intestine to your colon where they are fermented by the gut microflora.
Where are they found?
Some natural sources are bananas, oats, leeks, onion, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, spinach, inulin (chicory root extract), chia, and flax meal. Because many of these food items are high in FODMAPs, patients with IBS may be hesitant in adding these food items to their diet.
Why are they good for you?
Prebiotic compounds become the “fuel” for probiotics. The combination plays a fundamental role in preserving health by maintaining balance and diversity of intestinal bacteria, particularly increasing “good bacteria” called lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Research has shown that higher intakes of prebiotic foods can increase numerous probiotic microorganisms such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, L. reuteri, bifidobacteria, and certain strains of L. casei or the L. acidophilus-group.
As our gut bacteria metabolize non-digestible fibers from foods, they produce short-chain fatty (SCFA) acids that help us in many ways. One of these beneficial fatty acids is called butyric acid, which improves the health of the intestinal lining. SCFA can decrease intestinal permeability and decrease circulating endotoxins, lowering inflammation and oxidative stress. SCFA may also improve insulin sensitivity, where resistant starch and synbiotics appear to have favorable anti-diabetic effects. However, there are few human interventional studies and further research is required to develop recommendations for the prevention of type 2 diabetes with pro- and prebiotics.
Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Diets deficient or low in fiber have shown to aggravate colitis development, while a very high intake of dietary fiber or short-chain fatty acids may protect against colitis. Despite evidence from animal studies that suggested the beneficial actions of prebiotics in IBD, evidence from human studies is insufficient. A recent review summarized existing evidence from human randomized trials on the effect of prebiotics in Ulcerative Colitis (UC).
Food for thought
Keep in mind that long-term benefits from prebiotics may be limited without an overall modification of the person’s diet. Therefore, a single supplement or medicinal food may not prove useful outside of the context of switching to an overall healthy diet plan. Any commercial product such as tea or berry extracts are unlikely to counteract an unhealthy diet and, used alone, may fail to improve primary or secondary disease prevention.
Which one to buy?
Supplementing with a quality prebiotic supplement can be beneficial, particularly for those suffering from constipation, diarrhea or leaky gut. Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or medical food.
I am very particular with products I choose to feature on my page and that’s simply because I only want to promote evidence-based products I know and love myself. Since I frequently recommended the prebiotic Regular Girl, I became an affiliate to offer you their product at a reduced price. Regular Girl (don’t be fooled by the name, it is not gender specific) has a unique synbiotic blend of clinically proven prebiotic fiber (Sunfiber®) and probiotics that can help maintain a healthy digestive balance. It is also Low-FODMAP certified so it has the benefit of providing soluble fibers without gas and bloating. It contains 6 gams of Sunfiber® and 8B CFU of B. lactis. per dose. It is flavorless so you can simply add it to your water, has no preservatives, additives, certified Kosher, vegetarian, non-GMO and 100% gluten free. To learn more about the clinical evidence behind Regular Girl, click here.
If you want to give it a try, click the image below and receive 10% off your first order and use coupon code CANUTRITIONGRP10
If you want to consider other brands, the US Probiotic Guide provides clinical evidence for use of probiotics, brand names and dosing.
Brown K., DeCoffe D., Molcan E., Gibson D.L. Diet-induced dysbiosis of the intestinal microbiota and the effects on immunity and disease. Nutrients. 2012;4:1095–1119. doi: 10.3390/nu4081095.
Scaldaferri F. et al. Gut microbial flora, prebiotics, and probiotics in IBD: Their current usage and utility. BioMed Res. Int. 2013;2013:435268. doi: 10.1155/2013/435268.
Macia L. et al. Metabolite-sensing receptors GPR43 and GPR109A facilitate dietary fibre-induced gut homeostasis through regulation of the inflammasome. Nat. Commun. 2015;6:6734.
Laurell A., Sjoberg K. Prebiotics and synbiotics in ulcerative colitis. Scand. J. Gastroenterol. 2017;52:477–485. doi: 10.1080/00365521.2016.1263680.
Kim YA, Keogh JB, Cifton PM. Probiotics, prebiotics, symbiotics and insulin sensitivity. Nutr. Res. Rev. 2017;17:1-17. doi: 10.1017/S095442241700018X.