5 Reasons You Need Prebiotics And Where to Find Them

5 Reasons You Need Prebiotics And Where to Find Them

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are foods designed to feed the bacteria living within your gut. These bacteria (also called microbes or flora) are critical for your body’s overall health because they help to create essential vitamins and nutrients.

They also help to defend against pathogens (see study). If you take probiotics, you are seeding your body with useful flora to add to its already existent bacterial population. When you take prebiotics you are simply providing your flora with food to help them thrive. Without the proper food to nourish your probiotics they will die and not yield benefits to your health.

Why do you need prebiotics?

Probiotics are now a commonly taken nutritional supplement but prebiotics have also been on the uptake. There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing the benefits of taking prebiotics.

It is important to remember that the key reason prebiotics are so important is that they help you to have a healthy microbial population. Scientists are increasingly discovering that the health benefits of this are not to be underestimated.

5 Important Health Benefits of Prebiotics

1.) Cardiovascular disease

Studies have shown that prebiotics help to regulate overall microbial activities within your gut. They aid in metabolic activity and help create a balanced ecosystem. This is especially helpful in reducing risk factors associated with heart disease, a major benefit of taking prebiotics.

2.) Weight Loss

One study indicated that prebiotic intake increased satiety. In other words, they help you feel full and no longer hungry when you have had enough to eat. Microbes within you help to manage your digestive tract so it is no surprise that maintaining a balanced microbiota also helps you to eat a more balanced diet.

3.) Reduce stress

Another study showed that increased intake of prebiotics led to significantly lower stress levels versus a control group. This particular study was especially compelling because it specifically targeted the use of prebiotics as opposed to probiotics, about which we already have significant evidence of benefits.

Volunteers received several forms of prebiotics while a control group received a placebo. The end result was that those receiving prebiotics displayed lower cortisol levels. This indicates that the prebiotics likely had a positive beneficial effect on subjects’ gut health, leading to lower levels of stress.

4.) Sleep

Prebiotics have also been shown to aid in modulating sleeping patterns (see journal article). Researchers studied sleeping habits among mice based on different dietary intake. They found that consumption of prebiotic fibers enhanced sleep and this effect also impacted their overall health levels.

5.) Diabetes

Lastly, while research is still ongoing, scientists are hopeful that prebiotics will prove to be a useful way to combat diabetes or at least prevent its onset.

Prebiotics have been shown to lessen certain degenerative dietary processes that lead to diabetes. It is possible that prebiotic intake, if initiated early enough, can help you avert diabetes altogether.

Why do prebiotics work?

We have discussed prebiotics’ ability to help decrease cardiovascular disease, aid in weight loss and even decrease stress. But this begs the question as to why they are so effective? The key mechanism in prebiotics leading to greater overall health lies in your gut.

Gut flora are a critical component of your health because they interact so closely with the rest of our bodies. When we have a healthy gut, bacteria is better able to weed out pathogens that pass through our digestive systems.

Typical prebiotics contain inulin, which serves as a food and stimulant for good bacteria living within you. Prebiotics specifically target the good bacteria as a result of being non-digestible within your gut. In other words, they are able to pass through your small intestine with relatively little breakdown.

You can think of inulin as well as GOS (galactooligosaccharide) as a sort of a big sugar molecule (long chain polymer). This makes it hard to break down in your small intestine so it can make it through to your large intestine. The bacteria here are often starved for food and stimulation, which they receive in large quantities when you take inulin or GOS.

Where do you get prebiotics?

There are a number everyday foods that serve as sources of prebiotics. Here are just a few examples:

• Bananas
• Whole grain oats
• Milk
• Leeks
• Rye
• Chicory
• Rice
• Potatoes

We particularly recommend that rice and potatoes be eaten cold. This is because the starches contained within these foods crystallize. This crystallization causes them to become more robust and able to withstand the small intestine’s digestive tract in order to make it to the large intestine.

Nutritional supplements

Another simple source of prebiotics is to simply take nutritional inulin fiber supplements or supplements containing GOS. You can order these online or find them at a nutrition shop.

However, it is also important to note that there are alternative prebiotic supplements that are becoming popular on the market, which contain other forms of prebiotics. These include bacteriophages, or viruses that kill off certain types of bacteria in your gut, and short chain fatty acids (SCFA).

The premise of bacteriophages as a prebiotic is that they attack bacteria and cause them to burst, releasing prebiotic resources to your other, good bacteria. There are also prebiotic supplements that contain SCFA, which are popular as well.

These are effectively the nutrients of bacterial growth that are meant to provide health benefits to your colon. In general, we believe that these supplements may be helpful to your overall health but we are also awaiting further scientific research before giving our wholehearted recommendation.