Prebiotics: Helping Feed Your Gut

Posted on September 24th, 2019

Both prebiotics and probiotics have been found to influence our gut health in a positive way. There have been many studies correlating the bacteria in our gut to positive health outcomes. Prebiotics can be thought of as an indigestible carbohydrate (like fiber) that help promote the good bacteria in our gut that already exist. Each of us has specific bacteria so prebiotics help feeds each of our own unique bacteria make-up. Probiotics are live strains of bacteria typically found in fermented foods or supplements. These may help gut health but introducing additional bacteria into your gut.

What is a prebiotic?

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that helps feed other bacteria helpful for your gut health. Prebiotics are not able to be digested by the body and thus go through one’s digestive system and becomes food for bacteria to grow.

Potential Health Benefits

Prebiotics are considered to be helpful for one’s body and may improve your digestive system’s health as well as increase calcium absorption. There is still a lot of research being conducted to determine all the potential health benefits of prebiotics in our diet.

What foods contain prebiotics?

There is a long list of foods that contain prebiotics but can mostly found in fruits and vegetables. Many foods that are complex carbohydrates are also considered to prebiotic foods. Complex carbohydrates provide your body with long-lasting energy and helpful vitamins, minerals, and fiber for healthy living.  The body takes longer to digest complex carbohydrates.  Some complex carbohydrates may have prebiotics which are good for feeding the good bacteria in your body. Prebiotics can be found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and many other plant-based foods. The list of prebiotics is extensive and emphasizes the importance of shopping for produce and whole grain products at Reasor’s.

Are we consuming adequate amounts of prebiotics?

As each individual’s gut bacteria is different and the various ways your body uses prebiotics, health care professionals are challenged to accurately determine a general recommendation when it comes to prebiotics. From estimates of the typical western diet, the average individual is consuming only a few grams of naturally occurring prebiotics which is unclear if this is an adequate amount.  Eating more produce would benefit one’s health and increase prebiotic consumption.

What about prebiotic supplements?

There are a variety of supplements out on the market.  There is a lack of research to determine whether these would be beneficial or harmful for various individuals. There is also a lack of knowledge regarding the exact amounts of various prebiotic nutrients each individual may benefit from. If you are considering taking a supplement, ask your doctor to see if it is a good idea for you.

Conclusion

Overall, one can consume more prebiotics from incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. There is continual research suggesting that prebiotics may be positive for our bodies. As scientists continue to learn more about prebiotics and the body, more specific recommendations may appear. Adding fruits and vegetables to you and your families’ diet is full of added benefits beyond prebiotics.

About the Author: Rachel Sheppard is a dietetic intern at Oklahoma State University. She enjoys reading, cooking, hiking, and traveling.

Disclaimer: Information included does not constitute medical advice and should only be used as a general recommendation for a healthy diet. Reasor’s Registered Dietitian‘s opinions and recommendations are of their own; they are not paid to endorse any products.

Additional Resources:

  • Eatright.org Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-creating-a-healthier-you