Prebiotics: What Are They And Why You Need Them
When it comes to optimal gut health, the terms probiotics and prebiotics are regularly used. These two work together not only for the benefit of your gut health but also for your overall health as well.
Prebiotics or probiotics?
Probiotics are ‘good bacteria’ that can be found in your digestive tract, certain foods and some supplements. They’re crucial for gut health and can even boost your immune system. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of fibre that probiotics feed on in the digestive system. They’re lesser known than probiotics, but just as important. It is important to note that prebiotics cannot be digested; when they’re inside the body, they pass through the small intestine and into the colon, where they’re fermented by the gut micro flora.
Throughout their journey, they act as fuel for the probiotics living within the gut. As our gut health can readily affect the health of our body- it’s important to allow for both of these to work together in ensuring and maintaining a healthy balance in our guts.
Read on to discover the various health benefits of consuming prebiotics.
1. Improved gut health
By feeding probiotics, prebiotics help to improve both digestive and gut health. As they feed on prebiotics, probiotics produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids improve the health of the intestinal lining as well as regulate electrolytes that are important for proper digestion and healthy bowel function. Furthermore, according to a report published in The Journal of Nutrition, the combination of prebiotics and probiotics can help ease irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. The combination can also help treat digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, and diarrhea.
2. Boosts immunity
Eating a diet consisting of probiotics and prebiotics helps the body better absorb important nutrients, which can enhance our immunity. Studies have shown that this boost can reduce the risk of tumors and cancer cells within the stomach. Probiotics can also help to lower the pH in the gut and this prevents the potential growth of damaging bacteria.
3. Stress relief
Although there continues to be new research on how mood and hormone balance can be impacted by the health of the gut – new studies have shown the impact that prebiotics can have on the brain in regards to stress.
In a study conducted by the University of Oxford, volunteers who received prebiotics not only displayed a positive change in their cortisol levels, but also improved emotional processing.
4. Weight control
Fibre is a nutrient linked to weight management as it helps to regulate appetite. It therefore should come as no surprise that prebiotics have been linked to weight loss. A study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that prebiotics can help prevent obesity by regulating appetite in encouraging satiety.
5. Improved bone health
Prebiotics help the body better absorb minerals – some can help improve bone health. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that through prebiotics, the body better absorbs magnesium, calcium, and iron. These minerals are all important for optimal bone health, and they can also reduce the risk of fractures.
6. Eating for gut health
The foods we consume can affect the bacteria in our gut, which is why it’s important to add probiotic and prebiotic foods to our diet. Furthermore, you can’t improve your gut health by combining probiotic foods along with foods heavy in saturated fats, as probiotics cannot improve your gut health this way.
In looking to optimize your gut health, remember to include foods such as:
- Jerusalem artichokes, and
- a variety of leafy greens and whole grains.
Although there are supplements that can provide prebiotics and probiotics, supplements should never take precedence over a healthy and balanced diet. Click here to find our article on meal replacements and supplements – where we bust all the myths surrounding these.