We’ve all heard of probiotics – whether that’s from your doctor telling you to make sure to get enough or yoghurt adverts on TV telling you that they’re good for your gut – but have you heard of prebiotics?
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are defined as the non-digestible parts of food that probiotics use to increase healthy bacteria in the gut.
Although they sound similar, prebiotics and probiotics both play different roles in our gut. Prebiotics simply pass through your small intestine and into your large colon undigested where it is fermented. This process results in a higher level of good bacteria. The probiotics, on the other hand, are the live beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that you find naturally occurring in foods that are fermented, and they also live in your gut. Prebiotics are the food of probiotics; they need them to grow and do the best job they can.
Essentially, the probiotics act to keep your gut clean and in good working order so that more good bacteria can grow, bad bacteria that causes disease or a weakened immune system is inhibited, and to keep everything moving as it should.
It’s important to have both prebiotics and probiotics in your diet in order to maintain a good level of beneficial bacteria to reduce your risk of preventable disease and to keep your digestion in good working order. The probiotics that already exist in your gastrointestinal tract need be kept good and healthy in order to provide the best benefits, so that’s why it’s important to find good sources of prebiotics.
Where to find prebiotics in your diet
The easiest and best sources of prebiotics are the naturally occurring, undigestible fibres found in plants. Fortunately, this means that most people, particularly those with a good, balanced diet, will already be ingesting a good level of prebiotics without even knowing.
Some examples of foods that are rich in prebiotics include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Dandelion roots and greens
- Apples with skin on
While these are all good sources, it would take very high levels of them to maintain any long-lasting health benefits. Cooking these foods will also mean that the vast majority of the useful prebiotic sources are broken down as their state changes through heating. The best way to consume them is as part of salads or eaten raw.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t eat these foods as a source of prebiotics though: you can continue to boost the probiotics already in your gut, and those which come from foods such as sauerkraut, yoghurt and kefir, by ingesting these.
There are also prebiotics supplements available for those who require them – those who have high amounts of processed foods in their diets will benefit from these.
Pros of prebiotics
As discussed, prebiotics have huge advantages in our gastrointestinal system. Not only do they boost our overall digestion, they can also improve our immune system, help our defence against disease causing bacteria and more. Being resistant to our body’s temperature fluctuations and acidic fluids, they can last a long time, causing long term benefits for the probiotics, and, in turn, our overall health.
Cons of prebiotics
There are few disadvantages to consuming prebiotics as you’d be hard-pushed to consume the level needed to produce any negative side effects. When taking supplements for the first time or consuming abnormally large quantities compared to their regular diet, some people may experience bloating, gas and the discomfort associated with both for a short time, until their body becomes used to the higher level of prebiotics and resulting probiotics.
To understand more about how your body deals with prebiotics and probiotics, a diet plan based on a GutQlu DNA test can be hugely beneficial so that you know where and in which ways it’s best for you personally to add these to your diet. The benefits of having prebiotics in your diet though vastly outweigh any very short term and minimal side effects.
Our GutQlu test will unlock the secrets of your DNA to allow you to understand the effect your diet has on your delicate gut bacteria and how you can better optimise and balance your gut health.
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If you’re looking to identify problems caused by gut bacteria imbalances such as stomach upset, joint pain and fatigue and to optimise your diet, take the first step with a GutQlu personalised digestive report.