Inside: What are prebiotics and their role in improving inflammation and gut health. Prebiotic vs Probiotics. What foods are high in prebiotics. Understanding – Do I need to take prebiotic supplement.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a bowel dysfunction where people suffer from different kinds of debilitating symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain.
The underlying pathogenesis of this dreadful disease is still a mystery.
And, it is still a disease where conventional medicine doesn’t have much to offer in terms of treatment because they are still struggling with the reason behind this dysfunction.
It is indeed a complex disease but — we are realizing that alternations in the microbiome can play an important role in the pathogenesis of this disease.
We have more than 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut, in fact we have more bacteria in our gut than we have our own body cells in our body.
All of these gut bacteria are metabolically active and have a significant impact on our health.
It has been seen in research that people who have IBS have altered the composition of their microbiome.
This has led the researchers to look into ways of restoring this composition of gut microbiome back to normal and see if that improves the IBS symptoms.
Initially, the majority of the research was done on probiotics for ibs and they saw some beneficial results with them; but symptoms still persisted and the microbiome was not completely restored.
So now the researchers started to look into prebiotics for gut health; since prebiotics also impacts the health of our gut microbiome.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are basically food for the good bacteria in your gut!
Prebiotics are typically different kinds of fiber derivatives which are resistant to enzymatic and chemical digestion in our gut until they reach the large intestine.
How Do Prebiotics Work?
In the large intestine, the fermentation of these prebiotic fibers happens by good bacteria which leads to the production of fatty acids (SCFA) like acetate, butyrate, and propionate.
These SCFA (short-chain fatty acids ) are metabolically active and play a key role in the promotion of gut homeostasis and also are important regulators of gut immunity and inflammation.
They are also food or energy source for the epithelial cells of the gut lining and they are important for maintaining the integrity of the gut lining and without them we can have what we call as leaky gut which has been implicated in many gut disorders.
These prebiotics also maintain gut Ph, help with the mineral absorption, which are involved in satiety.
So in this way these prebiotics have several benefits for maintaining our gut integrity and also to keep our gut microbiome healthy.
Prebiotics vs Probiotics
Most people will confuse the prebiotics for probiotics since prebiotics are not known so well. But they both are different things and their mode of action are also different.
Prebiotics as mentioned above are modified fiber that is fuel for your good bacteria and ultimately forms amino acids which are healing for the gut. They keep your gut lining intact and in good health.
Probiotics, on the other hand, are the live good bacteria that are part of our microbiome and have shown to be important in gut health also.
So simply — Prebiotics is the fibrous food that probiotic microbiome eat!
Both prebiotics and probiotics are necessary for good gut health.
Types of Prebiotics
Prebiotics as modified versions of fiber which are present in several natural foods. They can be classified into :
- Disaccharides: Lactulose
- Oligosaccharides: fructo-oligosaccharides ( FOS) , galacto-oligosaccharides( GOS )
- Polysaccharides: fructan inulin, reflux starch, cellulose, hemicellulose or pectin
Prebiotics are present in different kinds of food. So consuming these foods in the regular basis can also replenish these prebiotics.
Food high in prebiotics
- garlic, onions
- Dandelion greens
- Barley, oats, wheat
Do You Need Prebiotic Supplements?
Some people even though they are eating these foods do not get enough prebiotics. Either they cannot tolerate the above foods or they react to these foods and that’s where supplements can be useful.
There are several supplements on the market with different prebiotic blends like inulin, acacia fiber, beta-glucans.
Most of the time it is best to use a supplement that has a combination of different prebiotics so you can get a balanced benefit.
Once you start the supplement its important to start slow and build it up, as the maximum dose can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort to some people, so start slow and build it up.
Even after starting slow, you get persistent bloating and abdominal pain then you might be suffering from an overgrowth of bacteria in your gut.
In that can you need to take care of bacterial growth first, for which introduction of good bacteria in the form of probiotics will help. You can read here about it here — SIBO diet.
Recommended Prebiotic Supplement —
So prebiotics are important for our gut health, but often get neglected while all the limelight have been focused on probiotics. Studies are now showing the prebiotics play role in modulating inflammation in the gut and also to maintain the gut barrier which is important for the prevention of leaky gut.
Most of the time eating foods high in prebiotics can give you enough but sometimes supplements can be needed if not having the desired effect.
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