Unfortunately we don’t always read much about the many health benefits of prebiotics nor are we told about healthy foods high in prebiotics. As a result most Americans don’t eat enough foods high in prebiotics on a daily basis. This may cause more indigestion, higher levels of inflammation, lower immune function, weight gain and even a higher risk for some chronic diseases.
Let’s talk about prebiotics and 12 of the healthy foods high in prebiotics which you should consume on a daily basis.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics were first identified and named by Marcel Roberfroid in 1995. According to Roberfroid: “A prebiotic is a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-being and health.” In a nutshell, prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. They aid in stimulating and maintaining the good bacteria in your digestive tract which in turn has a positive effect on your immune system. It is argued that many of the health effects of prebiotics emanate from increased production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) by the stimulated beneficial bacteria. Thus food supplements specifically enhancing the growth of SCFA producing intestinal bacteria (such as clostridia and bacteroides species) are widely recognized to have such potential.
A huge and diverse range of bacterial species colonize the human body. The microbiota extend from mouth to anus and into the vaginal tract of women. They also reside on the skin. Many lines of research have demonstrated the significant role of the microbiota in human physiology. The microbiota are involved in the healthy development of the immune system, prevention of infection from pathogenic or opportunistic microbes and maintenance of intestinal barrier function. For a variety of reasons, normal native bacteria may not always perform these functions optimally. Probiotics and prebiotics have been studied and used to improve these functions. (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics)
Probiotics Must Have Prebiotics
The relationship between prebiotics and probiotics is synergistic. Prebiotic fiber is the chief food source of probiotics, and probiotics cannot flourish without it. Taking a probiotic supplement or food with prebiotic fiber places the indigestible prebiotics in the gut where probiotics then consume them. This enables those beneficial bacteria to populate in your gut microbiome. The reverse is also true — if a probiotic is taken without prebiotic fiber, it’s less likely to flourish.
Different Types of Prebiotics
Prebiotics reside in both food and supplement form. Common prebiotic fiber found in supplements and foods high in prebiotics include:
- Acacia gum
- Oligosaccharides (the best-known prebiotics) including:Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), Oligofructose (OF), Galactooligosaccharides (GOS), Transgalactooligosaccharides (TOS)
- Resistant starch (RS)
- Wheat dextrin
Even though there’s some discussion about which prebiotics are the most effective, the consensus is that consuming any prebiotics with probiotics or cultured foods is beneficial to the body.
Benefits of Prebiotics
From preliminary research, there’s encouraging evidence that higher intakes of probiotics may have a positive effect in:
- Diarrhea treatment, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
- Prevent and treatment of vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the human colon, including the supremely beneficial butyric acid
- Reduction of colorectal cancer risk
- Increased magnesium and calcium absorption
- Immune system effectiveness
- Treat inflammatory bowel disorders (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
- Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
- Prevent and treat eczema in children
- Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
- Lower risk for obesity and weight gain
- Lowering the body’s stress response
12 Healthy Foods High in Prebiotics
- Dandelion Greens
- Flax Seed
Getting your prebiotics from natural, real food will always be the very best choice; but for most people this is not always easy to do. Consuming a high quality probiotic supplement that includes prebiotics, such as Floratrex™, can be just as beneficial. And an added reminder that it’s always best to consume supplements in addition to an already healthy plant-based diet and not “in place of” a healthy diet.
Research and References
- Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. “The Current Trends and Future Perspectives of Prebiotics Research: A Review.” 3 Biotech 2.2 (2012): 115–125. PMC. Web. 22 Sept. 2017
- Slavin, Joanne. “Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits.” Nutrients 5.4 (2013): 1417–1435. PMC. Web. 22 Sept. 2017.
- Cummings, J.H. and G.T. Macfarlane. “Gastrointestinal Effects of Prebiotics.” The British Journal of Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2002
- Collins, M. David, and Glenn R. Gibson. “Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics: Approaches for Modulating the Microbial Ecology of the Gut.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 69, no.5, 1052s-1057s, May 1999.
- Roberfroid, M., et al. “Prebiotic Effects: Metabolic and Health Benefits.” The British Journal of Nutrition, Aug. 2010. Suppl 2:S1-63.
- Scholz-Ahrens, K.E., Ade, P., Marten, B., Weber, P., Timm, W., Açil, Y., Glüer, C.C., Schrezenmeir, J. “Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Synbiotics Affect Mineral Absorption, Bone Mineral Content, and Bone Structure.” The Journal of Nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2007. Web. 22 Sept. 2017.
- Gibson, G.R., and M.B. Roberfroid. “Dietary Modulation of the Human Colonic Microbiota: Introducing the Concept of Prebiotics.” The Journal of Nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 1995. Web. 22 Sept. 2017.
- Hume, Megan P., and and Alissa C. Nicolucci. “Prebiotic supplementation improves appetite control in children with overweight and obesity: a randomized controlled trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.140947.
- Parnell, J.A., and R.A. Reimer. “Prebiotic Fibres Dose-Dependently Increase Satiety Hormones and Alter Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes in Lean and Obese JCR:LA-Cp Rats.” The British Journal of Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2012.
- Maki, Kevin C., et al. “Resistant Starch from High-Amylose Maize Increases Insulin Sensitivity in Overweight and Obese Men.” The Journal of Nutrition, February 22, 2012, doi: 10.3945/jn.111.152975.
- Sarkar, Amar, et al. “Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria–Gut–Brain Signals.” Trends in Neurosciences, Elsevier Applied Science Publishing, Nov. 2016.
- Thompson, Robert S., et al. “Dietary Prebiotics and Bioactive Milk Fractions Improve NREM Sleep, Enhance REM Sleep Rebound and Attenuate the Stress-Induced Decrease in Diurnal Temperature and Gut Microbial Alpha Diversity.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 9 Dec. 2016.
- Leach, J.D., and K.D. Sobolik. “High Dietary Intake of Prebiotic Inulin-Type Fructans in the Prehistoric Chihuahuan Desert.” The British Journal of Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2010.
- “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” www.eatright.org, Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition, 10 Oct. 2016.
- Scott, Karen. “Prebiotics.” International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP).