Years of research shows that what you eat plays an important role in all areas of health, including your digestive health. Whether you know it or not, the lining of your digestive system is covered with bacteria and other microscopic organisms (just like the kind that are all over the surface of your body).
While many of us are taught to look at bacteria as something negative, the bacteria in you is good, can be beneficial, and is essential to how well your digestive system works. For optimal digestive health, you’re responsible for maintaining the health and “happiness” of the bacteria in your gut; here’s where prebiotic supplements can play an important role.
In this article, we will discuss the differences between prebiotics and probiotics, what types of supplements to consider, and some other ways to get prebiotics.
What Are Transition Metals?
It’s common for people to mistaken prebiotics with probiotics since the name is similar and they both benefit digestive health, but it’s important to note that they have different roles.
In short, prebiotics “feed” existing microbes while probiotics add more living good bacteria to your gut.
Let’s take a quick, in-depth look at each one.
Out of the two biotics, most people seem to be more familiar with probiotics. As we already mentioned, probiotics increase the population of healthy microbes in your gut. Probiotics are particularly helpful if you lack good bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics are available as a supplement and are may also be naturally occurring in fermented foods like kombucha and sauerkraut; yogurt is one of the more well-known foods that contain probiotics.
Prebiotics are naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, particularly those that contain complex carbohydrates that are resistant to fiber or starch. Since these carbohydrates are not digestible by your body, they pass through your gut and “feed” your good bacteria. Prebiotics are considered to be a type of dietary fiber.
Like probiotics, prebiotics are available as supplements. Some wonder if you can take prebiotics with probiotics and most experts will agree that people may have better results taking both, but it’s not a requirement.
Many people choose to take prebiotics over probiotics because in many ways prebiotics seem to be more resilient. Most probiotics are temperature and acid sensitive, and improper storage can deem them ineffective since the probiotics need to stay alive.
Prebiotics are not easily affected by temperature or acid, and since they act as food (or fertilizer) for good bacteria, they don’t have to “compete” with existing bacteria as probiotics do. Most prebiotic and probiotic experts are likely to recommend taking both supplements or eating a diet rich with prebiotic and probiotic foods.
The Importance of Good Bacteria
The thought of having bacteria in your gut may make some people a little squeamish, but as we mentioned earlier, it’s essential to having a healthy digestive system. Here’s are some reasons how good gut bacteria benefits you, and a prebiotic supplement may help improve the bacteria.
Maintaining Healthy Weight or Losing Weight
When the bacteria in your gut is well-fed, it works more effectively. One of the benefits of a prebiotic is that it may help you maintain a healthy weight or even help you lose a few pounds. When your gut bacteria is unhealthy, you’re likely to experience a bit of weight gain; this imbalance of “good and bad” microbes is often referred to as gut dysbiosis.
Healthy microbes,which are fed with prebiotics, may help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.While prebiotics (along with probiotics) are a good option for individuals who are hoping to lose some weight, studies reveal that the weight loss is small (about two pounds).
Even though the results may be a little disheartening for some, it can be a great incentive to start incorporating prebiotics into a daily health routine, including exercise and a healthier diet.
Improving Overall Gut Health
Healthy gut bacteria helps prevent or reduce symptoms associated with intestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
When gut bacteria is weak or unhealthy, it produces gas and other chemicals which result in intestinal discomfort.
While prebiotics may not be the only answer to improving your gut health and in treating other digestive issues, it may be worth checking out and talking to your doctor.
Heart and Brain Health
Although prebiotics do a lot of great things for your digestive health, they can also help improve your heart and brain health. It’s important to remember that if one part of your body is not functioning as well as it should (such as your digestive system), other areas of your body may be affected as well.
Did you recently find out that you have high levels of “bad” cholesterol? Maybe your moods is noticeably grumpier than usual. Studies show that there may be a correlation between mood disorders and an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria.
Healthy bacteria in your gut may also reduce your risk of heart disease related issues such as high levels of “bad” cholesterol.
Other possible benefits of taking prebiotics include:
Do You Need Prebiotics?
If you have digestive issues or any of the health issues that prebiotics may benefit, prebiotics might be beneficial to you. Although prebiotics are known to be relatively safe, it’s important to talk with your doctor if you have any health issues or concerns.
Common side effects, when you start incorporating prebiotics into your daily routine, include gas, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, bloating, and even acid reflux. While slight stomach discomfort is normal, you should not have severe pain from prebiotics; if you experience side effects that are out of the ordinary, stop taking the prebiotics and consult your doctor.
If you’re considering a prebiotic supplements, it’s important to take a little time to do your research. Like probiotic supplements, there are dozens of prebiotics available; many of them are referred to as Prebiotin.
When selecting a supplement, look for one that has real prebiotics rather than compounds that are designed to work like a prebiotic. Prebiotics are available as a liquid or powdered in a capsule form.
Whenever possible, try to purchase a prebiotic from a manufacturer with a good reputation and has high-quality standards. Keep in mind, that like other health supplements, the FDA does not approve or regulate prebiotics
Alternatives To Prebiotic Supplements
The right prebiotic supplement can help reap all the benefits of prebiotics, but if you haven’t found a supplement you like, you can also make dietary changes. Here are some foods that may have the same benefits as a prebiotic supplement.
Onions and Garlic
If you use onions and garlic in your cooking, you’re feeding the good bacteria in your gut. Not only do they keep good bacteria healthy, but onions and garlic can also help prevent disease-promoting bacteria from growing and taking over the good bacteria. Another good food, from the same family, is leeks.
Not only is asparagus a good food due to its anti-inflammatory properties, but this popular springtime vegetable is a good source of fiber and is another good example of a prebiotic food.
Have you ever had minor digestive issues that disappeared after eating a banana? Bananas have numerous vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of fiber. If you want to get the most prebiotic benefits from bananas, unripe bananas have the highest level of resistant starch.
Barley, Oats, and Wheat Bran
You’ve probably heard that eating whole grains are important for a fiber-rich diet. Grains, like barley and oats, are an excellent fiber source and a natural source of prebiotics.
Final Thoughts On Prebiotic Supplements
If you have digestive issues or want to improve your overall health, prebiotics may be an ideal option for you.
Whether you decide to take prebiotics on their own or with probiotics, it’s best to be aware of any potential side effects and ensure that it’s the best option for you and your health needs.
While a prebiotic supplements is an excellent way to keep your good gut bacteria healthy, you can always explore a diet that’s rich with prebiotic foods.