We all hear about probiotics, the good bacteria in our guts, and we are starting to understand the health benefits of probiotics. However we are missing one crucial side of the equation in gut health: prebiotics.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are “food” for probiotics. Indeed, they feed the good bacteria already in your gut, helping them grow.
Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that promote good bacteria in the gut. They are in the form of dietary fiber that change the gut microbiome in a beneficial way: by increasing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Studies have shown that prebiotic fibers increase the number of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, two of the most beneficial bacteria for optimal gut health. By increasing the number of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, these fibers can combat unwanted pathogens and provide a number of health benefits.
Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are heat resistant, and they are not digested by the body. Instead, they feed the beneficial bacteria. Therefore, getting the effects of prebiotics is easy, especially when consumed in a supplement form.
What foods contain prebiotics?
Many foods are high in prebiotics; and in general, raw foods have more prebiotic fiber than cooked foods.
The most common type of prebiotic is from the dietary fiber inulin; which is common in many plants.
Some examples of foods containing inulin are garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, artichokes,and other dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale.
Bananas and whole grains are also high in prebiotics.
There are also many prebiotic supplements to choose from to get enough prebiotic fiber in your diet.
Can you combine prebiotics and probiotics?
Yes! Combining both in one product is called symbiotics, and they are the key to a healthy gut. Indeed prebiotics maximize the effect of probiotics by giving fuel to those beneficial bacteria.
One natural symbiotic is Kefir, a type of yogurt that has been fermented.
A symbiotic supplement delivers both a probiotic, the live bacteria, and the prebiotic, the food for that live bacteria. This kind of supplement promotes healthy intestinal flora.
What you should remember is this:
probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria, and prebiotics are the “fuel” to help them grow inside the digestive tract.
Both are beneficial to digestive health, and supplements combining both are called symbiotics.