Bacteria is a word that presents negative connotations in most people’s minds. However, not all bacteria are bad. In fact, our body must have healthy bacteria to survive and prebiotics are an important part of this, as you’re about to discover.
What are prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that probiotics actually feed off of. In the gut, as they are fed on, they increase the population of probiotics in your gut microbiome.
Healthy bacteria are known as probiotics and they can benefit your body in numerous ways from heart and brain health to potentially reducing the risk of cancer.
Due to the stressful nature of today’s society along with a large portion of people suffering from lack of sleep, and consuming more processed or high sugar foods and antibiotics, many are suffering from a lack of probiotics and therefore an imbalance in the range of bacteria in their gut microbiome.
Why the buzz over probiotics? What can they actually benefit from it?
Studies are currently being undertaken to understand how probiotics work as this is not yet known. What is known, however, is the potential benefits that it can provide, including benefitting and improving:
What foods provide prebiotics?
Prebiotics can, of course, be increased through the consumption of supplements or can be increased naturally through food sources such as:
- Onions, Shallots and Spring Onions
- The skin of apples
- Pistachio Nuts
- Red Kidney Beans, Soybeans and Baked Beans
- Savoy Cabbage
- Dandelion Greens
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Chicory Root Powder
- Elephant Yam (know also as Konjac Root)
- Burdock Root
- Yacon Root
- Jicama Root
- Chicory Root
Advantages of prebiotic supplements over probiotic supplements
Prebiotic supplements have the benefit of not actually being live bacteria, meaning they are not affected by heat and will not ‘go-off’ over long term storage.
Not being affected by heat means they can be added to any food or drinks with ease and peace of mind that their effectiveness is not being compromised.
Furthermore, they are resistant to the body’s enzymes and gastric acids, meaning that once digested they are not destroyed or absorbed en route, rather they reach the colon and gut fully intact and unchanged from when they entered the body.
Prebiotics are more reliable than probiotics in reaching the gut, however, effectiveness depends on the product that you purchase.
Always be cautious to research and buy the best and most effective product for you.
Benefits of taking prebiotics
The benefits of taking prebiotics are exactly the same as taking probiotics – in the end, the result is the same. Your gut and microbiome will become more balanced and the following could result:
Hormone levels – the study linked above, found that “probiotic supplementation significantly increased serum sex hormone-binding globulin and plasma total antioxidant capacity and significantly decreased serum total testosterone”. Showing a balance of hormone levels.
Immune system – the study linked above, concluded that “current evidence shows promise for further developing health benefits and the efficacy of probiotics and probiotic-derived factors on the regulation of host homeostasis, including immune health.”
Heart – the study linked above, concluded that “scientific evidence exists to indicate that there is potential for the derivation of health benefits from consuming food containing probiotics.” in relation to “cardiovascular diseases”.
Brain – the study linked above, found that “it is likely that daily consumption of a probiotic supplement could have a positive effect in improving the mood, anxiety, and cognitive symptoms present in MDD” by increasing serotonin availability and/or decreasing levels of inflammatory markers”.
Weight – the study above, concluded that “there is no doubt that probiotic therapy represents an exciting new frontier in the treatment of obesity and associated metabolic dysfunctions.”
Skin – the study aforelisted found that “Oral and topical probiotics appear to be effective for the treatment of certain inflammatory skin diseases and demonstrate a promising role in wound healing and skin cancer.”
Cancer – the study linked above, concluded that “a growing body of literature had highlighted a role of probiotic balance in the maintenance of widely understood homeostasis, projecting on successful cancer therapy. The evidence from the latest studies points towards the idea of the possible implementation of probiotics in cutting-edge cancer therapies.”
Side effects and risks
Again, the side effects and risks are the same as those linked to probiotics. Thankfully, these are minimal and only affect a small portion of the population.
That said, those with major illnesses may suffer more severe side effects.
Always consult with your doctor before adding something to your medication.
As a guide, it’s a good idea to take probiotics either two hours before or two hours after any medication too.
Side effects of taking prebiotics may include:
- Redness and swelling
Prebiotics are the alternative to probiotics. They are the food that probiotics feed on, and help to increase the population of probiotics by actually being fed on.
Prebiotic supplements have the advantage of reaching the gut unchanged by heat or any other bodily factors which affect probiotics.
Benefits and risks are the same as those associated with probiotics as, in the end, the result of taking each is identical – an increase in the population of probiotics in your gut which should lead to a more balanced microbiome.