“You are what you eat.”
It is a phrase that has been used for hundreds of years and that you have probably heard a hundred times. The more scientific progress we make, the more that statement is proven to be correct.
Recently, there has been a rising interest in the gut microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms, fungi, bacteria, and viruses present in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Disruptions in the gut microbiome have been linked to the development of numerous health issues such as cancer, inflammatory diseases, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and even depression .
- 7 Prebiotics Benefits For Your Health
- What Are The Health Benefits Of Prebiotics?
- Types Of Prebiotics
- Sources Of Prebiotics
- Are Prebiotics Safe?
- Prebiotics Benefits: Summing Up
7 Prebiotics Benefits For Your Health
You have heard of the health benefits of probiotics, but have you heard of prebiotics?
The difference between probiotics and prebiotics isn't just a letter; probiotics are living strains of bacteria, while prebiotics are plant fibers. Prebiotics offer many benefits, and in this article, we'll explore the health benefits of prebiotics and their best sources.
What Are Prebiotics, And How Are They Different From Probiotics?
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, ultimately promoting microbiome health.
Put simply, prebiotics are food components, whereas probiotics are living microorganisms. Prebiotics are the substrate or the food for probiotics. The products of prebiotics degradation are mainly short-chain fatty acids which are molecules small enough to enter blood circulation through the gut.
Read more about prebiotics vs probiotics.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Prebiotics?
1. Immune System Support
There are many immune cells in the gut, and prebiotics have been shown to influence the communication between the immune system and the gut. There is increasing evidence that prebiotics affect the immune system both directly and indirectly .
2. Allergy Risk Mitigation
Reduced levels of certain strains of bacteria in the gut have been linked with the development of allergies. Prebiotics selectively stimulate the person's beneficial microbiome, such as increasing the levels of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli hence reducing the risk of allergy.
Prebiotics were also shown to prevent eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis in infants .
3. Healthy Gut
Along with probiotics, prebiotics reduce inflammation of the gut and help maintain a healthy microbiome by promoting healthy bacteria and blocking bad bacteria.
Prebiotics support the growth of lactobacilli which helps in the digestion of lactose and relieves constipation. Prebiotics also increase Bifidobacteria, which could alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) .
4. Bone Health
Multiple studies have shown that prebiotics promote calcium absorption and bone health by reducing mineral loss.
The effect of prebiotics on bone health was optimal during the rapid adolescent growth stage. Osteoporosis is a health condition in which the bone gets weakened, making them prone to fractures.
The risk of osteoporosis increases with age since our bones naturally become thinner. Recent studies suggest a prebiotics-rich diet as a strategy to prevent osteoporosis and even treat it .
5. Reducing Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a low-level but persistent inflammation that increases with age and it is most common in old people.
It increases the risk of many disorders such as cardiovascular, cancer, and diabetes. Prebiotics reduce inflammation due to the role they play in boosting immune function .
6. Protection From Cardiovascular Diseases
In addition to reducing inflammation, prebiotics reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases in other ways such as [6,7]:
- Reducing cholesterol
- Reducing blood pressure
- Reducing oxidative stress
7. Improved Brain Function
Your brain and gut are connected together through an axis called the “brain-gut” axis.
Studies on both animals and humans suggest that prebiotics affect the brain in many ways: directly (neural) and indirectly (hormones and immunity).
Prebiotics control hormones such as stress hormones that induce stress and anxiety . Furthermore, prebiotics were shown to improve memory and overall cognitive behavior in middle-aged adults .
Types Of Prebiotics
Prebiotics are mostly a subset of carbohydrate groups. There are many types of prebiotics such as:
- Galacto-Oligosaccharide: made up of plant sugars
- Fructan: also an oligosaccharide made up of plant sugars.
- Starch and carbs oligosaccharides: which are mainly indigestible fibers.
Sources Of Prebiotics
Prebiotics can be obtained through food. The following is a list of food rich in them:
- Vegetables: garlic, onion, spring onion, leek, shallots, beetroot, green peas, snow peas, shallots, sweet corn, chicory, cabbage, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes.
- Fruits: apples, nectarines, peaches, watermelon, persimmon, watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranate, berries, and dried fruit such as dates.
- Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, beans, and soybeans.
- Nuts and seeds: flaxseed, cashew, and pistachio.
- Cereal and bread: raw oats, unrefined wheat, unrefined barley, couscous, bran.
- Breast milk.
Here is how much prebiotics there is in 6 grams serving of the following :
- Banana: 600g
- Raw wheat bran: 120G
- Asparagus: 120g
- Garlic: 34.3g
- Jerusalem Artichoke: 19g
- Chicory: 9.3g
You can also obtain your daily intake of prebiotics through supplements.
Are Prebiotics Safe?
Yes! There are no documented severe or life-threatening side effects of prebiotics. The reported side effects are the following:
- Abdominal cramps
- Build up of gas in the digestive system
The daily recommended dose for prebiotics is 2.5–15 g . Within this dose, the side effects of prebiotics are mild, and mainly high doses (40–50 g per day) cause the abovementioned symptoms.
Prebiotics Benefits: Summing Up
The health of your gut drastically affects the health of your body.
Prebiotics are mostly indigestible fibers that promote the growth of healthy strains of bacteria in your gut while blocking the growth of bad ones.
Together with probiotics, they have multiple health benefits such as reducing inflammation, supporting the immune system, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, promoting bone health, and improving brain function.
With age, your metabolism slows down, and the risk of osteoporosis increases. Eating a prebiotics-rich diet can help prevent osteoporosis and boost the health of your gut which reduces inflammation and all the diseases associated with inflammation.
Excessive intake of prebiotics can cause discomfort such as bloating and diarrhea; make sure to have a daily intake of prebiotics between 2.5g and 15g.