With all the health fads and the purportedly miraculous health ingredients out there, it’s difficult to accurately determine what works and what doesn’t. While many people are familiar with probiotics, which are now commonly found in supermarkets across the world, the concept of prebiotics is understood by few.
Prebiotics are relatively new on the dietary scene, with the term first being used in 1995. Over the past few years they have filled up shelves and are now accepted as a crucial part of any healthy supplementation plan.
Continue reading below for the full scoop on prebiotics and why you need to add them to your diet to help your health to flourish.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are forms of fiber that perform a variety of important functions within the digestive system. These non-digestible fibers help encourage the development of healthy bacteria within the gut, leading to a tremendous range of health benefits. Moreover, prebiotics offer several other benefits such as increased nutrient absorption, weight management and targeting of bad bacteria.
Prebiotics can be found in several popular foods and some other lesser-known ingredients which you can easily incorporate into your diet. Garlic, onions, apples and bananas are widely consumed foods containing prebiotics. Some other foods containing prebiotics include leeks, barley, asparagus and burdock root.
Two of the most well-studied prebiotics are inulin and oligofructose. These two fibers are naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, and are believed to be present in over 40,000 plants.
How To Take Prebiotics
There are plenty of ways you can get your daily dose of prebiotics. Many of us consume prebiotics without even realizing it, as it’s found in many fruits and vegetables. The key thing to remember about prebiotics is that raw food maximizes the amount of prebiotics available. This is because the cooking process can destroy a lot of the prebiotic content of foods. Therefore, it’s best to eat them raw as often as you can.
Along with consuming prebiotics in natural foods, you can find supplements that help you meet your daily intake requirement. High quality prebiotic products such as Happy V prebiotics can provide a proprietary blend of fibers to prevent any deficiencies. Such prebiotics can get your gut health up and running. With prebiotic supplements made by reliable companies, you can rest easy knowing that they are manufactured with the highest industry standards and contain pure, organic ingredients.
How Exactly Do Prebiotics Work?
While prebiotics are still undergoing research, numerous health benefits have been observed under scientific conditions. However, given that prebiotics have burst onto the scene only recently, it’s highly likely that there are more undiscovered benefits.
Increasing Healthy Bacteria
Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers which pass through your digestive tract in a fermented state. They are not live bacteria but provide the sustenance which allows such bacteria to grow. In other words, prebiotics are not healthy bacteria, but they are crucial in the formation of such bacteria within your body.
Prebiotics essentially behave as a kind of fuel for the bacteria within your gut. Fortunately, prebiotics are utilized by the healthy bacteria in your gut and actually work to decrease levels of harmful bacteria. The health benefits of increasing levels of healthy bacteria in the gut are well-established scientifically. These benefits include better metabolic efficiency and digestive function.
Improved Nutrient Absorption
No matter how nutritionally rich you keep your diet, a poor rate of nutrient absorption within the gut will undo all the hard work and preparation you’ve done for your meals. Low levels of good bacteria in the gut will significantly reduce nutrient absorption, so you might as well not eat all that healthy food at all.
Prebiotics help develop good bacteria, and it is these bacteria which vastly improve the efficiency of nutrient absorption. This can help you make the most of healthy meals and maximize the benefits of taking nutritional supplements. Absorption of minerals such as calcium is strongly affected by prebiotics.
Another benefit of taking prebiotics is the positive effect they can have on weight management. One of the key target areas of weight loss is to encourage a feeling of fullness in the stomach. This helps people to cut down on their daily calorie intake as they feel full a lot of quicker and for longer.
Prebiotics are full of fibers which help fill up the digestive system. The fullness sends satiety signals to the brain. While prebiotics don’t help in burning fat directly, they are an excellent aid for those who want to reduce calories without suffering from hunger pangs throughout the day. Many of the natural foods containing prebiotics are healthy, and prebiotic supplements are full of all-natural ingredients and contain very few calories.
The advantages of taking anti-inflammatory products are vast, bringing about a host of health benefits across the body and mind. High levels of inflammation can cause all kinds of problems including pain, swelling and increased risk of disease. The way prebiotics work to help inflammation is by regulating levels of cytokines. These cytokines are responsible for both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Prebiotics work to encourage the anti-inflammatory effects of cytokines, whilst diminishing their proinflammatory influence.
Scientific research is increasingly discovering the importance of a healthy gut flora when it comes to sleep quality. Getting in a quality night’s sleep has a huge range of compounding health benefits. Therefore, it’s vital to maximize the quality of your sleep. Prebiotics significantly improve the quality of non-REM sleep. They also help improve REM sleep after traumatic events. Just how prebiotics help sleep quality is still up for debate, although scientists have theorized that it’s linked to short-chain fatty acid production.
Benefits Of Prebiotics
Many people may wonder why they should take prebiotics when they can just as easily up their levels of probiotics. There are several reasons why taking prebiotics is the smart choice, and it can be done in conjunction with probiotic supplementation too.
One of the problems with probiotics is that, as live bacteria, they are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and body acidity levels. This can end up destroying a lot of the beneficial components of probiotics, which essentially amounts to a waste of time and money. One of the perks of taking prebiotics is that they do not contain any live cultures of bacteria, making them resistant to high temperatures and acids/enzymes in the body. This makes prebiotics far more effective and convenient to take.
More Comfortable For Your Gut
Although probiotics undoubtedly offer many excellent health benefits, they aren’t always suitable for everyone due to their strong effect on the digestive system. Some of the side-effects include bloating, gas and stomach pain, which usually aren’t as powerful with prebiotics. This is partly due to the fact that prebiotics don’t have such a strong interaction with your body’s gastric acids and enzymes, ensuring a smooth digestive process without any side-effects.
Consume With Any Food
Because prebiotics are resistant to heat, enzymes and gastric acids, they can be consumed together with pretty much all foods. This isn’t the case with probiotics as they are very sensitive to temperature and acids. Prebiotics can be cooked, made into soups, grilled, or simply eaten raw depending on what works for you. Once consumed, regardless of method, they’ll travel down into the gut completely intact and ready to work their magic.
Side Effects Of Prebiotics
Despite being one of the safest dietary supplements around, prebiotics do have some negative effects. Thankfully, prebiotics are considered very safe and aren’t known to bring about any major side-effects.
While prebiotics themselves won’t lead to gassiness, it is their interaction with your pre-existing gut bacteria which can cause uncomfortable problems. This is because the thousands of strains of gut bacteria use prebiotics as a source of fuel to develop. During this process, a lot of excess gas is created which can be rather uncomfortable at times. By keeping your prebiotic consumption moderate, you can expect only a mild degree of gassiness. However, those going over the recommended prebiotic intake can expect a significant amount of excess gas production.
As your gut bacteria flourish, your digestive system goes through significant changes which produce a lot of gas and can lead to feelings of bloatedness. Thankfully, this side-effect is relatively easy to assuage by reducing your prebiotic intake. One may feel uncomfortable, but the symptoms cause no damage and disappear very quickly upon reducing the intake.
Should You Take Prebiotics?
The health benefits of prebiotics are astounding, and it is very easy to incorporate them into your diet. Supplements are just as effective and are even more convenient. Supplements offer a diverse range of different types of prebiotics to give your body maximum benefits.
Prebiotics are very safe to take and only lead to mild digestive discomfort. The problems can be easily prevented by altering your intake amount. While most people consume prebiotics without even realizing it on a daily basis, there are many benefits if you up your intake. Just be sure to manage your prebiotic intake and find the level that works for you.