Why eat prebiotics?
General Nutrition • • 1 minute to read • By Zainab Cutlerywala, INFS Faculty
Author: Zainab Cutlerywala
Many people have heard of probiotics, which are living microorganisms that have been shown to benefit gut health. Probiotics may be found naturally in foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, but they're also often taken as supplements to benefit the digestive tract.
What about prebiotics, though?
Prebiotics has an impact on the health of your digestive system and many other aspects of your body yet they are not considered as important.
In this article, we will try to cover what are prebiotics, how they help us and what kind of supplements are available in the market as prebiotics and how to use them.
Prebiotics: What is this?
The billions of bacteria that dwell in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and make up your gut microbiome are referred to as "gut microbiota." The bulk of these microbes live in your big intestine.
They conduct processes that are critical to general health, such as food metabolism and immune system modulation. The microbiome in the gut affects diseases risk too like colon cancer, diabetes type2, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Diet and lifestyle choices have a considerable influence on the variety and kinds of bacteria found in the gastrointestinal system.
Prebiotics are necessary for a balanced microbiome. In layman's terms, they're nutrients that gut microbes break down.
Prebiotics are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. Short-chain fatty acids are produced as a result of this process. These byproducts provide energy to the colonocytes, which line the colon and promote health in a variety of ways.
Prebiotics also affect the composition and function of gut bacteria, boosting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
According to the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics, a substance must meet the following criteria to be classed as a prebiotic:
- It should not get destroyed by the stomach acid or digestive enzymes, as well as not be absorbed in the GI tract
- It should be fermentable by intestinal microorganisms.
- It should also increase the development or activity of intestinal bacteria to enhance health.
Prebiotics are often confused with Probiotics but they are completely different. The live microorganisms in your gut and some food items and supplements are probiotics.
On the other hand, prebiotics are nutrients that help certain microorganisms in the gut flourish and grow.
How do you get prebiotics?
Here is a list of few things that naturally contain prebiotics in it.
- Chia seeds
- Onions and leeks
- Dandelion greens
Prebiotics can be found in a limited number of foods. Furthermore, many prebiotic-rich foods, such as artichokes and beans, aren't common in most people's diets.
As a result, synthetic prebiotics are added to some meals to boost their nutritional and health benefits. Prebiotics are also available as powders and pills as dietary supplements.These pills are used to treat a variety of ailments as well as to enhance gut health in general.
Supplementing your diet with prebiotics has been demonstrated to help patients with digestive issues, excessive blood sugar, and other issues.
However, prebiotic supplementation benefits are much less researched than probiotics.
Health benefits of Prebiotics
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetate, propionate, and butyrate are produced as a result of fermentation of prebiotics and these perform important functions in maintaining gut and metabolic health.
In addition prebiotics also help in blood sugar regluation, energy expenditure and immune system functioning.
It has the potential to boost metabolic health.
Prebiotic supplements and a prebiotic-rich diet may improve various elements of metabolic health, such as blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Treatment with the prebiotics known as Inulin-type fructans (ITF) significantly lowered fasting blood sugar, a long-term blood sugar management marker known as glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), and fasting insulin levels, according to a 2019 assessment of 33 research.
These findings were most significant in those with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers, who suggested that persons with these diseases take 10 grammes of ITF each day for at least 6 weeks to reap these potential advantages.
However, not all prebiotics research in these communities have produced positive results.
In a small 2021 randomised, double-blind crossover experiment involving 29 patients with type 2 diabetes, researchers discovered that taking 16 grammes of ITF daily for 6 weeks had no effect on fasting or post-meal blood sugar levels when compared to a control therapy.
While prebiotic supplements may help persons with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes improve certain elements of their metabolic health, additional research is needed to establish these potential advantages.
It's possible that it'll help with some gastrointestinal issues.
Prebiotics may help people with gut-related health issues like constipation because they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and enhance certain elements of gut health.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients with constipation may benefit from treatment with inulin, a form of prebiotic, according to a review published in 2020.
It may help with stool frequency and consistency, as well as intestinal transit time (the amount of time food takes to move through the digestive tract) (11Trusted Source).
However, a review published in 2021 found little evidence that prebiotics — or prebiotics coupled with probiotics (synbiotics) — are effective in treating IBS, and the quality of existing trials is poor.
Even though additional research is needed to determine the usefulness of prebiotic supplements for constipation and IBS, a diet rich in prebiotic-rich foods promotes overall gut health and may aid in the growth of beneficial microbes.
According to experts, a daily dose of 2.5–10 grammes of prebiotics is the bare minimum for a substantial influence on your health. The majority of commercial prebiotic supplements contain 1.5–5 grammes of prebiotics per serving.
Most prebiotic supplement companies advocate taking a serving of prebiotics with food or drink one or more times per day. Prebiotic powders can be added to water or smoothies as a supplement. They can also be incorporated into dishes such as yoghurt.
Keep in note that some prebiotics come with specific usage recommendations. Psyllium husk, a fibre with prebiotic qualities, for example, should be taken with plenty of fluids since it bulks up stools. It may cause constipation.
Prebiotics haven't been linked to any harmful adverse effects, but that doesn't imply they're good for everyone. While some people may have no negative effects after taking prebiotics, others may experience severe bloating and gastrointestinal pain.
If you're considering using prebiotics, you should get counsel from a qualified healthcare expert first. They can assist you in determining whether prebiotics are right for you
Bărboi, O.-B., Ciortescu, I., Chirilă, I., Anton, C., & Drug, V. (2020). Effect of inulin in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (Review). Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 20 (6), 1–1. https://doi.org/10.3892/ETM.2020.9315
Blaak, E. E., Canfora, E. E., Theis, S., Frost, G., Groen, A. K., Mithieux, G., Nauta, A., Scott, K., Stahl, B., van Harsselaar, J., van Tol, R., Vaughan, E. E., & Verbeke, K. (2020). Short chain fatty acids in human gut and metabolic health. Beneficial Microbes, 11 (5), 411–455. https://doi.org/10.3920/BM2020.0057
Naseer, M., Poola, S., Uraz, S., & Tahan, V. (2020). Therapeutic Effects of Prebiotics on Constipation: A Schematic Review. Current Clinical Pharmacology, 15 (3), 207–215. https://doi.org/10.2174/1574884715666200212125035
Silva, Y. P., Bernardi, A., & Frozza, R. L. (2020). The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids From Gut Microbiota in Gut-Brain Communication. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 11 , 25. https://doi.org/10.3389/FENDO.2020.00025
Simon, E., Călinoiu, L. F., Mitrea, L., & Vodnar, D. C. (2021). Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics: Implications and Beneficial Effects against Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Nutrients, 13 (6). https://doi.org/10.3390/NU13062112
Wang, L., Yang, H., Huang, H., Zhang, C., Zuo, H. X., Xu, P., Niu, Y. M., & Wu, S. S. (2019). Inulin-type fructans supplementation improves glycemic control for the prediabetes and type 2 diabetes populations: results from a GRADE-assessed systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of 33 randomized controlled trials. Journal of Translational Medicine, 17 (1), 410. https://doi.org/10.1186/S12967-019-02159-0
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