Prebiotic fiber is an important food source for the good bacteria in our gut microbiome. The good bacteria in the gut can be supported by taking prebiotic fiber either as a supplement or by eating a number of food sources that contain these long-chain carbohydrates.
If you are like most Americans, then you probably have been prescribed antibiotics at least once in your life to treat a bacterial infection. One course of antibiotics seems harmless, but antibiotics do not differentiate between the harmful bacteria that can cause illness and the beneficial bacteria in our microbiome that our bodies need to maintain homeostasis.
Unfortunately, antibiotics are not the only culprit that can cause these undesirable symptoms. Diets predominated by processed foods, sugar, and artificial sweeteners and low in fiber and prebiotics can offset the balance of the microbiome. In fact, a national survey estimates that only five percent of Americans meet their daily recommended fiber intake of 25 grams. This can lead to malabsorption, undesirable gastrointestinal symptoms, yeast infections as well as a weakened immune system.
Prebiotic fibers are also a very important and effective way to nurture certain probiotic bacteria that cannot be made into dietary supplements. The human gut contains certain bacterial strains that do not survive when they come in contact with oxygen (also called “anaerobic bacteria”). Taking specific prebiotic fibers to nurture the natural occurrence of anaerobic bacteria helps these important strains.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are long chains of carbohydrates, or fibers, that your body does not digest. They pass through the intestines to become a food source for the beneficial bacteria in our gut, also known as probiotics. Prebiotic fibers are found in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Examples of prebiotic foods include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
Two types of prebiotics that stay in the digestive system, aiding in the growth of favorable bacteria, are inulin and oligofructose.
Most Americans consume more processed foods than whole foods containing prebiotics such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This can negatively impact gut health and predispose consumers to chronic diseases.
Although it is a good decision to eat as many whole foods as possible, taking a prebiotic supplement is one way to fill the gaps in your diet. Supplementation is also a more efficient way to consume prebiotic fiber because it is more targeted than trying to eat a certain amount of food each day.
Prebiotics are often confused with pro-biotics because the names are so similar. It’s important to note that they are different from each other.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that restore and maintain the gut microbiome and, with that, promote good gut health and wellbeing. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha, kefir, miso, kimchi, and probiotic dietary supplements. Prebiotics are a food source for these beneficial microorganisms.
Taking a prebiotic supplement can be particularly beneficial to target anaerobic bacteria in the gut. Anaerobic bacteria cannot live or grow when oxygen is present, and therefore cannot be manufactured into dietary supplements. Prebiotic supplements are an effective way to promote the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which are incredibly important for health. Two well-known anaerobic bacterial species are Akkermansia muciniphila and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. They play an important role in short-chain fatty acid production, gut barrier function, energy, and metabolism.
Prebiotics are the Foundation of a Healthy Gut Microbiome
When we consume prebiotics, the fiber is not digested by our bodies and, instead, supplies the good bacteria in our gut with essential nutrients.
The undigested fiber allows the probiotics to grow, creating a healthy balance of bacteria which is essential for our gut health, immune system, and even mental health.
Prebiotics provide a variety of health benefits which include an increase in satiety, improvement in intestinal discomfort, and a decrease in cravings for salty, sweet, and fatty foods. Prebiotics aid in metabolism and can also help achieve a healthy body weight.
As the microbes in the gut break down prebiotics, by-products are produced and help harvest anti-inflammatory properties, produce antioxidants, and anti-cancer properties.
Prebiotic Health Benefits and Advantages
Prebiotics nourish probiotics which provide balance in our gut. Eating foods that contain prebiotics or taking a prebiotic supplement leads to an increase in beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.
General Health Benefits
First and foremost, prebiotics help support the proliferation of probiotics so that they can continue to support the body by regulating bowel movements and managing skin conditions such as eczema and acne.
Prebiotic intake also helps reduce inflammation in the intestines and strengthens the microbiome-modulated immune system.
In regards to gastrointestinal health, prebiotics aid in alleviating constipation, help prevent traveler’s diarrhea and decrease gut inflammation. Prebiotics may help treat “leaky gut.” “Leaky gut” refers to a gut lining that contains openings, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and harmful microbes to reach surrounding tissues. Prebiotics also protect against harmful bacteria that cause diseases by producing acids to stunt their growth as well as stimulating the immune system to attack.
Some studies show that prebiotics aid in calcium absorption, which is imperative for bone health. The distal intestine, the last part of the colon, is one of the main locations for calcium absorption. Absorption is accelerated by the chemical alterations and increases in acid fermentation of the prebiotic fiber from various bacteria.
Prebiotics are also protective against colon cancer and cardiovascular disease. They promote weight loss and aid in treatment for obesity.
Due to prebiotics high fiber content, prebiotics aid in metabolic health such as insulin resistance and healthy cholesterol levels. In clinical trials, prebiotics have also positively affected the central nervous system by improving mental health.
The positive effects of prebiotic and probiotic use were observed in patients with autism spectrum disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, allergies, and anxiety.
Benefits for IBS Sufferers
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine. Symptoms include flatus, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea.
In recent years, it has become apparent that there are many other symptoms associated with IBS, such as fibromyalgia, headaches, fatigue, menstrual and sexual dysfunction, and anxiety and mood disorders.
In the IBS population, one study showed that prebiotics significantly improved gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, flatus, stool consistency, and anxiety. In a randomized controlled trial, stool samples were obtained and showed higher levels of bifidobacteria.
Introducing Prebiotics and Fiber into the Diet
When introducing prebiotics or insoluble fiber-rich foods into your diet, start slowly to determine how your body will react. If your diet is lacking in fiber, you may experience gas or bloating initially.
As your fiber intake increases, it is recommended to increase your water consumption to aid in bowel motility. As mentioned earlier, prebiotics are the carbohydrates that contain fiber and do not get digested.
Men over the age of 18 should consume 30-38 grams of dietary fiber per day, and women over the age of 18 should consume 21- 25 grams of dietary fiber per day. Most Americans fall short of the daily recommended intake.
By consuming less fiber than our bodies require, we are not consuming the proper amount of prebiotics to help feed the probiotics in our gut for optimal health. In addition, fiber helps move along the waste products in the intestines. Oftentimes, a lack of fiber can also mean digestive issues such as constipation. A prebiotic supplement would be beneficial to help stimulate the digestive system when fiber is lacking.
Probiotics or Prebiotics: Which Should You Take?
There’s no need to choose between taking prebiotics or probiotics. In fact, it is helpful to take both of them to maximize the health benefits that they offer.
The bacteria in your gut may be off-balance due to stress, poor diet, or antibiotic use. The beneficial bacteria can be replenished by taking a probiotic supplement and then supported through taking a prebiotic supplement and consuming prebiotic foods.
Prebiotic supplements can be found as both an all-in-one product packaged together with probiotic bacteria or as a standalone product that only contains prebiotic fiber.
Omni-Biotic offers prebiotic supplements in the form of our Omni-Logic prebiotic supplements. Omni-Logic is a line of precision prebiotics that mindfully combine specific prebiotic fibers with micronutrients to support gut health and wellness.
Omni-Logic Immune merges dietary fiber as well as essential vitamins and minerals to help support key probiotic bacteria and strengthen the immune system through the gut.
Synbiotics: Prebiotics and Probiotics Working Together
When probiotics and prebiotics work together in the digestive system, they are sometimes referred to collectively as “synbiotics.”
The combination of taking probiotics and prebiotics together helps the effectiveness of the probiotic bacteria by providing them with a food source.
A synbiotic effect can be achieved through supplementation or by eating both prebiotic and probiotic foods. Supplementation is the better option here because you can get the exact amount of fiber and beneficial bacteria that you need without having to eat a strictly regimented diet.
Synbiotics can be helpful for people who suffer from IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease) by reducing inflammation in the gut. They may also prevent travelers’ diarrhea as well as help those with lactose intolerance by decreasing bloating, abdominal pain, flatus, and diarrhea.
Studies have found that when synbiotics were introduced to the obese population, inflammation decreased, and cholesterol levels improved.
Can You Take Too Much Prebiotic Fiber?
Most prebiotics can be consumed without negative side effects by most healthy adults. Abdominal discomfort, bloating, and gas may occur in the first few days while the gut regulates.
Prebiotics do not feed the harmful bacteria in our microbiome. The recommended intake of eating 3-5 grams of prebiotic fiber can be favorable to the microbiome.
Nonetheless, it is best to follow the intake instructions on the prebiotic supplement you are taking.
When Should You Take Prebiotics?
It is not necessary to take prebiotics on an empty stomach, but they should be taken with water. These supplements can be taken first thing in the morning or prior to going to sleep. It may be helpful to take prebiotic supplements at the same time each day to establish a routine.
For those who suffer from IBS, it may be helpful to take prebiotics on an empty stomach and start with less than the recommended dose to avoid initial discomfort.
Most people can benefit from taking a prebiotic supplement in combination with probiotics.
Our modern westernized diet is largely composed of processed foods with little nutritional value and lacks dietary fiber. Most Americans are not meeting the recommended amount of 3-5 grams of prebiotic fiber each day. Taking a prebiotic supplement can help you get the recommended amount in a convenient and efficient way.
Prebiotics are suitable for the adult population, including pregnant women and those who have taken antibiotics.
There is a select population who should consult with their doctor prior to starting prebiotics or should avoid them entirely.
This population includes people with Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC).
Not All Supplements are Created Equal
Prebiotic and probiotic supplements are considered dietary supplements rather than pharmaceutical drugs, which means they are held to different regulatory standards by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
When you choose a prebiotic supplement—just as you would any probiotic supplement—make sure that you pick one that has been mindfully formulated, is backed by science and research, and contains clean ingredients.
All of Omni-Biotic’s prebiotic and probiotic products have been rigorously studied and have GRAS status with the FDA.
Omni-Biotic’s Omni-Logic Immune and Omni-Logic PLUS prebiotic supplements were carefully formulated and combine dietary fibers with vitamins and minerals to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These precision prebiotics offer the right kind of nutrients to key beneficial gut bacteria and support important functions in the body, including the immune system, metabolism, and the mucus membrane of the intestinal wall.
Prebiotics nourish the good gut bacteria in our microbiome, which leads to healthy digestion, supports the central nervous system, and strengthens immunity. The consumption of prebiotics is necessary to feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut for optimal health.
Many factors can offset the healthy balance of the gut microbiome such as antibiotic use, stress, and poor dietary choices, including lack of nutrient-dense foods and fiber, as well as choosing a diet that is dominant in sugar, fat, and artificial sweeteners.
Consuming prebiotics in the form of food and supplements provides nourishment to the good gut bacteria, which is crucial for our gut health and overall wellbeing.
When choosing supplements, it is important to go for one with the highest scientific standards to ensure product quality and effectiveness.**