What are Prebiotics? Prebiotic Food Sources, Supplements, Benefits & Side Effects

Maintaining good health has many inputs that go to it. They range from living a good lifestyle, constantly exercising; taking a balanced diet to many other forms such as observing hygiene and keeping the environment clean to avoid ailments. Human beings have control over most of the aspects that contribute to one maintaining good health. A key input is the food that they take. Balanced diets have long been fronted as very important to the sustenance of health. In addition to this, there are varying components of the diet that we take which could give more benefits to the body. These include the intake of probiotics and prebiotics.

What are prebiotics?

The human body is a host of many other living microorganisms. The microorganisms that live in the human body could either harm it or benefit it. It is worthy to note that these microorganisms, since they are living have varying needs. For instance, they need to be nourished. This brings in the concept of prebiotics.

According to prebiotin.com, prebiotics are considered to be dietary fibers that come from plants and are specialized to benefit and nourish the good bacteria (probiotics) that are already living in the gastrointestinal tract of human beings. They act as fertilizer for the good bacteria that is thriving there. It is worthy to note that in this case, the body does not benefit from the prebiotics in any other way since it is unable to digest these fibers. Instead, the fibers are used in the large intestines as food for the good bacteria that is living there already.

Prebiotics can also be described as foods or food ingredients that are not digestible that enter the colons in an un-altered state by the digestive process.

In the original definition by Gibson and Roberfroid , prebiotics were seen as non-digestible food ingredients which were when taken beneficially affect the host by undertaking activities such as selectively stimulating the growth or activity of a limited number of bacteria that are already living in the host’s boy thereby leading to an improvement of the host’s health. They further noted that these elements are available by some indigestible carbohydrates which are fermentable. They include lactulose, certain oligosaccharides and inuline.

Katherine Zerastsky, R.D., L.D. Describes prebiotics as non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. When consumed, these non-digestible carbohydrates for a symbiotic relationship with the probiotics thereby benefiting the body. In effect therefore, with the prebiotics nourishing the probiotics, the primary benefit to the body is in the maintenance of a healthy digestive system. It is therefore important to ingest or take foods that are rich in prebiotics so that the probiotics in the body can be nourished to aid the body better.

Prebiotic Food Sources

Prebiotics are found in a variety of food sources that occur naturally in the environment. In most cases, they are referred to as foods rich in fiber and mainly lie in the carbohydrates, whole grains and fruits – side of a balanced diet.

For instance, foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, chickpeas, lentils, onions, bananas, oatmeal and legumes. Where these foods are not naturally occurring or easy to find, other sources can be used to avail the same value to the body. These are mainly supplements that are rich in prebiotics.

Best Prebiotic Products/supplements

As noted above, individuals who are unable to get the foods that contain prebiotics have the option of getting them from supplements, which contain them. These supplements are commercially available and supplied by varying manufacturers and hosted on varying shops. For instance, theVitaminShoppe has Nutra Flora Fos (4 Ounces Powder) as one of the prebiotics supplements available for sale. This supplement is availed in the capsules form where one is expected to take one to three capsules per day and strongly advised to do so after a meal. This is for adults. The supplement has allergens and is assured to be corn free, dairy free, fish free, wheat free, yeast free, and salt free. Implying that anyone whose body reacts with elements found in the mentioned items is able to take it without any fear of body reactions. However, in cases such as where one is pregnant, it is important to seek a doctor’s opinion before engaging in its use.

In general, the market has many different prebiotic sources. Among them, the most notable include Lactulose, Galacto – oligosaccharides abbreviated as (GOS), Fructo – oligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin fiber. They have been extensively studied and are now considered safe to use based on their history and the reviews availed by users or consumers of the products.

Similarly, other stores avail a variety of more supplements. For instance, on Amazon, there is ultra-biotic. This is both a prebiotic and probiotics supplement. It is, as described, good for aiding the beneficial bacteria flourish by nourishing them. Of importance is the indication that it only feeds the good bacteria and not the bad bacteria. As such, the supplement is described to be scientifically driven to isolate what benefits from its consumption unlike other prebiotics. The bad bacteria therefore are not targeted for nourishment implying a healthier gut that does not enrich both the good and the bad bacteria.

Prebiotic resistant starch complex is another dietary supplement that avails the prebiotics needed by the body. It is made by natural stack as a prebiotic supplements. This product is targeted to discourage the growth of unfriendly bacteria but at the same time increase serotonin – producing bacteria in the gut. This bacteria converts to melatonin to give the body a more restorative sleep. As such, in addition to improving the gut flora, it aids the body get some rest. This prebiotic supplement is also noted to feature resistant starch powder and green banana flour.

There are various other prebiotics that are availed in the market and are considered newer to the market. These include soy – oligosaccharides (SOS), Xylo-oligosaccharides (XOS), Isomalto – oligosaccharides (ISO) among others. However, the newer ones, though have been studied to a good extent are mainly evaluated in animal feeding studies and their studies in human beings and their effects on the human beings digestive process has not been concluded.

Prebiotics Benefits & Side Effects

Prebiotics serve a crucial role in the life sustenance of probiotics and therefore indirectly contributing to the improvement of gastrointestinal health. With the probiotics well nourished, the gut is made healthier. There are supplements that target to only nourish the good bacteria, when such are used, the good bacteria have the energy to overcome the bad bacteria or they are able to modify the gastro intestinal environment to be hostile to the bad bacteria.

It has been medically identified that probiotics have a lot of importance in the strengthening of the bowel wall. In addition, the probiotics aid in the improvement of mineral absorption, and the regulation of hormone production. While these bacteria work to get the body into a better state, the prebiotics keep them able to undertake their role hence they indirectly benefit them. It has also been noted that for instance, prebiotic, which as a prebiotic fiber has a specific effect in the increase of good bacteria which targets to combat gut dysbiosis.

Depending on an individual’s health and their body behavior, there are instances where the body may react differently to the use of prebiotics. For instance, when one takes a high dosage of prebiotics, there are stomach upsets that may be experienced such as bloating and flatulence. Incase such as scenario occurs, consider reduction of the dosage and gradually increase it to the recommended to give the body a chance to adjust.

Where gastrointestinal – digestive flora population has become unbalanced; the use of prebiotics has been noted to lead to the support for the growth of the unhelpful bacteria. As such, should the current digestive flora be unbalanced, and they consume prebiotics, they may get symptoms of food intolerance, an overgrowth of candida Albicans. The prebiotics may lead to the exacerbation of the current situation. Professor John Hunger notes that for children who are food intolerant, they should avoid using prebiotics.


Hunter J O et al; The Management of Multiple Food IntoleranceFoods Matter; 2009



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