WHAT ARE PREBIOTIC FOODS AND HOW DO THEY SUPPORT GUT HEALTH?
Take a moment to think about all the things you do to keep your body healthy and in balance.
You get plenty of sleep at night so you wake up feeling rested and refreshed. You start your day with a morning yoga routine or a run through the park. You power up with a smoothie, drink plenty of water, and eat wholesome foods that fuel your body and support a balanced gut—because you know it’s where at least 70% of your immune system can be found.
And speaking of the gut, let’s not forget about your daily probiotic supplement.
Remember, your body is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria, many of which are beneficial and support good digestion and health, and probiotics are the live microorganisms you can take each day to add to your body’s good bacteria stores.
BUT WHAT ABOUT PREBIOTICS? WHERE DO THEY FIT INTO THE EQUATION?
Great question—especially since we tend to hear more about probiotics than prebiotics, but in reality prebiotics are just as important when it comes to maintaining a balanced gut and a healthy body.
In simple terms, prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber that act as a food source for the beneficial bacteria in the gut and throughout the body. So, as they travel through the digestive system, they nourish all those good bacteria along the way and help them grow and multiply. The result? More good bacteria in the gut, which means better digestion and a stronger natural defense system.
But where do prebiotics come from?
Mostly from foods that are high in fiber, which is where the “non-digestible” part comes into play. Dietary fiber—including both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber—really just refers to the parts of plant foods that our bodies are unable to digest and absorb, which is why it is sometimes called “roughage.”
Because prebiotics are not digested, they remain in the digestive tract where they can do their job of feeding their probiotic partners.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PREBIOTICS?
We mentioned that prebiotics nourish the friendly microorganisms inside our bodies, helping them to grow and thrive so they can keep us healthy, but emerging studies are finding additional reasons to add more prebiotic foods to our daily diet.
Results of one study, published by the British Nutrition Foundation, focused in particular on the prebiotic fibers inulin and oligofructose, found in chicory root. In addition to positively altering the bacterial composition in the gut by promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria, prebiotics were shown to improve bowel regularity, enhance the absorption of important minerals and nutrients, promote colon health, and even support appetite regulation by enhancing the feeling of fullness after eating.
Likewise, a University of Minnesota review titled, Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits, examined the role of prebiotic fiber in overall health. According to the authors, prebiotics have been shown to increase the amount of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli in the gut, resulting in improved colon health and enhanced immune function. There is even evidence that the benefits of prebiotics extend beyond a healthy gut microbiome to support heart health, weight management and more.
Another study published in the British Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the nutritional advantages of prebiotics and probiotics, focusing primarily on the numerous colon health benefits they provide. In particular, study authors linked prebiotics to reduced constipation and a lower risk of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, and probiotics were associated with the alleviation of lactose intoleranceand antibiotic-associated intestinal disorders.
An interesting review article titled, Gut Microbial Flora, Prebiotics, and Probiotics in IBD: Their Current Usage and Utility also looked at the impact of prebiotics and probiotics on gastrointestinal health, specifically how making positive changes to the gut microbiota may help relieve symptoms of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
PREBIOTICS MAY ALSO HELP US RECOVER FROM STRESSFUL EVENTS
Stressful events happen, and when they do our bodies must find a way to cope with them and maintain our health. In analyzing the results of a recent study, scientists from the University of Colorado determined prebiotics may be able to help us recover from stressful situations and even sleep better afterward.
According to study author Dr. Agnieszka Mika, “Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome, and we wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.”
Researchers used two groups of rats for the study. One was fed a prebiotic-rich diet for several weeks leading up to the test period, while the other was used as a control group. The animals then underwent test conditions designed to elicit an acute stress response.
Results showed the prebiotic rats faired far better—with no alterations in gut bacteria as the result of stress. They also returned to healthier sleep patterns more quickly, and in the weeks leading up to the stress experiment showed an increase in beneficial bacteria in the gut, which may have played a role in protecting them from the effects of stress. The next step is to see if scientists can duplicate these results in human subjects.
AND THESE STUDIES ARE JUST THE BEGINNING.
In 2019 alone, new research has looked into the possibility of extracting prebiotics from seaweed to support metabolic and inflammatory health, examined how prebiotics fit into the gut-brain connectionby promoting the growth of good bacteria in the gut, and sought to understand how prebiotics may help combat obesity—all the more reason to consume more prebiotic foods in your diet.
WHAT ARE THE BEST PREBIOTIC FOODS?
Below is a list of foods rich in prebiotic fiber. However, just like probiotics, it can be a challenge to consume enough prebiotics through diet alone, which is why many people opt for a daily supplement. Don’t be surprised if you see prebiotics and probiotics combined into one supplement; the two actually complement one another for double the gut health advantage (more on this in the next section).
PREBIOTIC FOODS LIST
Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
Lentils and Beans
Whole wheat foods
WHAT DOES THE WORD “SYNBIOTIC” MEAN?
The term synbiotic came about as scientists began looking into how probiotics and prebiotics work together—and more efficiently—to promote gut balance and overall wellness.
Essentially, good bacteria feed on prebiotic fiber in the gut to help them grow and multiply, and by adding additional good bacteria to our bodies in the form of probiotics, we are more equipped to support a healthy gut microbiome.
Synbiotics are dietary supplements that contain both probiotics and prebiotics to help you take advantage of these combined benefits to promote a strong foundation of heath.*
DOES RENEW LIFE HAVE ANY SYNBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS?
As a leader in digestive wellness, Renew Life understands the combined power of probiotics and prebiotics to support a balanced gut and overall wellness.*
We offer a full line of Probiotics + Organic Prebiotics to promote women’s health, children’s health, immune health, optimal energy and weight management, as well as support for occasional constipation and diarrhea.*
Even if you take just one supplement a day, our Probiotics + Organic Prebiotics line is a great way to promote everyday digestive and immune support.*
WHAT IF I HAVE TROUBLE SWALLOWING PILLS?
We’ve got you covered, too. (And in fact, research shows you’re not alone.)
Coming soon, our Organic Daily Probiotic + Prebiotic Powder is a daily supplement with 20 billion live probiotic cultures per serving and 10 clinically studied strains to help reflect the natural diversity in the gut. Plus, it contains certified organic XOS prebiotics to help stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, along with organic guar gum (a good source of fiber).*
But the best part?
The powder formula mixes easily in soft foods and beverages, so you can get your daily probiotics and prebiotics with no pills to swallow. Try adding it to your morning smoothie or green drink for a healthy boost. You can even add Organic Daily Probiotic + Prebiotic Powder to milk to make yogurt on your own.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: A GRADUAL APPROACH MAY BE BETTER.
If you’re thinking about adding more prebiotic foods or a prebiotic supplement to your daily diet, here is a helpful tip to remember:
Just because you love eating healthy foods doesn’t mean your body always feels the same way. Prebiotic fiber foods have remarkable benefits, but just like any other fiber foods, adding them to your diet too quickly may result in occasional gas and bloating for some people.
If your body isn’t used to a high-fiber diet, you may benefit from taking a gradual approach to consuming more prebiotic fiber. This will give your gut microbiome time to adjust to the change so you can ultimately benefit from everything your prebiotics have to offer.